On being a Social Worker

Upon completing my Bachelor’s degree (many moons ago) I got my first “real” job as the Early Childhood Parenting Coordinator for a School Readiness Program in Irvine, CA. The position was funded in part by California’s tobacco tax settlement funding, and in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe Schools-Healthy Students grant program. This role was my first introduction to working in grant-funded programs, which sparked my 14+ year career in grants with nonprofits & public K-12 and higher education systems.

In that position, my programmatic work spanned a wide range of direct support services including counseling and providing case management to parents, families, and young children, teaching parenting classes, developing and delivering professional development for educators, evaluating and tracking my program outcomes, and a range of other services. My undergraduate degree in Cognitive Sciences (psychology) was helpful in theory, but in practice my academic background offered me little practical knowledge in my direct service role. A colleague observed my passion for both working directly with clients as well as managing the program and encouraged me to apply to graduate school in Social Work. It was something I barely even needed to consider before deciding that would be the best choice for me to further my education and my career. I was accepted to USC (a top 10 School of Social Work!) and completed my Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Industrial/Organizational Social Work (then called Social Work in the Workplace).

After finishing my Master’s, I got a job as a Grant Writer for a nonprofit social services agency in Orange County, where I discovered that my passion for serving people directly and my aptitude for thinking, planning, and communicating strategically fit perfectly with my training as a Social Worker to work as a grants professional. I have now been working in the grants space full-time for about a decade, as a grant writer, program manager, organizational leader, university instructor, consultant, and professional association leader. I believe wholeheartedly that my Social Work training and direct service background have helped me immensely during my career. As a result of my experience, I am able to fully understand the implications of grant program development on the implementation side, and I understand the intersection of organizational mission, strategic planning, board cultivation, and fund development with program services and client relationships. The broad skills development and background I’ve gained from my Social Work training in community and organizational needs assessments, asset mapping and development, program lifecycle development, and analysis has assisted me innumerable times over my career. I also firmly believe that the combination of my training, my personality, and my skills & aptitudes has helped me throughout my career to see and understand all sides of organizational development and management, program services and implementation, and funder relationship development. I am deeply proud to be a Social Worker, and I am so grateful that the field allows for the best expression of my unique abilities, talents, skills and experience. Social Workers rule!

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