Define Your Career, Don’t Let It Define You

“I was looking at a list of the best careers and, I hate to say it, but social work is at the bottom usually.”

Spoken just a couple of days ago, this is the dialogue I’ve become all to familiar with since 2010, the year I graduated with my masters in social work. I entered this field because I want to inspire people to be empowered, innovatively change injustices, and challenge policy with “why not?” With its vast scope of practice, I decided social work was the career path for me. Looking back, I can say I embarked on the journey of a social worker because I saw the room for creativity, for innovation, for fire. I still do.

How many of us feel defined by our careers or jobs? How many of us allow our careers to define us? I say, we should actively define our own career, create our own definitions. Let’s define our own lifestyle. There are numerous misconceptions across professions which only create real or imagined barriers and breed even more misconceptions. Walking into NYU, I didn’t have a plan per se. The only plan I’ve had was to make my own definition, redefine what it means to be a social worker. Quite frankly, I have indeed become all to familiar with ignoring statements like the one above.

The truth is social work (and any related field really) needs to be redefined now more than ever. We must voice the realities and the value of our career. We need to demand attention, urgency and priority to the pertinent issues we address every day.

As a female dominated profession, we need to “lean in” more; ask for raises, secure governmental positions, relentlessly pursue funding and oppose budget cuts, and create the opportunities both we and our populations need. In a field serving others, we must not be afraid to talk about ourselves, our own needs, and ask the tough questions. Why isn’t poverty, failing schools, and mental health a priority? Is society setting the standards for our job or are we? Next, let’s start coming up with answers.

I am currently a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and in the midst of becoming a social entrepreneur. I began my start-up, Project Bond, in August 2012 and it has become a growing, international community. I continue to take pride in remaining uncategorized and not identifying with a resume and credentials. I’ve always been more passionate about all things macro; poverty, policy, program development. I’ve always seen money as just a byproduct and impact as everything. I find myself listening to TED Talks over music, and reading nonfiction over watching television. I find myself sitting in living rooms working with families and thinking of the larger changes needed to incubate a client’s success. I aim to merge and connect these two extremities and complexities of social work in my work with Project Bond.

Sure, I’ll continue to pay my astronomical student loans, work full time, balance my personal life and nurture my business part time. However, this is only the beginning. I’ll continue to define and own not only what “leaning in” means as a woman but also as a “social worker.”
Why not?

Barbara DiGangi, Licensed Master Social Worker, works in New York City where she fuels her passion for social innovation and women empowerment. Barbara is the co-founder of Project Bond, www.theprojectbond.com, a movement to promote healthy relationships throughout the lifespan.

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