Stepping into the world of Social Work

I have a professional identity!

I had noticed in my class syllabi and some of the textbooks that one of my objectives (or the school’s objectives for me) is to develop a professional identity. This means to “identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly.” The many facets of this concept would include core values, the history of the profession, conduct, advocacy, and many other positive values.

I told myself that this would be something that developed over the next few years, particularly during my internship and field placements. Obviously, as I thought at the time, I can’t have a professional identity until I’ve actually engaged in some professional activities!

But over the last few weeks, I have learned I was wrong. I have developed somewhat of a professional identity, mostly through work.

As I mentioned in a previous post in June, I have some disagreements with my current manager, sometimes mild, sometimes serious. It has been an interesting challenge for me, as a relatively new employee, to bite my tongue when necessary. He made a comment yesterday that he felt it would be hard for me to be “retrained” due to the amount of experience I had elsewhere.

While I didn’t say anything, I realized after thinking about it overnight that he isn’t going to retrain me because the problem isn’t that I’ve been improperly trained. The issue is that I’ve developed a professional identity: an internal set of values, a significant amount of theoretical and practical training in my area, and a personal style incorporating the above with my own personality/temperament.

I accept that at my level of current employment I don’t get to call the shots. That’s part of the trade-off for having a position with limited responsibility that allows me to concentrate on school. But I’d really like to see a little more respect paid to my skills and experience rather than his apparent assumption that 5-10 years of my life were wasted and he somehow needs to “retrain” me.

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