how I chose social work

November 2009, Ames, Iowa

foggy Des Moines in film

A few weeks before Thanksgiving break of my senior year of college, I started to think maybe I had made a mistake choosing journalism and art as my majors.

I was working at an apprenticeship in the web department of a magazine. I was very, very grateful for the apprenticeship and the small income it provided. But I went each day and spent most of my day behind a computer editing HTML, uploading photos, and copying and pasting text. Even as an introvert, I was missing face-to-face interactions with people in a significant spot at a point in their life’s story.

(I did get to be a hand model for a bridal shower invitation photo shoot. That was a highlight.)

work files on my desk

One night, after all my homework was done, while sitting at my desk next to my messy inspiration board, I drifted to Facebook. A friend whose story is intertwined with mine in some very obscure ways popped to mind. She and her husband had adopted. And thinking of her, I realized: I am passionate about adoption and foster care. I am not passionate about online journalism. Why am I heading toward a job I am not passionate about?

senior year inspiration board

I sent her Facebook message that seriously went something like this: “That person who facilitated your adoption… who works at an adoption agency… or who did your home study… what kind of degree do you think that person had?” She replied soon after that she thought for sure it had to be a Master’s of Social Work, an MSW. 

And that’s the instant I went into a flurry of adoption and foster care and social work and graduate school research. 

So, thank you, Jane. I’m not sure you realize how significant your response has been in me recognizing my passions and pursuing them — both professionally and personally.

Julie T. was the winner of the $5 Amazon gift card!

This is the fifteenth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.

moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff

  • I read so many articles about foster care and family law that talk about social workers being under paid and burnt out. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Also, thanks for the encouraging post. I can relate to your experience in digital media.

    • natalie

      it’s absolutely true, in my experience! I naturally gravitated toward the more encouraging side of social work with foster home licensing and adoption. I’m not sure I would have done well as a case worker due to the repeated “fighting the system.” I think the social workers who are successful in not getting burnt out have a lot of other passions and hobbies, a strong support system, and understand the importance of self-care.

  • Jane

    Hey – that’s me! 🙂 So glad to have had an impact – it’s always funny how God uses some seemingly insignificant moments to shape our lives!

    • natalie

      yes! so glad He used you!

  • so i know this post is old…but i LOVE your story! i am in a very similar boat right now…except that i got my degree in accounting & have been working for 3 years now. but in the past few months have been thinking “i’m so passionate about adoption… why don’t i work in that field because i’m not passionate about accounting” and i’ve been researching masters in social work SO much!

    did you find it hard to get your MSW since your undergrad degree wasn’t in SW? my BS degree is like the polar opposite of SW so i am wondering if i will be in over my head with masters level studies!
    also, do you have any posts about what your job looks like on the daily? i will stalk around your blog but thought maybe if they are there you could point them out! 🙂

    • Hi! I’m so sorry for the delay… Do you have an email address I could use to reply? Or will you please send me an email through my blog contact form?