Traditionally, social work is a female dominated career. Although there are some amazing male social workers, there aren’t nearly enough. For Social Work to thrive, a balanced, diverse mix of people is vital to the field. I was curious why some men brave the waters of social work and others pass it by so I asked 3 male colleagues of mine about their jump into the social services field. Each of them gave me passionate and considerate answers.
See if you see some similarities – if you do maybe social work is for you.
- Some jobs just pick you – Social Work is one of them. Are you the person everyone comes to with their problems? Are you a listening ear? Are you attuned to the people around you? Do you know everyone’s story? The men I spoke with indicated they take the role of the listener to those with whom they interact. This is friends, family, and random people wherever they go. They often find themselves giving advice on how to fix a situation or direct people where they can go for information. This quality of following through and giving people ways to conquer their challenge is perfect for the world of Care Coordination and Case Management. Social Workers help individuals solve problems every day, help people connect to services and navigate the complicated world
- Life experiences that open your worldview. Another theme each colleague I spoke to discussed is an experience in their life that showed him the humanity of people. It may have been a neighbor or family member that didn’t quite fit the stereotypical “normal.” They talked of a drive to want to know why people do the things they do. Is there a situation or someone you now in life that has helped you see the strength and perseverance people may have. These experiences may help you with working in social services.
- Interest in really understanding your own motivations. Do you like to learn what makes you tick? So do many social workers! One of the motivations mentioned was the desire to want to understand themselves better. I often say we teach what we need to learn and social workers spend a lot of time with helping people learn about themselves. It seems that many social workers enter the field – at least at first – to have the experience of gaining insight into themselves. The best social workers know themselves well.
- A love of psychology or sociology or similar field. It may seem obvious but each man told me they learned they loved the field of psychology and counseling. It is a good reminder to men that it is OK to choose a career path based on what you enjoy learning about rather than sometimes gravitating to more traditionally male fields.
- The Value of the Career– A common theme for all social workers – men and women – is the intrinsic worth of helping another person or changing a system. From the direct care worker to the highest Social Worker CEO there is a commonality of making life better and fairer for everyone. It was specifically mentioned by my colleagues how awe-inspiring social services can be. Words like honor, feeling humble, and joy were used when discussing their careers.
There are some barriers to being a man in social work. Some people may worry about if they can make enough money to support themselves, let alone a family. Social Services may not be the highest paying job in the world but there are plenty of opportunities that lead to solid pay. (I strongly believe if we do what we love and are passionate about what we do – money will follow.) It seems as if the value of helping others is an enticing supplement to the pay scale. One colleague talked about how socially men are not encouraged to express their emotions or be “touchy-feely.” He also expressed that this is changing with younger people. He said he can even see in his younger brothers that men are becoming more in tune with their emotions. It is a strength to be emotionally literate and is a beneficial skill for any man to have.
I’d also like to thank my three colleagues who were so willing to answer my questions – Aaron, Adrian, and Seth. They are three men who such an asset to the field and their passion and caring is a joy to witness.