This week’s jobtalk is with Alexis Beidermann, a Licensed Social Worker (LSW), who recently started her first job as a program associate at the Center for Nonprofit Management and Governance at Rutgers School of Social Work. Beidermann speaks openly about why she chose to go into social work, and shares important information for anyone that’s thinking about doing the same. Check out her recommended reading and websites!
Title: LSW; Program Associate
B.A. Social Work, Rutgers, 2010
M.S.W. Rutgers School of Social Work, 2011
How did you decide that you wanted to go to graduate school for a degree in social work policy?
In the field of social work, most jobs require a master’s degree. I had an interest in nonprofit management and working with children and families, thus my classes focused on these areas. Some of the classes I took were Social Work Policies and Services of Children and Families, Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Violence against Children, and Child Welfare Management.
The reason I chose to go into the nonprofit management track instead of the clinical track is because I had an interest in program planning, program development, and overall management of agencies and programs. People who are clinical may work with individuals, couples, families, or communities in providing direct service work such as mental health counseling.
What types of jobs did you apply for after you finished graduate school?
I began applying for jobs in March, while I was still in the master’s degree program. I understood that the economy and the job market were limited. I applied to jobs with titles such as Program Associate and Program Assistant. I also looked at positions related to development because of my experience with grant writing and fund-raising. Because I had my license I could perform direct service work, so I also applied to case management positions at CMO’s (Care Management Organizations) and the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). I applied to at least two positions a week.
What responsibilities do you perform at your job?
I am currently working at the Center for Nonprofit Management, where I performed my master’s degree internship. I perform a variety of roles and responsibilities. During the summer of this year, I assisted in planning events for the Transitions for Youth, Summer Housing and Internship Program (SHIP) and provided advisory services to nonprofit organizations.
Some of the advisory services include: executive coaching, strategic planning, succession planning, fund-raising strategies, conference planning, and research. In September I began assisting with the oversight of the field placement for students who were placed at the Center for Nonprofit Management and Governance. I perform individual/group supervision and assist them with their project and assignments.
I have continued providing advisory services to nonprofit organizations and have taken on other tasks including assisting with grant searches, grant writing, and teaching courses related to grant writing. Much of my time is spent contacting our nonprofit clients, keeping up with the work done by the field placement students, and keeping the director up to date with the work the field placement students and I are performing.
Describe a typical workday from beginning to end.
I typically get into the office around 7:30 am. I start checking my work e-mail. I usually have various e-mails from the director, the administrative assistance, students, other Center staff, and nonprofit clients. I create a “To-Do List” for the day. Some of the tasks include sending e-mails out, calling nonprofit clients, meeting with students, and reviewing documents. I begin working on these tasks on my to-do list until 8:30am when the administrative assistant and director arrive at the office.
We sit down for an hour or so to do an update on projects and tasks and go over the schedule for the day. Once that is complete, I go into the student lab to see who has arrived and check-in to see if they need any assistance. At this point, I review with students anything they need to work on that day. I am usually working non-stop; work is never boring. I leave the office at 4:00pm. When I leave, my brain is exhausted. I usually get home about an hour later and check my e-mail one last time, and then I begin all over again the next day.
What do you find exciting about the work you do?
I really enjoy working with the field placement students. I was in their position just last year, and I want to provide them with the resources and supervision that they need. I also enjoy working with the nonprofit clients. Working with leaders in the nonprofit world is exciting. It is a nice feeling to go into a meeting where individuals with incredible expertise take tips and advice from me. I feel important and like an expert myself. I like the feeling of being needed, of being important, and that my work is appreciated. There is no feeling better than that.
What’s challenging about your job?
Burnout occurs quite often in the field of social work. You need to find your “fit” in the field. It is difficult to get a job in the area you are most interested in, but you need to gain experience, knowledge, and connections. The only way to do so is to work your way up. I am quite controlling and a bit of a perfectionist, so one of my challenges is to respect the decisions of those who are above me; I am not the leader of the agency, and I do not know everything. I must remind myself that working my way up takes time. This is the time for me to listen and learn.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in going to school for social work policy?
Do not enter the social work field with the intent to make money. A person becomes a social worker because they want to help others and make the world a better place. You may be the lucky one who makes a good income with the degree. However, you should become a social worker because of your interest in helping individuals, families, and communities, or to develop programs and services that will help under-served populations.
This is the type of field that, before you go to sleep at night, you can relate all the tasks you completed that day to making a positive impact in someone’s life, and it ultimately makes you smile. It is fulfilling in all regards. Even as manager in the social work field, you make an impact. You may create and develop needed programs and services; you may perform innovative and relevant research that will result in new ideas that will affect the lives and programs in the field; you may educate students or employees to become the next leaders in the field; the possibilities are endless with this degree.
What’s your recommended reading for someone interested in social work policy?
Here a few good books that I read while in school:
Marketing Workbook for Nonprofit Organizations
Volume I: Develop the Plan
by Gary J. Stern, Elana Centor
Strategic Planning Workbook for Nonprofit Organizations
by Bryan W. Barry
Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations
A Practical Guide and Workbook (2nd Edition)
by Michael Allison, Jude Kaye
Effectively Managing Nonprofit Organizations (Edition 1)
by Richard L. Edwards, John A. Yankey
Here are also some websites to visit:
National Association of Social Workers
About.Com Nonprofit Charitable Organizations
Is there anything else you want to add about the field of social work?
Although I am a shy person, this field has drawn me out of my shell. You have to be energetic, patient, giving, and communicative. You may not possess these qualities before entering school, but following internship experience and additional professional experience, you will learn them. You will never stop growing as a person in this field. The world is ever changing, and so is this field and thus so are you. Enter at your own risk. You are entering a field that will continue to challenge you and make you a better worker and person.