Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Didn’t Have to Know

I started making a list of things I wish I would’ve known before becoming a case manager but I quickly stopped. I realized the list wouldn’t have meant much at that point. It’s not that I walked blindly into my job. I knew I’d be working with low income people in a poorer neighborhood in the city. I recognized that as a person who had grown up in a sheltered environment that most of the situations I’d be dealing with would be new and unfamiliar. But now looking back I also see that advice that supposedly would’ve been made it an easier transition for me wouldn’t have worked.

A couple of weeks before my first day at my agency an older man at a mutual friends’ party told me that my job would be difficult because I’d be telling other people, often seasoned professionals, what to do when advocating for my client. Hearing that caused a bit of anxiety for me, but more than anything it was because I knew I hadn’t taken that role before. Most of what I was going on in terms of work expectations came from its job description.

In the back of my mind I had thought that after graduating from college I’d do something with writing since that remained one constant passion for me. A pretty common passion too if to go by splurge of online journals alone. It really is unfortunate I didn’t love doing something else as a child, like engineering or nursing. The ease of finding work then! It may have also been harder to qualify for writing positions because I didn’t have a degree in English or Creative Writing. I had graduated with a BA in Psychology. I had majored in Psychology because I liked the field but I wasn’t sure how it would translate into a job. Psych undergrads have fewer options for one thing. While I had worked with juvenile kids for a year at college I didn’t necessarily want to continue working with kids and I lacked experience working with adults. So as I scanned through online ads I ignored most case management positions because I didn’t think I had enough experience. Also, quite frankly, they looked intimidating, and not just the inpatient positions. I would be clearly outside my comfort zone which consisted of myself, my computer, and one other person at a time. A couple of months into the thrilling life of fruitless job search a professor emailed me a position he had heard about from another professor and I read it and thought, worth a shot.

I took a close look at the job description. Emergency assistance to six buildings, OK. Breakdown of duties: Going to appointments with clients, OK. Doing intake, not sure what that would entail, but I’m sure they have forms and it involves asking questions, I know who to do that. Keeping statistics, I have some memory of SPSS if that’s what they mean. The tasks themselves didn’t seem like something I couldn’t do.

I didn’t know how those duties would translate to day to day work. So if someone would’ve told me what to look out for or given me advice I wouldn’t have been able to do much with the information. And a lot of it I wouldn’t have wanted to know. Burnout would’ve meant very little with me being all bright eyed and excited to do some hands on work. If someone would’ve told me that I may lose clients to illness or addiction, would I want to think about that? Would it have meant something to me not having had that kind of professional relationship with someone?

It worked out OK not knowing.

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