What is the definition of social work? According to the Webster Dictionary, social work is defined as, “Providing social services and especially with the investigation, treatment, and material aid of the economically, physically, mentally, or socially disadvantaged”. Treatment can also be defined as the emotional and physical aspects of supporting individuals with disabilities at home, in the community, or at work. Material aid can apply to your own physical or mental assistance and outside resources such as the Internet or a vehicle.

Nowadays, most people associate “social gaming” as playing video games with others online. Social gaming can also apply to social work. Instead of thinking in the morning that you’re driving to a job that requires you to carry out various tasks and duties, pretend that you’re driving to the arcade or amusement park and you’re getting paid to play games for 8-12 hours a day with people you support. Anyone who’s gone to a carnival of some kind and played the balloon popping game knows that in order to win the bigger prizes, you have to pop at least one balloon. If you don’t pop any balloons, you’re sometimes given a consolation prize. This analogy of the balloon game is one of the ways you can approach your job as a social worker to make the tasks that come with the job more as a game than a chore. Instead of having the mentality of performing the minimal amount of support in order to receive a minimal prize which is a pay check, think of other intrinsic and/or extrinsic incentives to summon enough motivation to go above and beyond in your duties to receive the top prize of a paycheck, plus the great feeling of a hard days work or the Employee of the Month award if that’s offered at your job.

If you support individuals in the community for instance, rather than thinking of helping an individual stock shelves at a local food pantry as a task and a chore you don’t want to do, think of helping an individual stock shelves as a game or at least a fun activity. In order for you and the person(s) your supporting to win the game of stocking the shelves, both you and the individual can establish rules to win the game before hand, such as filling every shelf with as much inventory as possible and as efficiently and independently as possible, within the range of that person’s abilities. This in turn provides the individual(s) your supporting the best opportunity be as productive and independent as possible in a way that’s fun and enjoyable. As a social worker that provides direct supports, attitudes are contagious and if you approach tasks with a negative attitude, chances are the individual(s) you’re supporting will become negative as well and undetermined.

How can I approach the job as a game and be positive when I feel my wage is low and unfair?

Most people in this profession would agree that social workers of any kind are worth more than what they make. The mental and physical toll as a social worker validate why people in this field are worth more than what they make. Even though it’s difficult to look past the hardships that come with a low wage, the mental and physical strain can be alleviated somewhat if you do your best to think more of the positives than the negatives. Again, one of the biggest positives is how much fun you can have as a social worker, whether you’re assisting an individual with volunteer work or helping an individual with their swimming skills at the beach. You can think to yourself, “In order to win the game, the individual I’m helping learn to swim will apply what I taught them and swim 50 feet with the front crawl by the end of the shift”. Even if they don’t properly swim fifty feet, the day is still considered a win for both you and the individual as long as progress was made. And as long as you have a fair and supportive management team, your hard work and high level of enthusiasm will take care of the rest. Before you know it, you’ll be making $20 an hour as the company’s next manager with great benefits, or at the very least, additional bonuses like a bump in your mileage pay within a reasonable time frame from the start of your employment.

It’s hard to approach my job as a game when there are no opportunities to make more money.

It never makes the job easier as a social worker if you’re working for a company that doesn’t have a ladder to move up on. It’s also not easy switching jobs, especially if you have loved ones that rely on your income. When all else fails with your current managers, consider the strategic ways to acquire a social work job somewhere else for an organization where they treat their staff with dignity and respect. A thorough job search and economic planning are the key ingredients to formulating an effective strategy to apply, receive an interview, and transition jobs without losing any income or benefits.

Additionally, after you find out the starting pay from a different organization and if you’re comfortable enough doing so, let your current manager know the competitor’s rate, plus your job change plans, and that wake up call may be enough of an incentive for them to match or go above the competitor’s pay. More importantly, your current manager(s) may also realize just how important you are to the company and start treating you with enough respect, emotionally and economically, to the point you want to stick around. If your manager won’t match the pay or offer other incentives, that should be enough validation for you to switch jobs as soon as you can and go to work without thinking about the car ride home 8 hours later as one of the only aspects of the job you look forward to.

I can’t find any social work jobs that will offer higher pay without a higher education.

One of the biggest benefits of home care is you can work a 40+ hour shift in a matter of 3 or 4 days. Most organizations that support people at home require staff to work a minimum of 12 hour shifts per day. With those other days of the week freed up, you can boost your credentials by taking online or in-person classes towards a social work degree of some kind. You can also alleviate the costs by applying for as many scholarships as possible as well as financial-aid programs, which may even be offered by your current employer.

Never settling is an essential part of keeping the job as a social worker as enjoyable as possible. Don’t ever settle on your wage if you believe you’re worth more than what you’re paid. Don’t settle on the amount of support you’re giving to individuals with disabilities because there’s always room for growth, both by you, your managers, and the people you support. Finally, don’t settle on working any kind of job without goals involved, both by you and your employer, that ultimately puts emphasis on productivity, having fun, and overall well-being.

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