Charmaine was a research officer for three years before deciding to pursue a social work role at LCCS. As a Social Work Associate, she conducts school programmes for youths experiencing socio-emotional or behavioural difficulties so they may be empowered to pursue their life goals. Charmaine also works with her team to build stronger, more connected communities.
Deeply Rooted Compassion
I’ve always been inclined to assist others. After graduating from university, I volunteered at the Youth Guidance Outreach Services to engage and help youths at-risk for a year. Shortly after, I began my first job as a government research officer, where I conducted research and analysis of various security-related topics for three years. At the same time, I volunteered at Punggol AMKFSC as a mentor for children.
While my role as research officer was a stable, comfortable position, I always felt that there was something else that I could be doing. During my volunteering duties, I began to realise that I was much happier when interacting with, and most importantly, helping people. My role as a research executive was important, but I struggled to derive meaning from it.
The Courage to Pursue Change
This realisation was the very impetus that spurred me to search for alternative career options. Having enjoyed my volunteering experience, my next step was to consider a role in social service. However, the transition would be significant and unconventional, and I was, admittedly, incredibly nervous.
To quell my worries, I sought advice and insight from friends and family, and while I sometimes faced incredulity—some thought social work was voluntary work—many were encouraging and supportive of my decision. Friends in social service were also candid about both the challenges and rewards of working in the sector, and this gave me a more grounded perspective before taking the leap.
As part of the “Place and Train” format of the Professional Conversion Programme for Social Workers, I’m now a Social Work Associate. I get to work with our clients, and this has been very fulfilling. The transition was challenging at times, but my past experiences were useful in helping me assimilate quickly into my new role. For example, my previous volunteering work with children and youths gave me a better sense of how to build rapport and work closely with them. I also found myself employing critical thinking and meticulousness when writing reports and case notes from my time as a research officer—a sometimes overlooked, but fundamental part of social work.
In my time at LCCS, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with a multitude of youths. One particularly memorable incident was when I received a jar full of handcrafted paper stars from Lucy*, a student I was conducting a programme for. Attached was a note thanking me for teaching her. This gesture was testament that the work we do resonates with them, and have impacted them in one way or another.
And Lucy is just one example. Many of them grew up in environments where they might have been belittled or constantly criticised, and these experiences tend to wear their self-esteem down. Therefore, it’s important that they are surrounded by people—much like the folks at LCCS—who believe in their potential to lead purposeful lives.
Nuggets of Wisdom
For those who are nervous about transitioning, I believe that it’s about making a conscious, balanced and well-informed choice to do it despite the fear. When you’re going out of your comfort zone to pursue something different, the element of uncertainty and anxiety will likely be a constant. Eventually, the journey into social work will have many ups and downs, but it is rich in learning and growth. You learn more about not just your clients or people, but yourself as well.
*The client’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.
A role in social work is one of many in social service. To find out more, click here.