Finding Inspiration Outside the Workplace: Revitalize Your Motivation for Being a Social Worker

Jamie Keaton Jones

Guest Blogger: Jamie Keaton Jones

Every Labor Day, it’s always the same – I see my teacher friends returning tanned and refreshed from their summer vacations. And every fall, it makes me question, yet again, why I am a social worker.

It’s perhaps normal to forget one’s original reason for going into this line of work.  I’m not talking about burnout, but of taking a harder look at your career choice.  I have a hunch that many others in the field occasionally feel this way.  And especially when you see friends receive signing bonuses that equal a social worker’s yearly salary. (And in case you’re wondering, no, I’m not bitter).

But when work seems particularly overwhelming, you can find inspiration outside of your job.  When I least suspect it, I will stumble across a moment, experience, book, or movie, where I will say to myself, “yes, this is why I do what I do.”  And I smile about it, and draw the inspiration I need to take on the next challenge.

Reading the book, The Soloist, was one such reminder.  It’s not only an inspirational story, but also a reminder of the important work we do, and the pivotal role we play in our community and in the lives of those who need us most.

Recently, I saw the movie Even the Rain on a whim at the Angelika Theater.  I was pleasantly surprised by the themes of activism, human rights, and awareness.  I walked away feeling a jolt of adrenaline and a desire to volunteer abroad.

Since becoming a social worker, I cannot look at art the same way. A retrospective museum exhibit that provides the life story of a famous artist becomes even more intimately revealing when seen with the analytic eye.  The Museum of Modern Art’s current de Kooning: A Retrospective exhibit is one example of many. I walk away from such exhibits deeply enriched thanks to the enhanced perspective social work training has given me.

No matter what your personal reasons were for going into this field originally, there is a wealth of ideas and inspiration constantly brewing outside of our work. Especially in a place like New York City.

And no salary bonus can trump the feeling of actually being in the world and contributing to making it a slightly nicer place, no matter how small.

What do you find inspiring when you are not at work?  Please leave your comments below.

Jamie Keaton Jones currently sees clients at the Washington Square Institute.

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4 Responses to Finding Inspiration Outside the Workplace: Revitalize Your Motivation for Being a Social Worker

  1. I really like your blog post. I hope to be a social worker one day. I agree, finding inspiration is very necessary and it reminds one of the work that needs to be done. I’m an ESL teacher and at times the job can be difficult. I alwayss find inspiration in knowing my students succeed in speaking English, even at their adult age.

    • Jamie Keaton Jones says:

      Thank you for sharing! Inspiration from our clients/patients/students is always very impactful. You do important work as an ESL teacher. (And thanks for looking beyond my comment about teachers being tanned and relaxed from summer vacations–my parents were teachers so I know that any breaks are much deserved). Good luck on your journey to becoming a social worker.

  2. Nicole Clark says:

    My passion is with working in the sexual and reproductive health movement, particularly with young women of color. I am a HIV case manager working with adults during the day, but in the evenings and weekends, I conduct workshops on self-esteem, positive sexual health advocacy, and even on self care (among other topic) with young people and adults who work with young people. I find that this helps motivates me to see young people find the motivation in themselves to want to change their circumstances, and it helps me to want to work harder to draw on the strengths of my clients as well. Great post, Jamie!

    • Jamie Keaton Jones says:

      Hi Nicole,
      Thank you for your inspiring response. Your work in sexual and reproductive health is so very important. It is wonderful that you can draw motivation from those that you help.
      Thanks for sharing!

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