I am a social worker. I have my Master’s degree in social work. I am very proud of that, and I am proud of the work I have done as a social worker in a variety of settings. Now, I work part-time at the mall at a store that sells high-end costume jewelry and accessories. And you know what? I’m proud of that, too.
I began working there last month. After fighting two consecutive severe depressive episodes, I needed to adjust my professional plans. I knew I could not return to the workplace full-time, nor was returning to a high stress position in my best interests, medically. I thought working in retail, part-time, would be perfect. It would get me out of the house and around people, and get me back in the swing of “normal” life.
But the judgmental part of me was concerned that people would look down on me for working in retail, or worse, they would think I wasn’t capable of the professional work I had done in the past due to my illness. While I am quite vocal about my illness, I am also aware of the stigma associated with it. This was why I worried what others thought.
It was after my first interview at this particular store that I realized it would be a perfect fit. The managers were smart, funny, and explained the company history/policy so well. I wanted to be a part of it, and I felt excited about something when I hadn’t felt excited about much for a long time. I was eager to not only rejoin the workforce but to also be a contributor to my family, financially. I knew I needed to be with people and I needed and wanted to feel productive.
It was at this point when I realized I did not care what others thought. I knew that this would work for me, and it would make me happy. And anyway, according to my 6-year-old daughter, I am the coolest mom around since I work at the mall.
What I like most about this job is that I get to use my social work skills as I help customers find what they are looking for. People skills are key when working in retail, and I am so glad I have these skills and am comfortable using them. I am also having fun, and as I learn about the products, I gain more confidence with each working shift. My self-esteem has jumped and I realized that if you are happy with your work and proud of it, that is what really matters. The one constant in my working life has been the pride and success I have felt in each position. I just may feel it even stronger right now after battling a horrendous illness for so long.
With every person I have told, during my job search and now when I explain my current job, the reaction has been very positive. “Oh, that’s great!” or, “That sounds like fun!” I have received only support and positive feelings from family and friends. So in reality, the only person judging me was me. Someday I hope to break that pattern.
So, yes, I am a social worker, and I work at the mall. You know what? I am happy with my current job and proud. Try not to be too jealous as you could work at the mall, too.