Image by Philip Bohle
Ryan is based in southern Tasmania and is a recent graduate in social work. He has a diverse background that spans out-of-home care, disability support work, out of school hours care, and now as a Therapeutic Specialist with a national organisation that focuses on keeping children safe.
Ryan provides valuable insights into the nuances of his profession and the effect that further study has had on his career. In this story, we delve into his experiences, challenges, and the profound impact of his work.
Unity at Work: A Varied Landscape
Across his different roles Ryan has had a range of experience in team dynamics, all of which have been invaluable as he progressed through study and built his experience. Firstly, Ryan learned that community disability support work often involves one-on-one interactions, which allows for unique and individualised connections with participants. In contrast, out-of-home care involved having permanent teams managing the care of young people. This created a supportive and cohesive environment which is important due to the challenges involved in the work. This dynamic played a crucial role for Ryan, contributing to his sense of belonging. The significance of a united team fostered an environment where Ryan and others could thrive.
“There’s a lot of consideration with who works well with the rest of the team as well as with the people in the house. And so, when someone fits well you try and hold onto them. I think that belonging and being part of the team is the difference between someone staying for a couple of weeks or staying for years.”
Inspiration Unveiled: Books and Real-Life Experiences
Ryan is a life-long learner, and he often draws on inspiration from his love for nonfiction literature. A self-confessed book nerd, he has particular interest in books that look at complex and developmental trauma by authors like Bruce Perry and Gabor Maté. His reading interests have expanded his understanding of the challenges faced by those he encounters in caring roles. This has been a strong complement to his more formal study and recent qualification.
Real-life encounters also provided inspiration. He never consciously planned to work with young people, but it turned out to be the work that most strongly resonated with him. He recounts instances where young people shared impactful stories with him, that reinforced for him the profound effect positive role models can have on individuals navigating difficult circumstances.
“I’ve always enjoyed work, but sometimes it was hard to see the difference I was making and that caused me some frustration. My studies have given me a deeper understanding of the impact I can have. I realise that complex trauma means people’s responses may be different, or things may take longer to show up. It’s made my work more satisfying to have this insight”.
Image by Philip Bohle
Integrity with Self: A Journey to Justification
Ryan’s study in social work was a response to his appetite for more knowledge and skills to become more competent within his workplace. Ryan now feels empowered and capable, allowing him to make informed decisions in his field.
“I thought I might be viewed as a new graduate, however having previous work experience has really made a difference to how people see me. I have over a decade of experience, and now I have the formal education to back that up”.
Expressing Full Potential: Nurturing Growth in Others
The sense of achievement for Ryan lies in witnessing the growth of the young people he has supported. Whether they are thriving adults or individuals facing challenges, knowing that he played a role in providing a safe and secure environment during their formative years is immensely satisfying.
Ryan finds fulfillment in supporting individuals who may seek a sounding board or engage with him in exploring ideas for how to best exercise their autonomy. This more collaborative, supportive role reflects Ryan’s adaptability and commitment to respecting an individual’s decision-making.
“It’s not up to me to enforce my own moral compass on whatever they want to do. But if they want to have a conversation with me about what my thoughts are, then that’s always a good conversation to have, I think.”
Advice to Younger Self: Embrace Change
Reflecting on his journey, Ryan suggests advising his younger self to embrace change and shed any ambivalence when entering the support work field. He underscores the importance of adapting to new challenges and recognizing the evolving nature of job opportunities. For Ryan, the realisation that his passion lay in making a meaningful impact led to a fulfilling career, dispelling any initial uncertainties. Since completing his study, Ryan has been offered three jobs. He only applied for two! He currently works as a Therapeutic Specialist for a leading national organisation, that helps young people heal from trauma – an aspirational role that became a reality far sooner than he imagined.
“People need to know going into it that it’s not all roses or whatever. It can be quite hectic work and you do see some people who come in who might be expecting something a little less full-on and you don’t see them again. However, there’s quite a lot of work in this sector and if you don’t necessarily find that the area that you’re in is rewarding the way you want it to be or you’re not feeling supported you just find somewhere else, with the qualifications and experience that you’ve got. Quite often it’s not a huge challenge to find more work.”
Ryan’s genuine commitment to those he supports, and continuous pursuit of knowledge makes him a valuable asset. His story serves as an inspiring testament to the transformative power of compassionate and informed social work.
Our sincere thanks to Ryan for his contribution to Work with Purpose. To find out more about working in disability access an information guide here.
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