Anita Kumar, Social Worker

Anita Kumar, Social Worker

Anita is a Social Worker living in Toronto, soon to be moving to Australia to complete her Masters of Social Work degree. 

What is your morning routine?

As soon as I wake up, I put the kettle on for tea and turn on the news. After tea and eating a light breakfast, I head to the gym for a long workout before starting my day!

Tell us about your career path

My career path has been unexpected! I went to the University of Western Ontario for Social Science: sociology and criminology. While I was there, I considered many different careers that I wanted to pursue, from the law and policing to marketing and sales. By the time I completed my undergrad, I decided to follow in my dad’s footsteps and pursue the pharmaceutical industry.

I completed a graduate certificate in marketing management and went on my way to pursue sales in Victoria, B.C with an excellent pharmaceutical company. One year into that job I realized pharmaceutical sales was not for me, I much preferred my time spent volunteering than I did going to my job every day. I volunteered 3-4 evenings a week at a homeless shelter working with a population suffering from mental health issues and addictions. I decided after 2 years of sales to leave that job and pursue the field of Social Services.

I went to school for 1 year to complete a Community Support Worker Diploma. I then started to work for a Salvation Army Halfway House, a homeless shelter, and a women’s transitional house. I knew immediately that I had made the right choice! I love going to my job every day and feel passionate about the work I do.

To open up more opportunities as a Social Worker, I have decided to pursue more schooling. In 2018, I will be starting my Masters of Social Work in Australia!

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

A challenge women face in this industry is the assumption that women should not be working with male ex-offenders or are not safe while working among the males residing in halfway houses. There is also the perception that the risk of violence and assault danger in homeless shelters is higher for women. The population in homeless shelters is often affected by mental health disorders and/or substance abuse issues and it is often perceived that women will be more at risk with this population. The burnout rate in this field is very high and often it is told to women that they will burn out faster because they get ‘too emotionally involved’ whereas men don’t. I do not believe this to be true, each individual is different, but I believe that women are often put off from joining this field for that reason – they shouldn’t be!

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the next you?

Don’t settle! Do not choose the career you think you are ‘supposed’ to have or what you have been told you should do. You must find a career that you are passionate about and makes you want to go to work every day. Find a field that makes you proud to be part of and excited to contribute your piece to the world! Also, don’t forget it is totally ok if your career path takes some steps backward and extra turns, as long as you ultimately find a job you love and that makes YOU happy. After all, you’re the one that has to work the job for the rest of your life!

How do you separate work life from your personal life?

Working in this field can be quite challenging and emotionally difficult. The content of the day-to-day job is often tough and ‘heavy’. Talking with other staff at work always helps, as they understand the field and everyday stresses. I use the gym as my main outlet to help de-stress and maintain balance in my life.

Personally, the best method for me is to allow myself the travel time home to decompress from the shift. I use the drive home to think about the work day, but the moment my car is parked, I force my brain to shut off from work and the hardships of the population I work with. In this type of work where you spend your shifts taking on other’s problems and suffering, it is important to avoid bringing home the stresses of the day, or you will burn out quickly. In order to have a happy personal life while working in this field, your work life can’t follow you home.

What inspires you?

Working in a field with spectacular, big-hearted individuals is what inspires me. I spend every day with people who have chosen this field because they are passionate about making social change in our communities. Seeing humans helping other humans is massively inspirational and I feel so fortunate to be part of that world. Seeing these developments surrounding mental health in our country is uplifting in itself, I love watching the world move forward with helping others instead of just criminalizing their actions. Being a part of this industry allows me to see this progress on an individual, local, and national level.

What you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?

I love spending time with my friends and family when I’m not at work. My favourite pastime is being outdoors, anywhere there is water or a place to hike. I love going to the movies or watching Netflix at home. I also enjoy getting lost in reading books, my apartment is covered with too many books. Also, a big glass of white wine is always appreciated!

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