By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, June 19, 2008 12:00 AM
Hi, I have an M.S.W. clinical degree from Michigan. I am an expatriate, as they say, living in Ireland and working as a senior social worker on a mental health team (but not doing much of anything senior, so to speak) and am bored as hell not feeling challenged in my well-paying post. I have a new mortgage here in Ireland and, unfortunately, the house values have gone down and I could not absorb the cost to then sell it and move back to the States (not even mentioning my German partner who also could not come).
In this country, those with an M.S.W. degree are non-clinically trained social workers often being utilized as benefit/entitlement experts despite their being on a mental health team. I have just gone through a costly, emotional process trying to clarify my role as it coincides with my job description which had the result, I think, of others being threatened by my forthrightness and my honesty and having repercussions (as in complaints) being lodged against me in a somewhat orchestrated way (these have now been found to have been unsubstantiated). Did I make a huge mistake coming here? I have a lovely apartment on the Irish Sea but I miss the American culture and my more fulfilling role as a clinician social worker. Please help.
-- Stuck in an unfulfilling Social Work post in Ireland
The critical fact you have shared with me is that, for the moment at least, moving back to the United States is not a viable option for you financially or emotionally (considering your partner's inability to join you here).
So there you are in your lovely apartment on the Irish Sea feeling bored with your work and beleaguered by your colleagues, but earning a good salary and enjoying the company of your partner. I have heard of worse predicaments.
To be fair, I know that professional ennui can exact a psychological toll, and I am also not about to suggest that you should sign up for a long-term career in the Irish social work system. For the moment, however, the best antidote to your despair is to accept the limitations of your job and find what fulfillment you can within them.
Perhaps it will make you feel better to know that your concerns about not feeling challenged and finding yourself performing duties that only vaguely match your job description are not uncommon in the U.S. as well. Finding satisfaction in your work may not be a matter of crossing the Atlantic, but rather finding a more suitable situation exactly where you are.
I have no doubt that the storm clouds will eventually part. Real estate values will go up, or you will accumulate enough wealth to cover the difference between the value of your apartment and your mortgage. You will find a more challenging job in Ireland, or you will be enticed by an opportunity in the States. Or maybe something entirely different will happen. But your current situation will not last forever.
You asked whether I think that moving to Ireland was a mistake for you. That question will be most eloquently answered by the attitude you take to the challenges before you.
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Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for more than 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail HRadvice@washington.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.