In the wake of the pandemic, many college students have been left discouraged at the loss of in-person opportunities to gain real-world work experience. My experience this summer in a field-placement with Voices for Florida (Voices) demonstrated that not only are virtual field placements available, they can be an incredible opportunity for personal and professional growth. In fact, virtual field placements may open you to even more opportunities, as I was recently hired by Voices as an education and training consultant!
As a Masters of Social Work student in my final semester of graduate school, I was required to complete a full-time field placement to complete my degree. While completing this requirement at Voices for Florida, I had the opportunity to apply my education, social work values and build my resume with meaningful real world work experience. I also learned the value of innovation and civic engagement by working on high level assignments that help to create social change. Through my field work with Voices, I gained valuable work and leadership experience that helped shape my career path.
When I was notified that my upcoming field placement would take place fully online, I had some initial concerns. I didn’t know whether there would be enough work for me to do, and I was nervous I’d miss out on the workplace culture I had experienced during my in-person interview weeks prior. But Voices facilitated the adjustment to virtual work with ease. Not only did I always have assignments to complete, my work was tailored to my interests, like a “choose your own adventure” novel! And daily team check-ins allowed me to experience the collaborative and team-oriented organizational culture that I looked forward to after my interview.
My experience with Voices was especially innovative because it was virtual. Since I was not in an office setting with my supervisors in the next room, I was forced to become more of a self-starter. I figured things out on my own more than I would have if I were working in-person. This allowed me to develop more independence in a professional setting, although there was comfort knowing my supervisors were just a Zoom or phone call away. Being virtual gave me the opportunity to see what the different aspects of social work were like from a remote lens. Plus my technology skills greatly improved!
My advice for students who are beginning virtual work soon is to stay open-minded to whatever opportunities come your way. Also make sure to be forthcoming when you need help and be ready to put in as much as you want to get out of the experience. If you are selected for a social work field placement at Voices for Florida, you will undoubtedly experience professional growth, but you will also grow personally. You will get to try on a lot of hats, discover different career paths and cultivate valuable relationships along the way. It really is a two-way partnership, where the organization and the staff meet you in the middle to ensure the success of your field placement.
About the Author
Victoria (Tori) Gruber
As an Education and Training Consultant, Tori works closely with the Education and Training Director in coordinating and providing education and training assistance for the Voices for Florida Open Doors Outreach Network (ODON) across all available platforms. Prior to working with Voices, Tori primarily worked with the older population, specifically with family caregivers and individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, in various capacities.
Tori obtained her Masters of Social Work and Masters of Public Administration at Florida State University. Tori was also awarded certificates in Leadership in Executive and Administrative Development and Nonprofit/Civic Leadership during her Masters programs.
In her free time, Tori enjoys playing with her dog, spending time with friends and family and being outdoors.