Alumni in Action: Don't Burn Your Bridges

Ryan Nettesheim--Life Skills and Independent Living Specialist

Bethany Christian Services Grand Rapids, MI

Making the transition from student to professional social worker isn't always a smooth process.  For BSW grad Ryan Nettesheim, the first job was a nightmare.  He left that position, but came back a few months later to the same organization.  The same agency, but a new program and a new supervisor made all the difference.  His story is a great lesson in determination and remaining positive.  Here is his story in his own words.

When we first got down to Grand Rapids I received a job doing foster care case management with Bethany Christian Services. On my first day I was given an office, and a computer and a full active case load of 23. Did I mention my computer did not work for the first week? On top of all that I was left with absolutely no training to speak of and my supervisor decided to leave his position two months into my stay. Needless to say the job was not what I was looking for. I was working 55 hour weeks and making little to no difference in the lives of my cases. It was a very difficult decision to make but after 4 months I left the position. I did take a little pride in the fact that they begged me to stay and gave me excellent reviews about my performance. I even got to meet with the Director of Bethany to suggest some changes. If nothing else it was an excellent life experience and I learned first-hand what I never want to do for a living.

 I left Bethany with no other work lined, and was unemployed for about 3 months. I received a few offers working in residential programs throughout the area but nothing that would challenge me much. By the end of the 3 months, I was ready to take anything. Luckily Bethany had an opening for an Independent Living and Life Skills Specialist position. I was thankful to still have a couple contacts within the agency and after jumping through a few hoops got the job.  I can honestly say that I love my job now. I work with teenage youth who are in the process of, or will be soon, exiting the foster care system. This position offers much, much more face to face client contact and very reasonable worker expectations. I have been in the program for almost 6 months and have received a lot of positive recognition. I was chosen to be on the planning committee for the Michigan Teen Conference as well.

My supervisor is also a young professional who is very open to my ideas and has past experience in the foster care field so he and I are working closely to develop a much stronger program. There is an enormous gap in services for this particular population, and the statistics are depressing. I have had a ton of ideas on how to improve or change the program, which I am happy to say are being very well received. At my six month review, my supervisor asked me to head up developing both a "Semi-independent Living" and an "Independent Living" program. I figure it will probably be years until a full program is actually implemented; but I'm really excited to have my name attached to it.

Grand Rapids actually has a reputation for having a TON of social services agencies and programs. We really hope everything in Marquette is going well. As much as I miss Marquette I miss NMU that much more.