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From sawdust to social work: Meet Dan

This article appears in: Changing careers, Community Services and Social Work
Carpenter Dan was inspired to pursue social work while in Nepal

Dan is a qualified carpenter who worked in the construction industry for 15 years. A little soul-searching on a holiday saw him pluck up the courage to make a huge career change. 

A month-long trek in Nepal became a period of great contemplation for carpenter Dan. 

“I decided that I wanted to be doing more with my life,” he says, so enrolled in a Certificate IV in Building and Construction.

At this point, a bachelor’s degree wasn’t even on Dan’s radar.

“However, I found that I enjoyed studying and challenging myself intellectually. By the time I received my certificate, my mindset had completely changed.”

Full of new confidence in his own capabilities, and after many supportive discussions with his wife, Dan decided to take the plunge and explore his true passion in the community services industry. 

I have always enjoyed helping people and I wanted to develop the skills I needed to help other people to make positive changes and get the most out of their life.

“The Certificate IV in Mental Health seemed to align with my learning goals and provided a pathway into the Bachelor of Social Work.”

Putting the tools down

Social worker Dan started in the construction industry

Adjusting to academic life from a construction background was difficult, Dan admits. 

“I was definitely not used to spending hours on computers, listening to lectures or completing assessments.”

“Being a self-employed carpenter, I am traditionally very task-orientated, seeing a problem, fixing it, and moving onto the next task. The depth of discussion and exploration involved in my social work studies has been perhaps the great challenge.”

Dan attributes his ability to overcome this obstacle by understanding the way he learns best, and simply persevering. 

“I do not waste time trying to get things perfect. As long as I am getting a learning experience and gaining practical skills I do not get too caught up in my grades.”

He’s also taking advantage of the soft skills he has picked up alongside academic learnings. 

“Since commencing my studies I have also learnt a lot about myself including my learning style, communication styles, and I have also been able to identify flaws in how I approach study. I have been able to relate this knowledge back to work and home and improve how I approach other aspects of my life.”

New horizons

Carpenter turned social worker Dan in the Territory

While working through his Bachelor of Social Work, Dan has been immersing himself in the community services industry in the Northern Territory. 

He seized an opportunity to work in one of the Territory’s largest remote communities running a psychosocial program for Indigenous men.

The experience solidified his passion for mental health, particularly for First Nations men.

Learning about First Nations history, cultures and traditions has been a major highlight of my study and work experience thus far.

“Growing up in a predominantly white area, I had little to no knowledge of Indigenous culture or history,” he says.

“Moving to the Territory and transitioning to the community services industry has provided me with the opportunity to gain a wealth of new knowledge and experiences I am grateful for.”

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