Finding My Calling as a First Generation

I truly believe every person has a purpose they have been set on this planet for such a time as to accomplish something.”

Niet Tuom, recent UNL graduate and a Child and Family Services Specialist with the State of Nebraska

If like many, you are searching for your calling in life, perhaps you are still unsure whether a certain career is a right fit for you, get to know Niet Tuom and her story as she describes how she found her purpose below.

“Many ask why I have chosen a career in Social Work and I like to say that Social work chose me. We all have a calling, a higher purpose in which we are commissioned to achieve in life. Social work is my calling, and I have answered with joy, fully understanding the weight of the responsibility at hand. Social work is an oath to serve our community at their most vulnerable times in life. Social work is a field that calls for you to lay down your life for the good of others, and to love in truth and action, not just mere words and speech. What differentiates this field from others such as the medical field, is the ability to be an advocate. You see beyond the condition, and current state a person is in, and see the human being. You are your brother’s keeper. As a natural-born empath, social work heavily resonates with me, in that I take on and carry the emotional burdens of others, in a time where they are not in the position to carry it alone. I am a firm believer that social work is social justice. We are merely wasting our time if the work we are doing isn’t leading us towards justice and equality for all.

There are two identities that are important to me and have helped lead me toward my future career path in Social Work. I am a first-generation-student and I was actually the very first person in my family to graduate from college. It wasn’t an easy accomplishment at all and I’m grateful for those around me, my spiritual leaders and mentors, faculty and family members who helped me to achieve that.  

Additionally, Christ has had the greatest impact on my life. My faith is a lifestyle, a way of life that impacts my thought process, mindset, and how I interact with everyone. I am called to love my neighbor and to be self-less in my intent and action. This idea that your neighbor and you are one, you aren’t better or above your neighbor greatly influences how I handle my cases. Respecting human dignity and the value of human life is huge for me, I don’t take it lightly. I truly believe that every person has a purpose, they have been set on this planet for such a time as this to accomplish something. When I come across people I want to be a light that encourages them to seek after their life purpose and to walk in it. 

Being a Child and Family Services Specialist has been very rewarding. As a CFSS, I document past traumas that parents faced as children, witnessing abuse, domestic violence, racism, homelessness. The CDC discovered a link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases developed as adults, as well as emotional and social problems. As a CFSS, I am awarded the privilege of being at the forefront of serving my community. I have seen the unfortunate effects of poverty, mental health and substance use, and their ability to destroy families. Not only do these factors increase the likelihood of a person’s involvement with the child welfare system, but that their children will as well. When the problem persists beyond generations, it’s time for someone to break the cycle. One key code of ethics that resonates with me is Dignity and Worth of a Person. One of my strengths is that I am a natural-born empath, the ability to engage in meaningful conversations without missing a beat and to connect with the family on a human-to-human level. I have always been a person who felt what others were experiencing, wept, and laughed, with them. Their win was my win, and their loss was deeply felt. This has only been strengthened as I work in this field.

I have come to understand that my role as a government official with the influence to remove one’s child makes people feel uneasy, so it is my job to genuinely connect with the family and approach each situation with cultural humility. As a CFSS, I may never be able to fully understand what it feels like to have CPS at my door, but the least I can do is be respectful by checking my biases at the door because I am not the expert on their family.”

Still, looking for a purpose or career pathways that are a fit you? You may be the first in your family to go to college, but you are not alone. Get in touch with Letty Garcia, Career Advisor for First Gen and Students of Color in University Career Services, who can help you through your career exploration and development. Send a note to leticia.garcia@unl.edu to schedule an appointment with her.

By Letty Garcia
Letty Garcia Career Advisor Letty Garcia