Take good care of yourself – When I first got started I was fortunate to be part of a team that was very supportive and close-knit. We looked out for one another and if one of our members was struggling we would recognize this and step in. Unfortunately this has become more of a rarity with the increase in flexible and mobile working. Develop support networks of your own of people who you can turn to for advice and help, on a personal level as well as for casework. It is fine to say no at times and not to always give all of yourself. Save some for those outside of work that you truly care about and love – they need you as well.
Be a team player – have respect for everyone. Everyone plays a part and every part of the team is critical, from the administrator to the manager. You might possess a brand new qualification, meaning you have worked very hard and have accomplished a lot that you have every right to be proud of. However, that doesn’t mean you are better than anyone else. Become friends with your administrators, they are frequently the people who really know what is going on in the team. This piece from Capita Specialist Recruitment provides a list of a lot you need to know about a first job in social care.
Make the most of your training and learning opportunities – that might seem like the very last thing you would like to do after spending two or three very intense years studying at university and the prospect of a supported and assessed year in employment. However, post-qualifying learning helps to recharge your batteries, keep your thinking and learning fresh and opens doors for new career opportunities. One of the things that I really love about social work is the fact that is continuously evolving and you don’t ever reach the point where you know absolutely everything. And if you ever believe that you have, most likely you will change your mind within a few weeks.
Take the time to reflect – it is essential for ensuring both good practice as well as maintaining your own wellbeing and sanity. If you continuously pedal as fast as you can with your head down, you will stop questioning things and risk missing something that is critically important. It doesn’t need to involve massive amounts of time; it could be something very simple like getting away from your desk for a few minutes and going for a walk, or having a cup of tea with a colleague and discussing a case. A set of fresh eyes and different perspective can get you thinking in new directions and help you come up with new approaches.
Certain cases will keep you awake all night – but you will get through them. One of the strengths and beauties of social work is multi-disciplinary and team work, so you shouldn’t be responsible for making all difficult and complex decisions by yourself.
Prepare yourself to champion the profession – many people will assume you work with children. So if you happen to work with adults then you will need to learn how to explain to the general public in jargon-free and accessible language what you do. After I had been qualified for around five years, a good friend of mine said she knew I was a social worker but wondered what I actually did. At times it is fine to just tell them you work for the council.
You have the ability to change things – all you need to do is speak to the right person. The hard part is frequently just figuring out who you need to speak with and how to contact them.