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"The feelings encountered as a new social worker tend to be those of anticipation and an eagerness to get started, mixed with a huge amount of apprehension.

I remember being newly qualified, I couldn’t wait to start working on cases and learning new skills. I wanted to put everything I had been learning in to practice. But it can fast become overwhelming as the reality of some of the more complex cases takes its toll. It’s important not to get too disheartened at this stage.

We’re working in a very challenging reality right now; we have been for several years and it’s not going to get easier any time soon. Our budgets are not likely to increase and the fight we often put up to access support is here to stay, so we need to focus on improving our skills in terms of assessment writing and asking for services. We are active participants in this career and we need to keep doing whatever we can to be great at the job so that the outcomes improve. We must have an understanding of the contexts in which we work in order to adapt to them.

Try to identify the ways that you best learn. For me, this is sometimes from a more solitary process, such as reading articles online or on apps, but it is also from working alongside people who are more experienced than I am. My advice to make those first few years an enjoyable learning curve: 

Use your supervision 

It’s your hour and you have to use it as well as you can to ensure it supports you the most. The further you progress in your role, the more you will really need this time. Figure out how you want it to work and how you best learn. It’s also your responsibility too to ensure they are booked regularly. This should be booked on a rolling basis, or at least at the end of every session, but if they are not, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor to arrange the next session. 

Stay connected 

This is fundamental to improving your practice. To give yourself the best support and knowledge, don’t rely on one team offering everything you need, you can look way beyond that. There are so many networking opportunities and events within the profession now. It’s a great thing to be able to meet and link with other social workers and students and learn from them and their experiences. You can then create your own peer support networks. Once you have these contacts don’t be afraid to keep the connection going; ask them for a coffee, or email them if you have a question. It might take them a while to reply, but more often than not you’ll hear back from them. By making a social media account you’ll have access to so much activity; Twitter is especially good and there are some really useful Facebook pages you can join. You can also read blogs and article on your commute to help you stay up-to-date and informed.

Be part of a professional body

I would recommend BASW as a good professional body to join as I feel its leadership and drive is stronger than ever. It is good to be part of something and it keeps you informed on any changes in the profession.

Be organised

A frequent comment I hear from new social workers is how challenging it can be to juggle everything. I know how tough it can get, but to give yourself the best chance of being able to handle everything you must be organised from the start. Keep on top of your calendar, put your out of office on when you’re not there and make sure the message on your voicemail reflects your availability. It’s so much easier for you to manage yourself and it really helps other people if they know where you are and how they can get hold of you." - Zoe Betts

To read more interesting articles that can help develop your career, Have a look at the latest issue of Sanctuary Social Work News.
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