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Mixing with the right people is a critical step in advancing your social work career. We hear from social worker and event organiser Zoë Betts about the importance of networking.


Social work is widely recognised as a difficult profession to work in. Challenging, complex and demanding, all social workers at some time or other need to know that there is support or discreet friendly advice close at hand. 

Yet finding that support, or even knowing where to access it, has not always been straightforward. That’s where networking among social workers has become of growing importance in recent years, often informal sessions where like-minded professionals – or those new to social work in particular - can seek advice and support and discuss some of the challenges, opportunities and even the success they have experienced. It’s an informal way of sharing best practice, as well as being a support network when times are tough. 

One of the new - and more innovative - networking organisations for social workers is iamsocialwork. Established by Zoë Betts, it brings student social workers or those just starting out in the profession, together with senior practitioners and academics in an informal setting to offer the opportunity to discuss a wide range of subjects. 

Yet according to Zoë, it can also lay the foundation to a successful career by creating a support network that stretches far beyond that first informal session: “Building professional links early on strengthens practice in the long run and attending network events will give social workers starting in the profession a bigger pool of people to draw upon for experience,” she explained. 

As a concept, iamsocialwork promotes and encourages networking from the first stages of a career and creates an environment which builds professional links with peers and academics. It also provides solid teaching about theory and practice through practitioner and academic inputs. 

A key component is that it enables young social workers to learn from people outside of their team: “There are people out there who may feel they are not in a good team, they may feel isolated and do not get good support,” she said. “They can get this support from networking, which is something they are not always going to get from their immediate team. 

“Often people can feel alone and that there is no support but they come along to one of these events and realise that there is masses of support and advice out there and that they are not alone.” 

The advice ranges from how to manage stress, caseload and prioritising, help with assessment, guidance or event mentoring but from people who work in a different field.

She also believes networking with professionals outside their particular specialist area broadens the experience base: “It ensures broader knowledge and understanding. Learning from people outside of their immediate team is so beneficial. But what is of most benefit is that they will be networking with a pool of people from a wide range of sectors and working with people who do not necessarily work within the same type of team as them or in the same situation but can talk through issues they are facing and give a different view.”

For social workers starting out in the profession, networking amongst employers could lead to a first job, while for others it can help raise profile among more experienced practitioners.
Held in informal environments such as theatres rather than conference halls, the networking events are supported by high profile academics and senior social work figures who attend to share their knowledge, experience and expertise. 

There is also literature, books and case studies as an additional resource, workshops and the opportunity to chat informally. They can also count towards a CPD activity if a delegate can provide documentation reflecting how supportive it has been and justify why it is beneficial to their practice or service users. 

Zoë, who is an adult social worker in a London hospital managing the discharge process, added: “The events start professional relationships that will carry on long after the networking; it does not end as soon as they walk out of the door. 

“For those attending, it will strengthen their practice; they are better informed and have been pro-active in seeking support from people who have more experience or more knowledge.”

As a newly-qualified social worker, Zoë began the events when she sensed there was limited support around when she began in the profession almost four years ago.
“I had just qualified and I was really struggling but perhaps for me, looking back, support was there but I just did not know how to access it.”

Forthcoming iamsocialwork networking events are scheduled for Liverpool (January 24), Newcastle (February 21), Derbyshire (March 7) and London (April 8) and there are six more planned. Delegates must register for the events which cost £10 and are supported by a wide range of organisations, including Sanctuary Social Care.

More information is available through www.iamsocialwork.com or by contacting Zoë at iamsocialwork@hotmail.co.uk

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