Knowing what you want

This is the first extract from our Book of the Week, Positive Social Work: An Essential Toolkit for NQSWs by Julie Adams and Angie Sheard. This book will help you as a NQSW to understand your role within the context of a newly emerging and developing Social Work service. It will ensure that you are equipped with the knowledge and skills to do the job as best you can.

Social work is diverse and there are many career paths you can travel. One thing is for certain, you’ll never get bored, and each area is full of its own challenges and opportunities, whether in the voluntary, public or private sector. However, we strongly advise you to think carefully about the direction you want to go in and focus on this area. All your skills will be transferable but you need a good foundation to start with. You will also need stability during your Assessed and Supported Year in Employment.

Keep an open mind, but knowing where you want to end up will be beneficial as you start to look for your first job as a qualified social worker. It will help you keep focused with your research. It is important here to also think about the current climate and the difficulties that some NQSWs are facing in getting their ideal role – see our section on this subject in Chapter 10 .

Once you’ve decided where you want to work, go online and do your research. There are lots of websites that offer you help and advice (see Chapter 9 ) but a particularly good source is http://www.communitycare.co.uk , which offers details of a variety of jobs available throughout the UK and further afield, live debates and updates of practice issues. You can also sign up for job alerts. There are other places too such as job fairs and recruitment agencies and your local and national newspapers, most of which are now available online too.

When setting off in search of your ideal social work job, it’s great to have clear expectations of what you want and know what your employer will want from you. However, be aware of what an ‘expectation’ is and what ‘reality’ is. Here are two examples of what can happen when details aren’t checked carefully.

case study

Mollie arrived for her first day in her new job as an NQSW. She was shown into the office to a clear desk near the window. Mollie thought this was great, she had a good position in the office and the desk was free of clutter and ready for her to ‘make her own’. Mollie had brought a few personal items such as her favourite mug and a photo of friends and family which she set out on the desk. Having her own desk made Mollie feel comfortable and secure and already part of the team. Shortly after setting up her desk, Mollie was then taken to another department to have her photograph taken for her new ID badge. On her return, Mollie was shocked to find that her personal items had been taken off her desk and placed into a box,  and another social worker was sitting at the desk, and was using the phone and the computer. Her manager explained to Mollie that social workers no longer had the luxury of having their own desk and that ‘agile working’ and ‘hot desking’ had been introduced some six months ago. All desks therefore had to be free of clutter and personal items so that any social worker that needed to could use them. Mollie was very upset; she had not understood what ‘hot desking and agile working’ had meant when she saw it on the job description.

Bob has recently started his first job as a supervising social worker in an independent fostering agency. When Bob saw the advertisement, he thought he had found the perfect job. The advert talked about the benefits of ‘working from home’, offering support via online supervision and fortnightly team meetings with colleagues at a mutual venue and flexible working hours. Bob thought this sounded great – no getting up at the crack of dawn, no rush hour traffic and no boss watching his every move. However, after a few months in the job, Bob found that the reality of these ‘benefits’ was that he had a distinct lack of contact with colleagues and limited support networks. He was also developing bad habits, becoming isolated and lonely, and had a lack of positive role models to help influence his learning and good practice. Bob also needed to be observed by his supervisor/practice educator as he made his journey along his ASYE, which was proving very difficult. As an NQSW, Bob no longer thought that the benefits appeared so attractive.

Both Mollie and Bob have been ‘disillusioned’ as a result of their own lack of understanding. These are the types of things that you may want to ask about at interview so that you are clear about what is an expectation and what is truth. It is better than having shattered illusions and blaming the job for your false expectations. Be clear at the beginning about what is being offered and ensure that the job is the right one for you.

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