Q: I’m beginning to feel a bit stale. I’ve loads of experience and people think I’m good, but I know I’m losing some of my spark and sometimes work does not seem so satisfying, although I still think what I do is valuable. Is this bound to happen or can I do something about it?
A: You’ve got valuable experience and expertise and your colleagues recognise this. Make sure you hear the positive views of others and acknowledge for yourself your qualities and competence. When we are focused on helping others we can sometimes be reluctant to give recognition to ourselves.
Social work and social care can be draining so one option is to take some time out. Does your employer allow a career break? If so, check this does not affect continuity of employment and your pension.
Or how about seeking a short-term change of role, perhaps by undertaking a service or policy development project.
Some social care employers have introduced study sabbaticals, which can benefit the organisation as well as you, particularly if yours includes spending time observing in other work settings. And the requirement now to show continuing professional development ought to be a spur for all employers to think about study sabbaticals for long-serving staff.
And how about thinking with immediate colleagues how to have (even more) fun together so that the social experience of work is enjoyable and re-invigorating? The best teams are characterised by laughter and energy built around, but not instead of, the serious business of the important work you do!
And there should be a life outside work, so getting that work-life balance sorted is another part of looking after ourselves.
Ray Jones is a University of Bath visiting professor and former social services director and BASW chair
A: I think this is something that happens to a lot of practitioners, especially if you have been working in the same job for a period of time. About a year ago, I suffered from “itchy feet” as I was not getting much job satisfaction, even though I enjoyed my work. I discussed this with my manager, who was very understanding, and we came up with ways to develop my role, such as mentoring and research. I found that this gave me a new lease of life and has helped me consider where I want to be in terms of my professional development.
Name and address withheld
A: This sounds like work has become repetitive and lacking in stimulation. We all need a challenge in our lives to keep mentally alert and healthy. Usually in our profession the reverse is the problem so it is refreshing to hear that this is not universally so. It may be that you have to create a challenge for yourself and it could be reading up in an area which really grabs your interest and exploring new ways of working trying something different. Feeling stale perhaps means you are a bit out of touch with current research. There’s a lot out there. Go for it.
Helen Wosu, employee development officer (child protection), Edinburgh Council
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