Career clinic: how do I reignite my passion for social work?

Q: I have been a social worker for five years and can feel my job satisfaction dwindling as my efforts to help families are thwarted by ever-rising eligibility criteria and never ending form-filling. What can I do to reignite my passion for social work that I felt when I first qualified?

Professor Ray Jones, ex social services director answers

A: Don’t lose the passion: your work continues to be vital and important! But, after five years, you might need a bit of a booster. Keeping ourselves energised and motivated is an important part of our own maintenance. But it ought to be a responsibility shared by our employers and managers too.

I do not know whether you have been in the same job and organisation for the five years, but sometimes a change can be reinvigorating. It can also give you a breather from the bombardment of day-to-day work.

It might be possible, for example, to negotiate a change of role. Perhaps you can discuss with your supervisor your concerns and, if you yourself can present some positive suggestions, it might help to open new and different opportunities.

How about a short-term move to development, training or project management activities? What about seeking a temporary role exchange with someone in a different agency or setting? Or how about building into your work further training and professional education?

Or is it a more permanent change of role that you might find more stimulating? Possibly moving to work in a different setting, with a different client group or in a different organisation?

Being tired, drained and losing job satisfaction is a reality for those who spend much of their time giving to others, and made all the more likely when time, money and services are limited, leading to frustration. This is often referred to as burn-out. We have all probably got close to it at some time.

Another consideration is your work-life balance. If work is draining and has a diminishing return of stimulation and satisfaction, focusing on rewarding experiences and activities outside work becomes more important. And, if you are hitting the work buffers negotiating or planning some time-out (albeit with no pay or pension) might be a further but more dramatic possibility.

Finally, is there scope for you and your colleagues to make the work experience more satisfying for you, including the social experience of going to work? I sometimes said jokingly to my colleagues when I was a manager “stop laughing, you’re at work”. But I didn’t mean it – some laughter and fun at work is definitely allowed.

60x60Ray Jones is professor of social work at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, and was director of social services in Wiltshire

8 October Question

“I am a new manager and have recently been accused of bullying a member of my team after I raised concerns about her poor time-keeping and poor record-keeping. What can I do to ensure I do not end up in hot water?”

 Do you have your own career dilemma? Send your comments or questions 

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