Recently I spent a morning with the latest set of social workers to start on Lambeth council’s scheme for newly qualified children’s social workers.
I asked the new intake, some experienced social workers, and the people who run the programme, what tips they’d give to newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) and social work students to improve their chances of landing the job they want.
1. Show your learning didn’t stop at university
Sandra Simpson, part of Lambeth’s social work practice unit: “Although you’ve done three years at uni, and that’s wonderful, I want to see that you’ve still got a commitment to learning. Because learning never, ever stops in social work.”
Nathan Bullens, NQSW: “It’s competitive out there but I think it’s what you do in your training and how much you put in. You’ve got be self-led, and think this is my education, this is my future.
“If there have been shortfalls in what you’ve been taught, you’ve got to step up and say: ‘actually I need to look into this area a little bit more’ and put the hours in.”
2. Answer the application form questions directly
Dee Tracey, who oversees Lambeth’s NQSW scheme: “Always answer the question directly. Say ‘I did this’ and explain how you did it. I’ve read applications and sat in interviews where answers have been far too wishy washy.”
An NQSW scheme social worker: “I think in this climate your application form has to be outstanding. A manager on one of my placements gave me a good tip by pointing out that it’s all evidence-based.
“Go through your form point by point and give evidence for each one. Say what you can do, and then give an example where you’ve done it. It might sound obvious, but it wasn’t to me. The tip helped me get two job offers.”
3. Research the area, not just the job
Nathan: “As well as social work questions I remember them saying, tell us how you would make a difference here in Lambeth. I’d done research on the borough, the issues here and, you know, the unique things like 150 different languages being spoken here and the demographics. It really helped.”
4. Prepare by interviewing each other
An NQSW scheme social worker: “I sat down with a group of university friends and we wrote down every question that we thought could possibly come up in each area. Then we interviewed each other.”
“When we did it, I tried to think about an example with a child for every question that comes up. Apart from the fact recruiters asked loads of questions about Munro, more than I expected, we had anticipated a lot of what was asked in our interviews.”
5. Ignore anyone who says ‘social work is recession proof’
Eugene Patton, social worker: “If you’re still a student, work as hard as you possibly can on your placement, gain as much as possible from it because it’s really tough at the moment.
“I think the days of sitting back in the expectation that social work is ‘recession proof’ are over. That’s what we were told when I was at university in 2007 and we all just took it for granted that we’d get jobs.
“Then of course the reality hit. Adult services are being cut, suddenly there are very few jobs available and children’s work is become more and more specialist. It’s very, very hard just now, but it’s all about perseverance.”
Would you like Community Care to visit your social work team? Email us here
Andy McNicoll is Community Care’s community editor