By a newly qualified social worker
Carving a career in any industry can be an incredibly difficult feat. Just over three years ago, I ended my career as a broadcast journalist at the BBC and went in search for greener pastures in the world of social work.
Enthusiastic and motivated as ever, I was led to believe that there would be an endless list of opportunities for social work graduates.
Furthermore, there were the government bursaries to fund social work courses for people like me who were looking for a ‘challenging’ career change.
This only cemented the idea further in my mind that guaranteed ‘employment’ wouldn’t be too much of an issue after graduating.
I recall thinking: “Phew! Finally a career that would be free from looming temporary contracts, job-cuts and redundancies! Finally, I’m going into profession with stability and job opportunities unlike that I had previously faced in the media industry.”
A dog eat dog world
But all wasn’t well. Lecturers, fellow class-mates as well as social workers clearly put great emphasis on securing a statutory placement.
But we were told explicitly by the university that we shouldn’t ‘personally’ get in touch with any employers or councils. Councils, in the meantime, were finding it difficult to place students within their teams because tightening budgets.
The upshot of this was that universities were being allocated a reduced number of statutory placements unlike ever before.
I suppose an uneasy feeling set in around this point but I didn’t want to leave it to chance. So I ignored the university and took it upon myself to ensure I got a statutory work placement under my belt.
“It’s a dog eat dog world,” I thought. “If I have any chance of getting a job as a social worker then I need to tick all the right boxes.”
So I found and completed a statutory placement, where I was trained by an exceptional manager within a child protection team. Shortly after my placement ended I graduated with honours and had all the skills to hit the ground running, or so I thought.
I didn’t really think anything would stand in my way when I got round to applying for jobs internally – I was in for a shock. Unfortunately, it seemed that staff already employed by the council had an unfair advantage over ‘new comers’.
A mammoth task
Becoming tired and frustrated with repeated knock-backs, I turned my hand to the mind-numbing task of registering with agencies.
But even with my HCPC registration, qualifications and statutory experience, agencies struggled to find me work. I was told I needed at least 3 years’ social work experience before I could be put forward for any roles.
I was perplexed at my situation. How was I supposed to gain more experience when I wasn’t even being offered work in the first place?
Almost 11 interviews later, I signed a contract with a local council as casual ‘social work pool staff’. It was very casual indeed, I’m still waiting to be allocated work.
For me and undoubtedly others, finding permanent work is truly a mammoth task. There’s lots of competition for advertised jobs and those with the most experience seem to have an edge above the rest.
The truth is there is no right or wrong way to land a job in social work anymore.
This was a career I pursued in the hope that I could help create positive change in our society. It’s a crying shame that countless others like me simply aren’t being given the chance to do just that.