Last night we ran our first (hopefully of many) interview and job hunting advice clinic for social workers, and it was a great success! We had a slew of questions, not just from newly qualified social workers and students, but from people looking to move into a new specialism or wondering how to return to work after a career break. Others wanted to know how to handle past convictions or disciplinary issues when applying for new jobs.
Our panel of experts gave some great advice, which can be replayed below. Unfortunately, because the response rate was so high, we couldn’t answer every individual query. However, over the next few weeks and months, Community Care will produce a series of articles and guides addressing some of the wider themes.
Perhaps the most challenging questions came from NQSWs who wanted to know how to find their first jobs. Here’s a quick summary of the advice:
- Create a generic job application detailing all of your skills and experiences and save it, this will save you considerable time when filling out each application. You should then edit and amend it to suit each job.
- Pull on experiences from placements to help beef out your applications. Keep a notepad with you on your placements and write down experiences and what you learned at the time, so you remember.
- Have you considered looking further afield? Or are there non-social work roles you could take on for a short time? I know it’s not ideal, but it’s important to keep your skills fresh – and you never know where it might lead. Try to take advantage of any and all networking opportunities.
- You need to be a strong applicant. Our panellist Zoe said: ”I asked my current management team what would make them take on a NQSW and the response was: ‘I would if the NQSW gave a better performance than a qualified social worker at interview.’”
- Keep an eye out for councils running the assessed year – they will be more likely to take on NQSWs.
And if you’re looking for tips on how to prepare for interviews:
- Be aware of your strengths and to make the most of them in the interview. Think about everything you have accomplished in social work or relevant life experience. Make a list if you like. Then see how this might relate to the job you are going for.
- Dissect your work or placement experience – you work with children (say), but what exactly did you do and how did you do it? Unpick everything. If you helped a child, what worked? These are the source of your answer. The fact you do this also shows the interviewer that you are self-aware and know what you are about – this is what this common question is really getting at.
- Many interviews are competency based, so they want to know how you would deal with a certain situation. What is your PLAN? How will you minimise the RISK? What can you actually DO? There are often many solutions to a case or example – think logically and carefully about what your role is and how you can do it.
We would welcome any feedback about the career clinic or suggestions of what else we could do to help you find your ideal job. Email your ideas to email@example.com. And don’t forget to check out Community Care Jobs for the latest vacancies in your area.