How to get ahead in social work

  1. Know where your services are going. No matter how busy your day
    job, stop, look up and see how what you are doing links into the
    bigger picture. For example, how will the Children Act 2004 and
    anticipated adults’ services green paper affect service provision?
    What skills will you need to take advantage of new opportunities?
    If you don’t have those skills, how do you get them?
  2. Identify your strengths. Ask colleagues, use 3,600 appraisals
    and be open to what people say. If you lack expertise in an area
    think creatively about how you can gain it.
  3. Get a mentor, shadow your director or the primary care trust
    chief executive. Take a secondment outside of, but related to, your
  4. Start networking. Attend events, especially those run by
    organisations such as the Association of Directors of Social
    Services. Keep up to date by reading newspapers and the trade
  5. Build your own network. Map out all the people you have worked
    with in the last five to eight years and keep or get back in touch
    with them.
  6. Get more exposure. If it is strategic experience you lack or
    time spent working with elected members, then take on that
    corporate project or Best Value review.
  7. Talk to head hunters and develop a good relationship with them.
    They may be calling for recommendations this time, but next time it
    could be about your ideal job. They are a source of information and
    can offer training such as interview coaching.
  8. Be tenacious. Take knock-backs philosophically. A lack of
    qualified social workers may make it easier to get into the
    profession, but at a senior level the competition is tough.
  9. Always get feedback. Understanding your strengths and
    weaknesses before you start will be invaluable later on.
  10. Take charge of your own destiny. No one else will do it for

Carmel Gibbons is assistant director and principal
social care consultant at Veredus Executive

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