Career Clinic

Q: I’m a third year student on my final placement and currently looking for jobs. Is it better to work for a local authority first, or join a private organisation? With salaries not being kept in line with inflation, and pensions not as they used to be, I am confused about what’s best.

A: Whether you apply for a job in a charity, local authority or private sector, what is relevant is your experience and your proven ability to do the role outlined in the job description and person specification.

I have not witnessed any stigma attached to people who come from varied settings. In my experience at Hackney, the opposite is true – we know we benefit from the knowledge and experience brought by people who have come from a range of organisations.

You are clearly taking your career seriously, which is a smart and forward-thinking approach. But it’s also important to assess what you need and want right now. Each job will offer new opportunities and open doors so, as with anything, the more you commit the more you will gain.

Choosing which role to apply for is an important decision. The role needs to offer you a challenge, the opportunity for development, and a salary (and benefits) commensurate with both the role’s responsibilities and your needs.

You will not necessarily choose to prioritise these factors equally as you are about to qualify it may be more important to you to develop your skills, or you may decide that you want to try to earn more money initially (perhaps to pay off a student loan) and worry more about your career development and pension further down the line. Such decisions are highly personal and depend on your individual circumstances.

Mary Jackson is recruitment manager for Hackney Council’s children and young people’s directorate

Readers’ views:

A: My experience of the public and private sector is that you get a better pension deal working for a council or the NHS than a private provider. Having said that, there is no harm doing a few years in the private sector for experience. A stint with a small private provider might even help you work your way up the career ladder and ultimately improve your pension by allowing you to take on a more senior, better-paid job when you return to the public sector.

Name and address withheld

27 March question

Q: I’m employed as a case co-ordinator (basically an unqualified SW). I’ve been in the role for over two years and recently successfully completed the first module in the Open University social worker degree. I’ve also completed the NVQ level three in Health & Social Care. I want to become a qualified social worker but my council has placed an embargo on taking on anymore social work students due to budgetary constraints. I would also have to take a pay cut, and have concerns about training costs. Are there any other avenues open to me that would use my current skills and qualifications? Or, can I apply for funding support? We will answer this question in the 27 March issue of Community Care. We want to publish your advice too – please send it to by Monday 17 March.

Do you have your own career dilemma? Send your comments or questions for consideration by our expert panel and your peers to

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