The capacity to reflect is to think about what has happened and learn from the process. Social work is an exciting and dynamic profession where no day or no conversation is the same, each will require different approaches and styles, some may work well and some may not.
As social workers take on position of power and can in some cases be a part of family life when this is not wanted, it is vital that social work practitioners reflect on their approach and the way they engage families. A practitioner should always be learning and want to learn. Employers will want to see this from applicants.
Reflection: how do you show it?
Reflection can be applied to multiple questions in an interview, being a reflective practitioner can shine through. For example, if you are asked about your strength and weaknesses and wanted to show reflection, think about an area of development, articulate how you identified the area, learnt from your reflection and modified your behaviour.
For example, you could say: “One of my areas of development is that I am impatient, I recognised this when I became agitated during a meeting in my previous job when people would not get to their points quick enough; I noticed after the meeting, this led to me talking over others. I thought about this more and with colleagues considered the range of communication styles people can have. The next time I had a meeting, I remembered my previous feelings and allowed more time for others to speak so as to not become anxious.”
Reflexivity is the natural next step following reflection. Reflection tends to be something which is completed following an event, an activity or a thought. The learning is still helpful in developing one’s practice but if we take the example above and we accept that social work can be a tough and stressful job where our skills in communicating will be affected by external pressures such as stress, pressure and context.
Being reflexive is the capacity to change in the moment. If, in the example on speaking over others, the speaker was able to be attuned to their feeling in the moment, they may have not spoken over others. If they had been reflexive, they would have been able to make changes to their practice in the meeting.
Now we are not robots and we will make mistakes but if we learn to know ourselves and pick up on our physical reactions and emotional reactions, we are able to provide consistency to those who we advocate for, support and work alongside.
Reflexivity: how do you show it?
The nuance of reflexivity may not come up in an interview, but an interviewer would likely be impressed if you made the distinction between reflexivity and reflection. A way of doing this could be when an interviewer is asking you questions about your practice, approach to working with people or your relational skills. Talk about how you are a reflexive practitioner using an example which is relevant to you.
A reflexive example can be either personal or professional. So, for instance, if you were asked about your approach to working with people, a response could be:
“I have learnt to be more measured in my approach to working with people; before becoming a social worker I would often lead conversations and be the first one to talk. As I have developed as a practitioner, I have become more reflexive; I think more about what I am saying and how I may be saying this. For example, at home I have taken a reflexive position with disagreements with my brother. I noticed that my brother became frustrated when I would speak at length; in the moment, I considered that he may feel disempowered by not having the chance to speak, I altered my approach, allowing him to talk and keeping my own responses clear and concise. This helped with solving disagreements quicker.”
If you are using a personal example, making reference to how this would influence your practice, for example, adding a statement such as: “This example has helped shape my practice as I have developed my reflexive skills and capacity to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues when conversing with others.”
This article is part of Community Care’s Careers Zone, a part of the site giving social workers and social care professionals advice and guidance about the next steps in their social work career. Like many other Careers Zone articles, this one was produced in collaboration with practising social workers and managers, and in association with the Local Government Association’s workforce and policy team. See all of our tips on the dedicated careers page. Download our social work CV template and advice page here.