Four steps to progressing your social work career – without management responsibilities

Senior social workers looking to progress without moving into management should work out what they want and then research roles and develop their skills to make it happen

Male social worker on home visit to older man
Photo: iStock

Read the Community Care Jobs guide, How to Get Ahead in Social Work Without Moving Into Management

First line managers in social work are often faced with a daunting task. Leaving behind direct work with people and families they become responsible for budgets, targets, difficult decisions as well as the supervision of a team of social workers.

It is not surprising that large numbers of social workers are uninterested in taking it on. In fact, a Community Care Jobs survey found 75% of social workers would prefer to progress their career without moving into management.

Yet many social work employers have only just begun creating ‘advanced practitioner’ roles, as an alternative to moving into management, and there remains a wide variation in the responsibilities and job titles involved.

With this in mind, Community Care Jobs has created a guide to help experienced, senior social workers navigate a career that does not involve management, including a handy four-step guide to finding your next role and the career you want.

  1. Focus: Decide which area of social work practice you find the most rewarding. Is it a deeper understanding of a niche topic such as child sexual exploitation or self-neglect? Is it sharing your experience and knowledge with those just starting out in the profession? Or finding ways to improve the consistency and quality of social work practice in your area?
  2. Research: Advanced practitioner roles can be very different depending on which organisation is offering the role. Read job profiles carefully and try and research organisations to find those which are investing in the areas you are most interested in.
  3. Map your skills gaps: Work to fill any skill and experience gaps that will increase your attractiveness as a potential hire in a senior role. Volunteer to hold workshops for your team or lead group supervision sessions. Find out about research projects your local higher education institution is running and ask if there are options for frontline practitioners to be involved. At the very least, such actions will show your initiative, which many employers look for when recruiting for advanced roles.
  4. Be open minded: Consider sideways moves into other areas of social work or teams in your organisation. This may not be your ideal scenario, but such moves will provide you with valuable additional skills that could help give you the edge over other applicants further down the line.

Read the guide today.

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