‘The advice that has stayed with me through my social work career’

An adult social care service director shares the "best piece of advice" she has received in her career - delivered just after she joined the profession, full of anxiety

dear future social worker image for Community Care's Choose Social Work campaign

In a video for our Dear Future Social Worker series, director Steph Downey shares the “best piece of advice” she has received during a career lasting over 25 years.

It came from a retired social worker just after Steph – now service director in adult social care at Gateshead Council – joined the profession and was afflicted by imposter syndrome.

“I was a bundle of nerves,” she says in the video. “Anxious that both the university that had qualified me and the local authority that had employed me must have got it terribly wrong and I was going to be found out for being a fraud or a failure.”

What has been the best advice you’ve received during your career in social work? Tell us in the comments.


Steph’s video is part of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign, which aims to champion the brilliant work social workers do every day, inspire the next generation of practitioners and counteract the negative media coverage of the profession.

Read about why we’ve launched this campaign, and the five steps you can take to support it. On our campaign page, you will find more inspiring stories about the difference that good social work makes, as well as our series of Dear Future Social Worker letters, encouraging the next generation to choose social work as a fulfilling, rewarding career.


What has been the best advice you’ve received during your career in social work? Tell us in the comments.


6 Responses to ‘The advice that has stayed with me through my social work career’

  1. Misty September 15, 2023 at 7:22 pm #

    The best advice I had was reverse park on driveways, carry a big bag and flat shoes to run!

    • Jacqueline Ann Dennis September 18, 2023 at 9:31 am #

      ditto! and sit near a door!

  2. David Woodward September 17, 2023 at 10:12 am #

    The best piece of advice I was given as a student social worker was ” Don’t make a mistake in this old gaff as you will hear the doors slamming all the way to county hall”….seen it happen many times. Thankfully not to me.

  3. Hilary Thomas September 19, 2023 at 10:43 am #

    The best advice I received wasn’t spoken but demonstrated. I was on my first student placement working with a school-based social worker in a secondary school. I accompanied her on a visit, where the parents were quite hostile to her efforts to help them to understand their child’s needs – and the hostility was shown in a rather passive-aggressive way of mocking her and trying to make her look small. The child was there and the atmosphere was pretty negative. She handled it in a calm way, without becoming defensive, and afterwards we spent time together reflecting on the experience together. She knew she hadn’t been able to achieve what she had hoped for the child but wasn’t put down by that and didn’t lose heart. It taught me very clearly that everyone, however experienced or strong a social worker, would have those difficult and frustrating experiences but that was going to be part of the job and you could learn from it and carry on doing your job to the best of your ability. I was often grateful for her openness and her willingness to let me see situations which she found hard to handle.

  4. Joanne Kavanagh September 19, 2023 at 12:21 pm #

    “Pace yourself… its a marathon not a 100m sprint…”

  5. DavCru September 19, 2023 at 9:23 pm #

    “You can always try to explain why do did do something, but it’s more difficult to explain why you did not “