‘Being comfortable with the uncomfortable is social work’

In the latest Dear Future Social Worker letter from our Choose Social Work campaign, Colleen Simon advises aspiring practitioners never to lose sight of their passion and purpose

Dear Future Social Work
Photo by 4Max/AdobeStock

Dear Future Social Worker,

As you embark on this journey, always bring your authentic self to work, ensure that you work where you are celebrated and not tolerated, surround yourself with a supportive network of fellow social workers and mentors who understand the challenges you may face.

Seek out opportunities for growth, both personally and professionally, and never stop learning. Social work is a dynamic field that requires continuous self-reflection and growth.

Change can be uncomfortable, but this often signals growth.

Being comfortable with the uncomfortable is social work. Never forget that you have the power to be a catalyst for change. Your advocacy and dedication can help break the cycle of poverty, oppression, and injustice.

‘I grew up around social suffering’

Colleen shares how a childhood surrounded by poverty and injustice prepared her for a career in social work, in a post on the Social Work Community, our new online community for the profession.

It provides a gated, moderated space where you can exchange ideas and experiences with fellow students and social workers, without the risks of posting on social media.

Sign up to the Social Work Community now, so you can engage with Colleen and other colleagues.

Your commitment to social justice will inspire others to stand up for what is right, and your unwavering belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every individual will have a lasting impact.

Activism is at the heart of social work. You provide a voice for the voiceless. Keep learning and reflecting on how you can drive change. No matter how uncomfortable it is, you are a leader, so lead by example. Lastly, there will be times you might doubt your abilities, feel overwhelmed and feel like an imposter. But believe in yourself, trust in your abilities, never lose sight of your passion and purpose.

In times of doubt or discouragement, remind yourself why you chose this path. The world needs dedicated and compassionate individuals like you. Individuals who are willing to stand up for social justice and work tirelessly to create a better future for all including those in your profession coming in behind you.

Know that you are embarking on a profoundly meaningful journey. You have the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of others, and I have no doubt that you will leave an indelible mark on the world as an aspiring social worker.

With great admiration and best wishes,

Colleen Simon, head of social work, social care, adult safeguarding and the Mental Capacity Act

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8 Responses to ‘Being comfortable with the uncomfortable is social work’

  1. Shonane December 7, 2023 at 6:49 pm #

    Future social Workers advocate for best salaries

    • Ephenia December 8, 2023 at 8:08 am #

      I am a social worker, doing EAP.

  2. Sharon Shoesmith December 8, 2023 at 9:20 am #

    Hi Colleen

    I love this piece – really important message. It is uplifting and practical, inspiring and thought provoking.

    Think about getting these ideas into the mainstream media – even a local paper – but ultimately aim for the Daily Mail – its those readers who need to understand a lot more about the work of social workers. It would need a little modification of course but it could be part of a 10 year campaign to change the public perception of social work.

    Best Wishes
    Sharon Shoesmith

  3. Mxolisi December 8, 2023 at 4:07 pm #

    I love this job

  4. Gloria December 8, 2023 at 8:55 pm #

    I was extremely flabbergasted on reading an article who gives omage to those who are not recognized enough or celebrated as Social work is a calling . This letter was both romantic and heartfelt as fatigue is part of the territory. Thank you for highlighting us.

  5. Pauline O'Reggio December 9, 2023 at 1:47 am #

    Dear Future Social Worker, I found your message inspiring but more so a realistic and accurate account of some of the difficult stages in social work, and how social workers can feel isolated, and invisible (some more than others), you can feel both physically and mentally exhausted at the end of each day, it should be okay to say I need support and the reasons why if the culture is to change. Social workers work hard and are committed to the profession because they are taught they will be in a position to protect a child or family in need.

    Social workers work hard for their degree/master’s, what needs to be recognized is some social workers face oppression and until this is recognized and actively addressed certain sections of the workforce and community will remain invisible therefore leaving vulnerable children unprotected and their individual needs unmet because of a lack of understanding or self-identification.

    The communities we work with are made up of many different cultures, social work should reflect this.
    Social workers have families to provide for being open and honest should be a part of one’s development and moving forward, whereby managers have the skills, confidence, and autonomy to listen to what social workers are feeding back to them. Perhaps the next generation of managers and social workers will recognize we are all professionals working toward the same goal and in my view a much-needed profession.

  6. Busisiwe Khulu December 9, 2023 at 3:32 pm #

    As a practicing social worker, these has reminded me of why I chose this path. Thank You 😊

  7. Matt Tagg December 10, 2023 at 1:38 pm #

    Yes, social work is often extremely uncomfortable for a variety of reasons (admin pressures being up there lol). Over time, sticking with it and building experience, you become more comfortable with the uncomfortable circumstances. I suppose the development of one’s resilience, skills and maturity helps with this. Not an easy journey by any means, but a rewarding one!