If you’re considering social work as a career, you’ll find yourself almost drowning in information. Information about how to train, adverts about social worker jobs, about different ways into the system, but very little about the actual day to day experience of being social worker, or how that career might actually pan out for you.
Today we’re taking a look at how social work actually…works, to help you make some informed decisions.
The Day to Day
Social workers start their days in a variety of different settings. Most are part of a team, so you can expect some professional support (or at least sympathy) before you begin your working day. These teams are frequently attached to big institutions like hospitals, or indeed local councils, so you’ll often be integrated if not with the people your work is focussed on, then at least the systems underlying their care.
After a morning check in/update with your team to make sure everyone’s managing their case load, or if not, put some support in place for them, you’ll have your first appointments of the day. If you have any new cases, this is when you can expect to receive them, so you have the time to read them and start making plans prior to a first meeting.
Many social workers spend their time out in the field, meeting clients, patients or service users (depending on the terminology) to check up on their progress, make sure they’ve kept to the commitments they made last time, and talk over any problems they might be having. A lot of adult social work is simply talking and helping to create a framework for people who have historically found that difficult.
One of the major attractions of Social Work is that a career that starts on the front line can take you in a lot of different directions.
To begin with, you decide which area of social work you want to specialise in, from children’s services, to helping drug addicts in recovery and convicted criminals re-entering life after prison to the elderly and ill, you can decide where your focus is going to be.
As your career gets established you can decide which end-state you want to pursue. If management appeals you can start working towards running your own team, unit or service – in many ways, making those big decisions for a whole area could be how you do the most good. If you’re more interested in the reasons why people need social work interventions to begin with, you might follow a path into research or policy making, helping to drive the national agenda