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How to qualify for and find a job as a social worker

How to qualify for and find a job as a social worker

Social Work - how does one get there? It's not the kind of work you step straight into. There are qualifications to gain, experiences to be sought out, CVs to be written and interviews to ace. Without further ado, here’s our unabridged guide to building a career in social work, from getting the right GCSE grades to polishing your interview technique after a few years on the job.

Becoming a social worker is a wonderful thing to do and we applaud you for it. The opportunity to help people find the best path in life available is a truly admirable aim and one that will show you many different worlds.

There are all kinds of ways that social workers can benefit society and the people around them. Perhaps you are interested in working with truant youth to help them see the benefit in schooling or with families that need parenting support. Other social workers focus on those with learning difficulties or mental health issues to ensure they access the services they need and, most importantly, build a life that reflects their values and interests.

You can find social worker jobs in all kinds of different places too – hospitals, schools, care homes, supported living, family homes and the police station, to name but a few.

Getting that social worker qualification

To become a social worker, you must secure a three-year Bachelor's degree course or use your current degree course to complete a two-year conversion postgraduate course that has been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). It's unlikely that you'll find social worker post-graduate courses that aren't approved but do be careful to double-check! As with any job in the health and social care field, you'll also need to pass background checks via the Disclosure and Barring Service – more known known as the DBS and formerly the CRB.

I don't have a degree yet

If you're in a position to apply for your first degree, then the three-year Bachelor's degree is the route for you.

First, you need 5 GCSEs or the equivalent (such as Scottish Standard Grades, BTECs, NVQs Level 1 and 2 or the 14-19 Diplomas) with English Language and Maths at C or above.

You also must have A Levels or the equivalent (Scottish Highers, a Scottish or International Baccalaureate or college courses like NVQs Levels 3 and 4).

To show your capability via A Levels, you'll need at least 2 with grades that add up to 240-280 points (240 could be 2 A's or 3 C's; 280 could be 2 A*'s or 2 B's and a C). If you have relevant BTECs, 240 points are equivalent to a Diploma with 2 Distinctions or an Extended Diploma with 3 Merits.

Another option available to those without quite enough UCAS points is to start with a lower-level course. HNC courses and CertHE courses can also be considered stepping stones towards getting that full degree. These can be found on the UCAS website too.

However, every course will be slightly different. If you aren't coming down the traditional route of A Levels, email or call the course leader and have a talk with them about just what they want to see from you – you may be pleasantly surprised! Although there will be certain levels of educational achievement you just have to be able to show your attitude, commitment and experiences will undoubtedly play a big part.

I've already got a degree but it's not in social work

This means you need to take a post-graduate degree course to 'convert' to social work. Fortunately, you don't have to have a first degree in a healthcare related field – it can usually be in any area. However, this changes from university to university so contact them if you are at all unsure.

Entrance requirements for these degrees vary a great deal. Some places want a First or a 2:1, some will consider a 2:2 and others just say they want 'a degree' – It all depends on the university.

But a degree is not all you will need to achieve for post-graduate study. Some universities have extra tests to complete, some will want to interview you and others will want to hear how a minimum number of months of previous experience in the field has shaped your expectations and desire to work in the area.

Again, if you are at all unsure of your suitability, just get in contact with course leader and have a talk about what you have and how far it will get you!

Gathering experience in the social work jobs field

Before you apply for your degree or post-graduate degree, you should probably work in the area. Not just so that your application sounds better and is more likely to succeed but so that you can confirm you do actually enjoy this kind of work. There's no room for naiveté in social work – it's very hard work that isn't tremendously well-paid and it will be very stressful.

All kinds of experience are possible – it doesn't necessarily have to be a paid job. You must, however, perform this experience for a minimum of 4 months – some courses expect a full year of experience. Even better is a variety of experiences to show that you really do have a broad understanding of what social work and general care provision can entail.

You'd do well to contact course leaders and ask them what kind of experiences would be most impressive for them – it would be a real shame to spend a year doing something that doesn't actually help your application!

Types of experience that will contribute to your application are, essentially, anything in social care.

Paid work as a support worker for an independent living service, a care worker in a nursing home, assisting in a special needs class or helping out at a local youth centre or youth program would all be good. This kind of work demonstrates that you truly appreciate the types of pressures and events facing the people you will help.

Relevant voluntary work can be found at hospitals, charities, community groups, prisons and local voluntary organisations – finding these in the first place can be done online, in your local library, through the Citizens Advice Bureau or local council. You may have a Volunteering network in your town as well.

It is also possible to cite personal experience as relevant. For instance, working as a carer for a family member would give you a tremendously authentic understanding of the kinds of assistance and advocacy that family carers need.

Finally, there's an option for those who just don't have the time or opportunity to change their jobs or take on voluntary work. It is possible to keep a reflective diary where you note down your responses and thoughts regarding topical social care issues and news pieces.

The thrust behind this kind of project is to show your awareness and reflective attitudes towards the core issues affecting society – show what you've learnt from things and how this has developed and changed the way you think about them. Don't just document what happened; write about how it affected your thought processes. Please note: we can't guarantee that this would be sufficient to get you a degree place so please, please double check with the course leader to see how they feel about reflective diaries.

CVs – Start from scratch and showcase your strengths

As you know, your CV needs to be amazing. To be amazing, it can't just list your job history – it needs to be accessible too and there's a few ways that allow you to make sure yours stands out from the herd. Take your time and get it right – as a social worker, you need to be able to produce many reports. Poor English skills will be a problem. This doesn't mean that dyslexics need not apply or anything like that – just that you need to make sure you have strategies in place to produce what's needed.

And remember, it will be read by all kinds of people too: the manager running the job search, HR departments making sure that the company is hiring the right person and, increasingly, a computer scanning your electronic copy for certain keywords relating to the vacancy.

Let's start at the very beginning....

You're likely familiar with the very basics of an acceptable CV – you need a section about the job you're in now and one on your jobs held before, start and finish dates for both and a bit about your qualifications that make you right for the post. This in itself won't be enough but let's start with these.

Some of you may find it pedantic to start with these basics but it's got to be done – our job boards process hundreds and hundreds and thousands of CVs and it is just amazing how many miss off something even simpler than the categories above:

They don't have usable names, telephone numbers or email addresses on them!

You may scoff but are your details correct? Are you sure? Is your voice mail message work-appropriate? Is your email still that one from when you were new online and seemed just about the coolest address you could have? There are many ways these basics can let you down on the job hunt.

So let's start at the very beginning....check your contact details so you can experience what it's like to contact you. Is it professional and is it easy?

Whilst we're at this early stage, there's something else we should talk about too...

Is your English good English?

Every word you use must be spelt and used correctly! If you've ever had any doubt at all about your spellings; if you're ignoring those wiggly red lines on your Word Processor because 'Oh, it's just the American spelling', get someone else to have a look. If you hated creative writing in school or, conversely, loved to write lengthy screeds of purple prose, get someone to re-read it. We don't want any mistakes, nor must your reader become bored. And don't use 3 long words where one will do....

Polishing your CV until it gleams

So, we've got the basics of a good CV – job and qualification sections, good contact details and readable writing. Now, let's take it up a notch.

A really good CV has three extra sections or categories of information that make it exceptionally easy for employers (and computers) to pinpoint you as a brilliant candidate: Key skills, key words and your previous duties and responsibilities.

You've likely heard of key skills. These are your professional qualities; the things that make you the kind of worker you are. Every job wants someone who can problem-solve, stay organised and work in a team but also work alone as needed. These are your 'soft skills'.

However, these won't impress by themselves. And why should they? Being able to motivate yourself to work by yourself isn't anything special – it's the bare minimum you'd expect from an employee.

What you need to show are your 'hard skills'. What can you actually do? Things like: making referrals, patient assessments or familiarity with specialised pieces of software like ICS and SWIFT, particular frameworks, plans and procedures (for instance, ISA procedures). By being specific like this, it shows you have a genuine understanding of what the job really needs – or at least demonstrates your ability to specialise as needed.

These kinds of details are also useful for getting past the computer stage of application. As we mentioned before, computers will be looking for 'keywords' – just like you did when you ran a web search for 'writing a social worker CV' or 'social worker jobs'. Make sure you have 'hard skill' keywords in there as well (that match the job description if possible) as the kinds of soft skills described in the person specification and it'll serve you well!

Next, you need to make sure these are inserted as appropriate into your job history's duties and responsibilities. Some people like to have a section itself for skills and choice responsibilities near the top of their CV. This is very much a matter of personal choice – it's still a touch avant-garde in some professions so it's your call. If you're nervous about getting it right, don't bother – stay traditional.

How should my CV look?

Another crucial step in getting your CV employment-perfect is making sure that those wonderful words you chose are easy to read. Sometimes, we go down the 'make it stand out' path and this is not what you want! 'Exciting' fonts, pictures of yourself (or any pictures at all!), crowbarring in every last bit of information possible.....these are all things that will get you put in the 'no' pile.

The most important thing you can thinking about for formatting your CV is 'white space'.

You know the bits above, below and around each of these sentences.

White space.

White space is good because it allows our brains to process information more effectively – in fact, a study from 2004 found that use of white space in website design increased comprehension by 20%. This is why your favourite blogs almost certainly aren't crammed with colours and pictures and animations – they're relatively simple and give you (literally) 'space to think'.

To help with this, keep your paragraphs and skill summaries short and sweet. Use simple but communicative English and include bullet points when it looks right. CVs shouldn't be more than 2 pages long. The standard used to be 1 page but now we are much more mobile between posts, 2 pages are acceptable. If you're struggling to get down to 2 pages, then there's things in there that just aren't relevant enough. It's always tempting to include every possible thing relevant to really hammer your point home but quality over quantity is key here. Be brutal with your bullet points and trim your talking points.

The final part of formatting we must touch on is the file format itself. Make sure, no matter your word processor, that it's saved as a .doc file. This is a simple Windows format that virtually every word processor should be able to read. If you use something open-source, like Open Office or Libre Office, it's easy to forget to change this so be careful!

Filling the categories and doing your formatting justice

So, we have the fundamentals – your name, telephone and email address, all appropriate and work-friendly; formatting that makes it easy for the employer to see why you're the best choice and, lastly, the titles (if not the content as well) for skills, responsibilities and duties.

Next, we need to make sure the actual body is both packed with useful information, easy to understand and enjoyable to read. Before we get stuck in, let us make one thing clear. It's okay to scrap your old CV and just start anew!

In some ways, this may seem like more hassle than it's worth but it can be quite a wonderful focusing activity. Perhaps, it's all that new white space, just ready to be filled – gives the brain a bit of lubrication!

First – your job history

Start off the job section with your current (or most recent) job with the especial skills, responsibilities and duties that entailed. Bullet points are a good bet here – they're easily readable and stand out to grab the attention of the reader.

Don't think you have to put every single job in here because you really don't. Applying for work as a social worker? Your supermarket job at 16 has absolutely no relevance. And neither does your bar work during university. Employers like to insist that 'every gap in employment must be accounted for' but it's not possible on a modern CV. If they're desperate to know, they'll ask in the interview.

Stick to your most relevant posts with the most toothsome experiences and hard skills. Sometimes, you'll have something from outside of social work or care work that is relevant but it isn't particularly likely.

After this comes your professional skills

If you haven't decided to keep your soft and hard skills in your job history entries, next is your professional skills section. This is the place for the hard skills we talked about before – the real, meaningful things you can do that make you a valuable (and not merely likeable) employee. What are the specific processes you've experienced in previous jobs? Make it readable by keeping it simple. Be clear.

Next comes your qualifications

When you're applying for professions – you know, jobs with true responsibilities that impact other's lives and require at least one degree if not post-graduate work – you can leave out the GCSE and A Level scores. By this point, it's not particularly relevant. Instead, put in your degree, any post-graduate work (especially if it was the qualification that made you employable in your professional career) and any professional development you've done since.

Don't worry too much about your placements if they're not directly relevant to the job you're applying for – either tease out the exceptionally-related facets of them or leave them out. If you're a bit further along your career path and you have quite a lot of professional development, you can consider having a whole section for this.

And at the end, references

You don't have to actually provide names and addresses here; just write 'Available upon request'.

Moving on to your covering letter

When it comes to sending off your CV, you need a cover letter to go with it. It's not merely a formality where you reiterate the obvious (“Here's my CV!”) - it's a chance to really bring home just how wonderful you are by making sure that understanding how and why you are wonderful is as simple as it can be!

Why this job especially?

The first thing you should be talking about is the reason you want this job and no other. Why did this one catch your eye? Why are you putting in such effort to apply for it? Perhaps it's the specific history of the organisation, the good things you've heard about them or the systems and techniques they use. If needed, now is the time to talk about relocation.

Your CPD and how it makes you a great choice

The second is your continuing professional development (CPD) and qualifications. What is it about them that makes them pertinent to the role and how do they tally up with the job description and person specification? Another excellent move to make here is to talk about the professional development you hope the job will bring. Not in the sense of 'give me this CPD or I walk'; more in the sense of 'I hope this role will allow me to further my A, B, C and D skills....'.

Your future plans for work development

Thirdly, you should spend a paragraph talking about just what you hope this job will allow you to do. This will flow nicely from your hopes regarding CPD. Mention again why you are applying for this job and tie it into your previous CPD points. How do you hope this job will allow you to develop as a worker. What makes you passionate and why will it be just right for you and your future? Remember, this must always relate back to what they are aiming to do with the role. If you don't know what they are aiming to do, call them and ask about it.

Just what it is that makes you so lovely

After this, a bit on soft skills is a nice way to finish. Whilst soft skills like teamwork, co-operation and dedication are really the bare minimum you'd expect from a professional, it doesn't hurt to get a line or two in. This personalises the letter and allows for them to want to meet you as well as 'the social worker' that's applying. Keep it realistic and don't act like you're someone you're not. Just pull out, say, three of your most attractive qualities and point out why this will make you a lovely match for the job.

Finally, contact details again

Last, end the letter by restating how they can contact you, should they have any questions or queries about anything you've sent. And voilà, one delightful cover letter to go with your cracking CV!

I am a qualified social worker but I've only just qualified – what can I write about my CPD?

This may seem like a stumper but don't worry – there are alternatives to talking about your CPD. These are, of course, your degree placements and specific modules and projects from university. Find those that are most closely related and take the tangible experiences which have contributed to your development. If you really don't have any modules or placements that relate to the role you're applying for and you're struggling to find any hard skills you can talk about, it may not be the right job for you. By all means, apply but you may need to take a less specialised or more junior role to build up that useful, meaningful experience.

I've been working in social worker jobs for years – what about me?

For our riper job seekers, you need to focus on your professional development – it's your most valuable asset. In what way have you chosen to develop? Why are you so passionate about these areas and what specific industry understanding and knowledge do you have because of this? Demonstrating why you are a unique resource that merits attention should be straight-forward with years of experience under your belt!

The CV and cover letter have been sent and I've been invited for interview!

Congratulations - of course you have! Now: to prepare for the interview. As a social worker, your social skills will be your forte here – after all, they're essentially the most important characteristic you can have as a social worker. More generally, there's preparation specific to social working and the other stuff that everyone has to do.

General interview preparation

Getting ready for interview has some commonalities right across sectors as there are a few things that everyone needs to do.

> Check your route so there aren't any surprises: Being late for an interview screams incompetence. There are, occasionally, exceptional and genuine circumstances where you just can't help being late but let's not waste our chances on poor route planning. Check your route to make sure you are completely clear on how to get there and where it actually is at the address. If you are using public transport, check their service information – are there roadworks or other delays? What's an alternative if the bus just doesn't turn up? Perhaps an emergency tenner for a taxi would be appropriate. If you're driving, double-check your fuel. It's so easy to forget to check and then be forced to spend 20 minutes getting into the petrol station, filling up, paying and getting out again.

> Get your outfit ready: Another place that easily sucks up time is getting ready in the morning. Lay out your clothes, check for holes and loose buttons and then iron it all. Then consider your grooming routine – do you need to wash your hair the night before? Maybe you have a more complicated process you want to undertake like shaving your legs, tooth whitening, giving yourself a facial or applying hot oil to your hair or the like – let's get it done the night before!

Whatever you do do to your body and clothes, it should be simple, elegant and unassuming. Your personality should be able to come through without reliance on informal or unprofessional grooming or 'wacky' clothing choices. And even if it can't – that doesn't matter. It's a job interview!

> Research the organisation so you can make intelligent enquiries: There are specific things to research for a social worker job that we talk about below but general things include: how the company started, how long it's been running, what they aim to do, any public or governmental initiatives they've been included in; professional bodies associated; what they expect from staff and how they treat them.

> A list of questions for them: Be careful here as the wrong questions give the wrong impression. Take care not to look money-grubbing or self-centred; questions should increase your understanding of your role and their expectations. Nice examples would be: who else would be part of my team? How is my performance measured? What would be your ideal employee? What does the interviewer like about the company? Is there much travelling involved? Does the company use any specific software? Have any previous employees in this role failed to perform as you'd have hoped and in what way? What kind of training is associated of the role/expected of me? What are the key accomplishments you'd want to see across the next year? Or, similarly, what would a successful year look like for the organisation?

> Role play some questions: Role play may or may not bring a groan to your lips but it helps. A dry run at feeling awkward and stupid will really help prevent it on the day – find out which answers to question you don't have done perfectly and revise, revise!

> Practice your eye contact. Eye contact can be another thing we struggle with – I personally can't stand too much eye contact. However, failing to be able to look someone in the eyes really doesn't make you look successful and wouldn't bode well for professional situations. During your role play, concentrate on your eye contact. You don’t have to look at them for literally every second of your answer – especially if you're thinking rapidly – but starting and ending your answer with eye contact will look better than none. Equally, don't make too much eye contact! You shouldn't be staring at them for every single second of the interview. Relax, look around a little now and then (but not during questions).

> Ensure everything you prepare has a positive spin: This is another important one to get right – you need to be able to talk about negative subjects in a positive way. And you need to be able to talk about a hated prior employer without letting on that you don't actually have any respect for them. Try tape-recording your role play with a friend to listen to yourself. Are you a Moany Martin? Don't be.

> Avoid fiddling: Another classic body language problem is fiddling. Playing with your hair, biting your nails, generally putting your hands in and around your mouth, shuffling your feet.....all dodgy to watch. Rest your hands in your lap in one another or discreetly sit on them.

> Find out if there will be any competency tests: There's nothing quite like having a competency test sprung on you! Call ahead to check this won't be the case. Doing so has the added bonus of making you look proactive and sensible too!

General information gathering

Similarly, there are some questions you need to prepare for, no matter the industry:

Details about your course

Gather a few short sentences about your degree course; the types of modules covered, placements attended and the main projects that were the most interesting. You should also include anything of substance that supports your application for the role

Why you're interested in this job

Again, a few pithy and simple sentences that corral why you want this job and no other. Things that relate here may be personal experiences, placements, projects undertaken or work experience.

Summarise yourself and your past few jobs

They will undoubtedly ask you about yourself and you do not want to be umm-ing and ahh-ing here. Start with your last job plus one or two more – a short description of both plus what you liked about them would be good. Then, add a little about your interests and why you love them as well. Keep it short and confident.

Career goals

You should be able to say just why you're aiming your career path in this direction. Where do you hope to end up and with which cohort of service users? Are you looking forward to more training in the area or contact with service users? Do you enjoy the potential for project management, one-on-one work or something else?

Your availability

Social work can be rather anti-social in terms of hours – if you can't work outside the 9-5, now is the time to say!

Make a list of your knowledge, skills, abilities and experience.

As with the data-gathering exercises before, it is equally as – if not more – important that you can trot out your skills, abilities, knowledge and experiences. Hesitating here – however well-meant or innocuous – doesn't sound good. Good workers are clear about such things.

Knowledge refers to your range of understanding and marshalling of facts in the area – what do you actually know? Hint: If you could confidently teach it to someone, then you really know it.

Skills – In this sense, it relates to your 'hard skills' – what can you actually do?

Abilities – The demonstrative ability to use knowledge and skills – when have you done these things and how well can you do them?

Experience – self-explanatory; previous situations that relate to and support your application.

For all, try using the STAR method to outline them. It's said to be an excellent process for clarity: Situation, Task, Action, Results. Get those categories answered for each point you have and you'll be laughing!

Prepare past experiences that relate to job skills

This ties into the point above. After you've STAR’d your knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences, cross-reference them with the job criteria. How many can you demonstrate concrete prior experience or ability in?

Your weaknesses

This is one of the least-liked questions because it's either hard to answer or too easy to answer and you fear that either answer will damage your chances! If your problem is the former, try answering this question: “How would your greatest enemy describe you?”. Whether it's the former or latter, find a positive way to spin it – crucially, you must state how you've learnt from previous examples of your behaviour and what you've done to combat it.

Be up-to-date with current events and have your own thoughtful opinion

As a professional, you should have tangible ideas about the industry. If you don't regularly keep up with the general or industry news, get started during your job search. Think of the topics and issues you studied during your course and apply that way of thinking through subjects to consider recent, important events. Then condense your thoughts into a few spiffy sentences.

Particular social worker interview preparation

The above section covers general job interviews but in applying for a social worker job, you need to have done further research – both on the company and on your thoughts, feelings and assertions surrounding the sector.

Check OFSTED reports or similar for the place

Who inspects the service? How often do they inspect and what do they think about it? Finding this out could save a lot of grief further down the line – if you want to help improve a service then the findings won't be as important; if you really want to focus on providing excellent care, you may want to see if that's something the company can work with you on.

What are your major successes?

Arguably, this is a general piece of preparation to do but we'll outline the types of info most wanted for social work. You should have several short scenarios for problem-solving, taking initiative, responsibility, how you cope with crisis and decision-making without all the information. Marshall a description of the situation, talk about your response and how it all played out.

What are you major disappointments?

As above, but for disappointments. When did you drop the ball? What happened, what was the outcome and most importantly of all, what did you learn and how did you change your practice? A specific area you may be asked about here is that of bad communication – how do you cope with it or when did you provide it?

What personality traits do your successes and disappointments show?

Hopefully, these stories will showcase the behaviours they asked for in the person specification. For the negative situations, be extremely clear on how you have developed past this situation to demonstrate how it won't happen again!

What traits does a good social worker hold?

This kind of question is a way of finding out how much you understand about the post and a bit about what you expect of yourself. Find out what you think the answer is and write a good summary of it.

Your toughest case

This will be problematic if you've just graduated and hopefully, they wouldn't ask it. If they do, talk about something that happened in a placement that demonstrates your tenacity and competency. If you haven't, however, use the STAR analysis to create a narrative from your previous experiences.

Scenarios – step by step expectations

Sometimes, you'll be asked to take a case study and run the interviewer through the way you'd handle it, step-by-step. Some people find this kind of information handling difficult – if you can, practice with scenarios found online.

What would you do if a client turned up for a meeting high or psychotic?

In your line of work, this is a very real possibility and there are kind and unkind ways of handling it. If you're not sure about your own stance on such issues, have a look online or flick back through things from your course.

What do you do about counter transference?

Social workers are just as capable of emotional transference onto their clients as clients are onto them and as professionals, you must know what you're going to do about it! You should have some ideas about what you fall foul of with regards to counter transference – whether it's positive or negative. What systems do you have in place to deal with it?

Theoretical orientations

Hopefully, even if you are a fresh-faced graduate, you will have some idea of your theoretical sympathies. Maybe you like the cognitive approach, a solution-focused one or prefer family systems as a methodology. Decide which and work out why you think this will go well with the role.

Specify why the employer's cohort interests you.

The interviewer will likely be curious about exactly why you want to work in the specific field the role involves. Have a think beforehand and pinpoint why.

Who do you find most difficult to work with and how do you tackle this?

No-one expects you to be a perfect social-working robot and they understand that you will sometimes be battling with personal dislikes of service users. However, they will expect you – as a professional – to know what you will do about combating underlying biases. If you have a prior experience in this, fantastic – use it and talk about how you developed past it. And you probably do....think back to unpleasant co-workers if you don't have one relating to clients.

Coping with ethical conflicts in a scenario – personal, legal and regulatory issues

You absolutely will encounter ethical conflicts during your work – they tend to pop up throughout life, let alone at work! As someone that is working with others to develop their lives, how you handle these conflicts is exceptionally important. Make sure you have some basic understandings of the types of legal and regulatory issues they will touch on, as well as personal limitations or angles.

Features of common systems and techniques used.

It is possible the interviewer will want to check your understanding of systems and techniques they like to use in their service provision. This may relate to things like assessments, the cycle of disadvantage, empowerment or advocacy – make sure you can summarise the pertinent features of each.

What would you change about the system?

A great way of understanding someone's attitude towards an area is to ask them about what they think needs changing – what don't you like about the social worker system? Why don't you like it? Do you know how you'd like to see it change?

How you manage your work/life balance.

Social worker jobs are notorious for their stressful natures – what you do is very hard work and it's important to acknowledge that and put some systems into place to deal with it. Drinking is a classic one but not something the interviewers will find appropriate. So how else do you make sure you won't burn out in a few years? How do you recapture the essence of you after a 10-hour day or 60-hour week?

Interviewing well

Once you've prepared everything you need, let's make sure you deliver it as well as you can so that your positive traits shine through!

The first three are simple things – make sure you're 5 or 10 minutes early so you can visit the toilet if you want and settle in; turn your phone off and make sure you're still looking nice and neat.

In interview, there are two things that will make you really appealing. Firstly, show passion. You do this job because you love it and you find it fulfilling. Tell them about it (but don't gabble)! Secondly, make them like you by finding things to be interested in about them and by liking them too. Check out their LinkedIn profile or find out if they've guestblogged anywhere – what are they interested in? Do you have anything in common?

Lastly, the age-old – positive body language. Lean forward slightly, make good eye contact, don't fiddle and don't gesticulate too wildly. And smile!

Types of CPD in social worker jobs

Once you've secured the job, what can you expect in terms of future continued professional development? It's a requirement for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) (along with a full year of assessed work if you’re in Ireland) so you'll always need to consider this.

New expectations from the HCPC is that there are no set amount of hours that you have to do and CPD is now defined as anything you learn or develop from. What is certain is that the HCPC will audit 2.5% of social workers in 2014 to see how this system is going. You'll need to have a continuous and current record of learning activities that clearly benefit the service user and your practice. They also may request a piece of writing with supporting evidence to show how you've met the standards.

If you choose to do traditional CPD, there are all kinds of certificates, HNCs, diplomas and MAs out there. For instance, Sussex Uni offer courses for new and experienced workers. Things like 'Communication with Children', 'Managing and Leading Change' and 'Research Mindedness' are all possibilities. A more generic option from Bournemouth university would be their Graduate Certificate in Professional Practice (GCPP).

However you decide to develop, make sure you keep track of it both for you and for the audit!

Usual job paths for social worker jobs

The main social worker jobs out there tend to be found through local authorities; either in their children's services or adult's services. Others are with the NHS within mental health, some in prisons, some in the community and others in places like schools, the Police, substance abuse, asylum services or youth justice. It's possible to work for private companies as well, in areas like adoption, fostering or even staffing agencies.

Wherever you choose to apply, you'll start out as a Newly Qualified Social Worker, covering the basics. From here, you'll either continue as a standard social worker or go up to senior social worker. After doing your time at senior level, options really open up and it all depends on what you are particularly interested in.

One possibility is management – making sure that either happens as it ought to and supporting your colleagues to do their best work and acting as mentor to the new 'uns.

Another option is policy work and academia – once you've a good understanding of how social worker life runs, you can feed back into the system and either train new social workers as lecturer, senior lecturer and course leader or contribute your experiences and ability to reflect via policy development.

If you've found the legal side of things particularly interesting, you might end up as a court adviser to represent and advocate for the vulnerable parties involved in legal cases.

As you spend more and more time in the field, you can move up to even higher positions. Roles like strategy manager, commissioning manager or head of services are all options after you gathered many years working in the area.

Best of luck!

So, you've got a feel for the field and, hopefully, a sense of what's to come along with a gleaming CV and cover letter to go with it all. The very best of luck to you from – now get cracking!

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