What doesn’t kill you makes you a social worker
We’re really grateful to Karen Chazen for this wonderful article about her journey to becoming a qualified social worker. As she says, it’s a career where ‘you get your rewards in the most unexpected places’
2nd December 2014
Before you are even born life conspires to make you a social worker, this is only truly understood by the time you are wearing your cap and gown on graduation day, a day of pride, sometime tears and usually for mature students a day to acknowledge your own amazing resilience.
I have waited 18 years to become a qualifed social worker but it took the loss of a twenty year career to redundancy and the landmark of my 40th Birthday and an adult numeracy test (part of my conditional offer) to finally fulfill this ambition. By the time I had graduated I was divorced, had undergone two operations, and had spent three years working as a personal trainer to ensure that I could pay my mortgage. I did benefit from the Social Work Bursary of course and had saved a little but accepted the challenge of limited income as learning to live with only the things I really needed because what I really wanted was to be a qualified registered social worker.
As I began to learn about social work theories and methods I realised I would have never been ready until I was 41 to embark on this journey but all my life experience had led me to this place. Making sense of myself en route, I was becoming ready to enter the most wonderful profession. This is automatically understood by all other social workers but not necessarily your family and friends - you need to know this if you are thinking of undertaking a career in social work.
I had fabulous placements - working at PSS, Liverpool - within one of the LAC Pilots ( 2011), Merseycare NHS Trust (2013) and Liverpool City Council for my final placement. This was an opportunity to really understand how and why your classroom based knowledge translates in to practice, becomes tacit or sometimes does not!
Uncertainty is the only certainty, no two situations are the same and neither will your response be, you then have to work with ease and poise to ensure what you are proposing fits with policy, procedure, criteria and funding constraints and panel timescales. No pressure!
I have spent my first year of practice as a career agency worker. I have worked in four local authorities and although I am clear of my genericism, I have concentrated on working with adults, after working with children many years ago.
However, within the over-18 sector there are older people, people with Learning Disabilities, hospital patients, those experiencing poor Mental Health, people with alcohol and substance misuse and families.
Sometimes people are extremely complex… Complicated family dynamics, lack of insight, they may speak English as a second language or have a combination of all of the above. Regardless, an anti-oppressive approach is your best asset and assists you to co-produce a positive outcome with your client.
There is an old saying that springs to mind by the late, great Maya Angelou - people may not remember what you said but they will always remember how you make them feel.
In my experience this has been true. You get your rewards in the most unexpected of interactions with service users but equally, difficult situations can remind you of why not everyone can do this job.... What you must always remember is that YOU can.