I’ll start with this. You will be ok. You won’t always feel this overwhelmed and scared.
You are going to learn. A lot. So much it will take years to soak in.
You are going to be challenged. Things you believed to be simple will become complex.
You are going to cry. You will cry when you are angry at unfair systems. You will cry when you argue with your manager about oppressive decisions. You will cry when you see families falling apart and you will feel helpless when you can’t do enough to support change.
You will rock a two year old child to sleep in a police station and wonder whether you have made a mistake. Whether this is the job for you.
You will advocate fiercely for parents and their children. They won’t see all the work you do in the background and they will think you don’t care. You will learn to let go of what you can’t control but it will take some time.
You will treasure the moments you spend with children and families. You will hold on to cards, drawings and friendship bracelets given to you as ‘thank you’s’.
You will learn that the success of social work is in the small moments. The moments that can’t be measured or recorded. The time in which you see people grow and make change. You will hold on to these moments on the hard days.
And there will be many hard days. Days when you decide you are quitting. Days when you question ‘what’s the point?’ On those days your colleagues will lift you up and make you laugh and one day you will help new social workers who have the same doubts you did.
My advice to you now; you are not an expert. I know you think you’re clever using all those fancy words but you don’t know as much as you think you do. People with lived experience will teach you more than any book or course ever will.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Perfect doesn’t exist and it never will.
Keep being kind to people. Even when you are accused of being too lenient. Everyone deserves kindness and you know this deep down.
Stick with it. There will be so many ups and downs but you will never be able to do anything else with the same passion and care that you have for this career.
And take your bloody lunch breaks!
I ask every podcast guest for the advice they would give to their newly qualified self.