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My biggest lessons as a first year social work student: guest blog

I finally got to meet Suzy from @swsurvival files at the end of last year, after connecting on Instagram nearly a year ago! As a second year student she has shared a reflection on her first year of study.

I wasn’t sure how to start this piece but I know that now is the right time. It’s the end of my first year as a social work student. Documenting my journey on social media has helped me reflect. During the year, I misunderstood plenty of things and took many things for granted, but I’m glad I networked, embraced the ‘silly’ questions and asked for help. 

So… what were my biggest lessons?

I realised very early on that assignments were not blog posts. Blogs and Instagram are where I hypothesise ideas, theories and share my opinion on complex issues. Taking part in live events like ‘The Panel’ allowed me a forum to express my opinion and have discussions. (Thank you to @thesocialworkerandthementor for the opportunity)

Assignments often felt like the other end of the spectrum. Many times I felt like I was repeating what a bunch of scholars have already said. I do wish I had some form of work experience this year. A big lesson for me was to never compare my “normal” to someone else’s. I always thought social workers are experts in people, but I know now you can never be the expert of someone else’s life. A social worker must never go in like “bob the builder” . We do not approach families to “fix it”, we empower them with the right tools. 

Time management is something I always have and may always find tricky. You have to be intentional about becoming a leader within your own right and taking full control and accountability for your learning styles and deadlines. I know this will be the same in practice. 

As I reflect on the relationships I have built, I feel grateful that my cohort of fellow students brought such varied experience. I saw this reflected in the way people wrote their assignments, how they framed their personal values and answered questions in class. It could all be traced back to their lived experience of triumphs and traumas. Being part of a diverse cohort has supported me in being exposed to new ideas. 

I overlooked modules such as communication presuming they would be straight forward and obvious “ light work”. However, it was complicated and deeper than I could imagine. I realised so much of communication is what’s left unsaid. There is power in being emotionally intelligent, but it should be used to support and not manipulate. I saw how lecturers' teaching styles differed, in the same way social work styles will differ in practice’ I like how diversity of thought promotes growth. 

So how am I taking these lessons forward?

Well it starts with my Instagram page. People underrate instagram and don’t see it  as a place where you can connect with other professionals but disagree. I have been able to connect with Curtis @thesocialworkrace, to do live talks and question and answer sessions. I have also published an E-book in collaboration with Ash its available  on the New Generation Social Work website 

This was great and encouraged me to develop my critical-thinking skills, self-confidence and have full compassion for others. I very rapidly became wary of what I say and where I stand in my decisions. I write in a narrative voice which is organic to me. I strongly believe this is what sets me apart from others and helps build that next level of connectivity with my peers. I am learning the power of language. The way social workers can label people and write reports can be liberating or have very harsh consequences. The same applies to how we label ourselves. 

Using social media has taught me the art of storytelling. I am able to talk about ideas and scenarios without compromising information sharing. No different to the future, when my friends and family will ask “how was your day?” I know I won’t be able to tell them.

I hope it becomes a safe space where we can not only survive social work but truly thrive in this profession.

If you are a student or newly qualified social worker, looking to get through your first year in social work without burnout, AND build confidence and skills for your career, then The Collective is the place for you.

A hub of bitesize resources, pdf downloads, a private fb group and live Q&A's with a collective of social workers who get it!



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