I’m going back in time. To my newly qualified self. But not really.
Because my newly qualified self just wanted to move to London and quite frankly I would have taken any social work job offered to me at the time.
This year’s cohort of social work job seekers, however, are different.
It really wasn’t that long ago that I did my ASYE (cue: ‘are you even old enough to be a social worker?’) but even then, I was no way near as informed as this generation of students. There were half as many podcasts, social media accounts and blog posts and the reality of social work wasn’t as talked about.
So I’m going back in time but with the benefit of hindsight, as is the flexibility of writing, and then coming right back to the present to tell you what I really need to know as a new social worker, which I’m not, but I was.
Confused by all the time travel yet? Stick with me.
Are you genuinely anti racist?
I’m a future social worker who cares about systemic injustice. I don’t just want to see the rhetoric of anti racism, I want to know what your anti-racism strategy is. Do you have an anti- racism lead or are you going to employ one? What does that mean to your organisation?
As a new social worker racialised as white, how are you going to help me develop my cultural competency and unlearn my racism - because I need to. I cannot speak for my black and global majority colleagues but I wonder if one of the many things they need to know before entering your workplace is how they are going to find safe spaces if your entire senior leadership team are racialised as white?
What happens when sh*t hits the fan?
I know social work is hard. I have been prepared for the challenges of this profession. I might ask you about caseloads and workload but what I really want to know is how I am going to be supported if the worst happens. And as a new social worker I have ALOT of worst case scenarios. You’re going to ask me for examples in my interview so can you give me some examples of how you have rallied around staff when there has been a complaint, a mistake or a serious incident. This is the stuff that matters to me.
Who can I go to if everyone leaves?
I know you are striving for a stable workforce but I also know that change takes time. I only need to spend 5 minutes on a social work facebook group to see a story of an ASYE who has lost their assessor, manager and colleagues after reshuffles or job changes. I don’t want you to tell me it will all be ok, I want the step by step of what will happen so I am not left drifting at such a pivotal point in my career.
Who are you?
Genuinely, who are you? I’ve been on placement and seen the divide between social workers and the senior leadership team. I don’t like it. I’m motivated and interested in how this local authority functions and I want to know who the people are behind it because I love stories. I’d like to hear how you got from NQSW to director of children’s services, it’s interesting. And more than that, when you send a generic email, or come round to visit the team or ask something of me, I’m more likely to do it because I feel like I can connect with you. I want to work somewhere that is genuinely relationship based.
What’s your flexible working policy?
I know the ad says flexible, but do you mean it? Do you have a minimum requirement for me to be in the office? Can you give me some examples? I know that flexible means different things in different organisations and if you’re not clear with me now, I’m going to feel pretty annoyed when I notice that the senior practitioner manages to take her kids to school most days but for some reason I’m not allowed to work from home one day a week. I’m coming back to honesty and consistency again because I need it, please.
Oh and last thing… tell me that it’s a job ad
I’ve been training in observation and analysis. So I know when your post or article is a job advertisement, you don’t need to hide it. Just tell me; ‘we are writing this because we want to recruit social workers’. Simple and honest. Just as you’d want me to be with the families I work with.
I’ve got lots of other questions and I might ask them at my interview, but it would be great if some of them were ticked off the list before I start my application.
Because I am new to this, and I’m probably not feeling confident enough to ask the questions I really want to. If you can do this in advance it shows me that you understand what I need before I need it. This is something I’m going to value as an ASYE.
There are lots of people out there recruiting but it’s not that hard to stand out. It’s like social work. Show me who you are, be honest, tell me about your mistakes and what you’ve learnt from them. Show me you can reflect. If you model this to me, I’ll likely model it back to you. And I think that’s what you value in an ASYE.
I worked with BLMK Teaching Partnership to produce a collaborative podcasts series to run alongside their Aspiring Senior Practitioner Programme. Interviews with course leads, understanding behind the scenes and interviews with staff create connection and show the reality of the job.
To have an informal chat about how this worked, get in touch, email@example.com