Emotional Wellbeing

Mandy Kloppers

Surviving Your First Year as a Social Worker

Have you ever wanted to become a social worker? Those in the industry claim that the job is an emotional rollercoasterranging from extreme highs to lows. However, overall, it is said to be an extremely rewarding career for those who enjoy being responsible for the wellbeing of others and making a difference in society. The first year of social work can be overwhelming and stressful, but don’t let the initial nerves and apprehension throw you off performing to your very best.  

  • In this article, we’re going to provide some useful tips and tricks on how to survive your early days as a social worker and make the first 12 months as stress-free as possible:

    1. Get to know the team

    You may be surprised at the amount of time you spend alone when working in the social care sector. Most of the work you carry out will be dealt with on a one-on-one basis when out on location dealing with a case. As a result, it is natural to feel isolated and alone at times. It’s a good idea to meet your team during the first few days of your new job, so you have a few friendly faces around you to help you settle in. Getting to know your colleagues will give you a support network to turn to if you have a query or need advice.  

Your team members will also act as a useful tool for developing your professional contacts. Those you meet in the industry could be beneficial in pushing your career forwards.

  1. Lower your stress levels


Being a social worker isn’t a job you can walk away from at the end of the day. Certain cases can be distressing, and new professionals often find it difficult to let go of their thoughts when their shift has finished. To ensure longevity in the social care sector, you’ll need to learn how to manage your stress levels and take care of your health and wellbeing. 

If you notice that you’re starting to feel anxious, depressed and nearing burn out, reach out to those around you. It’s important to speak with friends and colleagues about your emotions and put your thoughts into perspective. There are also many ways you can reduce your stress levels once you get home, with activities such as yoga, meditation and maintaining a healthy diet


  1. Talk to your supervisor


Within your first year of social work, you’ll be in close contact with your supervisor for most of your shifts. Take this opportunity with both hands and find out as much as you can about the industry. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re feeling unsure or unconfident about how to handle certain cases. Supervision isn’t just a tool used to make sure you have fulfilled your tasks; it can also work in your favor. Treat your supervisor almost as a mentor – someone you can reach out to when you require support. Remember, you are only human yourself and sometimes, you may need to open up about your concerns. By checking in with your supervisor often, you’ll learn the ropes of the job quicker and understand where you may be going wrong. 


  1. Keep an eye out for new opportunities


As this is your very first job in the sector, you’ll probably want to make a good impression. By showing willingness and dedication, you’ll be considered by those in authority as an asset, but this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on other job opportunities that come up.

Keep your eyes peeled for any other positions both internally or externally which will enhance your career, once you’ve found your feet but you should legally give at least two weeks’ notice to your employer before moving on. There may be other sectors that interest you more or are better suited to your skillset, so it would be ideal to research different divisions of the social care industry to see which path you would be comfortable working in for the long-term future. 


  1. Don’t turn down extra training

In the early days of your new job, there’s a high likelihood you’ll be asked if you’d like to take on further training either immediately or in the near future. Studying new courses may be optional, but accepting the opportunity shows that you are willing and dedicated, which are skills that all new employees need to prove. 

Social work is a vast sector with many different career avenues to research into and you’ll be surprised at the number of sectors that will be available to you once you’ve gained additional qualifications. Wilfrid Laurier University offers a Master’s qualification that can be studied 100% online and fitted around your new job role, so you don’t have to take time out of work. After gaining your certificate, you’ll be eligible for several social work job roles including mental health therapy and counselling.  


  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself


After graduating, it can be easy to get over-enthusiastic about your new job role to the point where you take on more cases than you can realistically manage. While you may feel flattered that you’ve been given extra responsibility, you won’t be able to give your full attention to each case if you get overwhelmed. Stress and anxiety will impact your health and potentially harm your professional performance. The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to say no if you believe you’ll struggle with a heavy workload too soon. Being honest and upfront will ensure you get more respect by those in authority, rather than feeling afraid to express your true thoughts feelings. 


Final word… 


The first 12 months of working in the social care sector aren’t going to be easy and each day will present itself as a new learning curve. We hope that the pointers above will serve you well on how to make the best of your very first year in social care, by helping you cope in the most challenging situations and potentially help you progress in the field. Know that there are days you’re going to ask yourself why you’re doing it, but don’t forget that tomorrow will always be better. 


Photo by Headway on Unsplash