Most people pursue careers in social work because they have idealistic thoughts about how they can help people to make their lives better. They pursue an education to support their ambitions, and often seek internships to support their education.
Regardless of the career path that one has chosen, the first days on the new job can be stressful and frightening to a person. Here are some tips to help aspiring social workers ease into their internships.
It’s perfectly acceptable to be nervous and unsure of yourself at first. For many students, their first placement is the initial step into the professional world.
Even students that have an extensive work history experience anxiety due to the new set of expectations and challenges that will be faced with the new employer. Relax. Your employer understands that you still have things to learn that can only be learned on the job.
Always approach a new job with an enthusiasm for learning. Observe what others are doing and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll find that many of your coworkers will be thrilled to share what they’ve learned with you.
You’ll likely have as much to learn from clients as you do from your coworkers, so allow yourself to feel vulnerable and ask appropriate questions so they can share their expertise with you.
An internship is an excellent opportunity to gain exposure to the practicalities of social work. It also allows you to hone your skills through trial and error. For example, if you’ve learned a technique to facilitate communication, practice it during meetings with clients.
It’s one thing to read about how to teach adolescent development to parents, it’s something completely different to actually do it while working with a parental support group.
Be wary of developing placement envy. It’s very easy when you connect with other interns and hear how things are going for them to feel like somehow you got the shaft.
While sometimes placements do start off bumpy, they usually improve as your skill set becomes more developed, empowering you to take on more challenging opportunities in the future.
At the opposite extreme, if your assignment leaves you feeling unchallenged, it is perfectly acceptable to discuss it with your manager. Managers are not familiar with your experience or skills when you begin the assignment, and often choose to start new interns off slowly.
Their primary concern is making sure that you are ready as your assignment progresses. It is helpful to discuss your goals with your manager to make sure that your goals line up with each other.
If you find yourself struggling, seek help. Some students are reluctant to ask for help out of fear of appearing incompetent. Don’t be. Your manager and your teachers are there to assist you as you navigate difficult situations.
You’ll begin to form your professional identity with your first internship. You’re going to learn what being a social worker is really like, particularly if you intend to work in a multi-disciplinary field.
Social workers have different responsibilities on treatment teams than they do when in community education, for example. If this sounds interesting then check out these jobs at Capita Specialist Recruitment
Always remember that your internships form your first contact with the social work community. You’ll make professional contacts that will benefit you throughout your career. Strive to make a great first impression with everyone you meet. The next person that you meet could become your future employer, so be sure to make introductions at every meeting, training seminar, and agency that you visit.
These tips will help you to get the most out of your social worker internship. You’ll gain a realistic perspective on what to expect once you’ve graduated and are ready to begin your career, and you’ll have experiences that will help you to achieve all your goals.