Rebecca Joy Novell shares the best advice she was given while looking for a job as a newly qualified social worker
Approaching the end of my masters was a very daunting experience. As soon as I mentioned to qualified practitioners that I was trying to find work as a newly qualified social worker (NQSW), almost everyone was quick to offer me copious amounts of advice: apply for what you are good at; keep your CV concise; focus on your positives; be on time for the interview; dress smartly, but not too smart. All the advice was good – however there were five pieces of advice that were particularly useful in practice.
For the first few weeks I applied to numerous jobs with no response, which is both disheartening and stressful. My first piece of advice, therefore, is to be persistent. As a NQSW, it is often the case that most employers are looking for people with a minimum of two years experience, making it particularly hard to begin your career in social work. Do not get disheartened. If you apply for three or four jobs a day, your hard work will eventually pay off.
Go through the job and worker descriptions and extract the key criteria they are looking for. When filling in the application form, place each criterion as a heading and use examples from practice to demonstrate how you have met those criteria. It may seem simplistic but if you are explicit that you are suitable for the job role, then an interview is guaranteed.
Social work is more than working for a local authority. Speak to other people you have studied with to find out what placements they did. The voluntary sector offers some amazing opportunities for social work practice, as do social enterprises. Explore charity websites; there may be the perfect job for you that you were not even aware of.
If you are applying for a job which does not openly state that it will contribute to your assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE), do not be afraid to ask in the interview if your employers would be willing to consider supporting you through this. The worst they can do is say no, and many employers will be happy to.
It may sound cliched, but one of the best pieces of advice I received is: be yourself. Do not over-think what you should wear to the interview, how you should sit or speak or what answers they want to hear from you. If you attend the interview as true to yourself as possible and the interview is unsuccessful, then it is more than likely that the job was not the right one for you and it would not have made you happy.
I know for many of my colleagues who studied with me, finding employment is an ongoing struggle, however I am sure with determination and creativity their job search will pay off. After two months of persistent applications, I was lucky enough to receive three job offers, allowing me the luxury of choosing the right career path for me.