Joseph and Glen, two recently qualified social workers in Camden, spoke with us about life as an early career social work professional in a London borough. Both work in Children and Families teams, and know one another from their ASYE (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment).

As with many social workers, the decision to enter the profession has a link to their own lived experience, with Glen discovering a talent for working with young people and families through youth work, while Joseph’s learned the impact that social workers can have through his dad’s story. 

In addition to his youth work, Glen spent time working in education as a nursery deputy manager. This sparked an interest in the practical work that social workers do, and helped him to understand some of the complex factors which can sit behind destructive behaviours in young people.

“It’s one of these roles that some people would consider quite challenging, but I’m the type of person that actually enjoys it. I’d been doing youth work since I was sixteen, and I wanted to see what things look like on the more statutory side of side of things. It’s a decent salary as well!” - Glen

Joseph’s inspiration came via his father, whose foster carers and social workers had a transformative impact during his adolescence. Having a care experienced role model led Joseph to consider taking up a social work role himself:

“I first became aware of social work via my Dad, he was in the care system around the age of fifteen or sixteen. He just spoke a lot about how his social worker was honest with him, how it was hard to hear a lot of things that he had to say, but as he’s grown up and matured he’s realised it was a necessary period in his life…What they did for him was a lot, and I just thought that if I could have that impact on someone, that would be cool.” - Joseph

Making the jump from social work student to practitioner can be a challenge, and the support Glen and Joseph received from colleagues in Camden was a major help as they completed their ASYE and started to take on a more challenging caseload. 

As new practitioners, they spoke about feeling a degree of impostor syndrome at first. However, both identified Camden’s positive culture as a major factor in combatting this. Having constructive conversations, and the ability to ask questions whilst bouncing ideas off their fellow professionals has helped them when they’ve encountered an issue for the first time in their young careers.

“It’s just confidence at times. Naturally you kind of think “Oh, am I doing the right thing?” I think the nervousness is a part of it sometimes, but you’re there to do a job for these families. It becomes easier for me when I think about how the family needs this.” - Joseph

“There are lots of rewards in this role but it’s very challenging too. We’re working with families at the most vulnerable stage. When people are really stressed, sometimes they aren’t logical, people have their own coping mechanisms. That’s why you need supportive teams, they can give you different perspectives and share some of their knowledge and experience.” - Glen

Alongside the challenges, the profession has its rewards, which tend to come in the form of small breakthroughs with the young people and families Joseph and Glen support. These often come as a surprise after sustained effort to build a positive relationship, but even a small change in attitude can provide an opportunity to start something bigger.

“My most recent one is seeing one of my young people actually going into school five days in a week. It was not quite nine o’clock, but it was before twelve! It’s little victories like that you can hold on to, because you consider where that young person was coming from before.” - Glen

“Sometimes, it’s just as simple as having a young person give you respect back. Say you’ve got a young person and they just joke around, or are very dismissive of what’s going on. If you’re finally able to have a conversation with them, you walk away feeling like you’ve conquered something, because you have a foundation to actually do something meaningful for that person.” - Joseph

For anyone who is getting ready to take on their first social work placement, Glen and Joseph’s key advice was not to be afraid to seek out advice from your team. Even though it may be tempting to stay quiet, there is a lot more to gain by being inquisitive and pushing yourself to learn more about how things work in practice:

“In your own way, just get out of your comfort zone! As shy as I was, I made a point to introduce myself to a lot of the other professionals from different teams. I didn’t just stick to my practice educator, I asked different people in the team for support. It can seem intimidating, but people understand that you’re here for learning – just ask for the support, don’t stand in your own way.” - Glen 

Find out more about working with Glen and Joseph in Camden, and view their current opportunities.