Social workers are adept at mastering new policies, and managing ambiguity, but 2017 looks set to bring even more change than ever. As more councils look set to move towards the independent provision of children’s services,and wrangling continues over the Children and Social Work Bill, , social care professionals could be forgiven for wondering how to develop a career path, and where to look for jobs.
Our top tips, compiled with expert help, should set you on your way.
At UEA’s School of Social Care, lecturer and employability officer Ann Anka says that both graduate and post-graduates are finding jobs within six months, in children, family and adult care. She advises that job applicants keep up to date with current affairs and the potential impact on the profession of such as test cases on the new Care Act and the effect of Brexit on community cohesion.
“Social workers are expected to adapt, and they will. Social workers have always worked with the new”, she says.
Get a head start on the competition by being well prepared. “The social work job market can be competitive”, says Jonathan Rayfield associate director at Badenoch &Clark.
“So it is key that those wanting to succeed prepare themselves with the right skillset. Loyalty is a highly desired trait, alongside a strong CV with no gaps between roles.” He advises that locums show evidence of delivering on contracts.
“Regular training in line with HCPC requirements and a professional appearance also enable social workers to stand out further”, he says.
Rayfield also advises that social workers develop and define their specialist skills.
“Social workers should pick their niche”, he says. “When taking on roles, it is absolutely vital that you can demonstrate resilience, flexibility, and up-to-date knowledge of relevant legislation. When applying for new roles you need to prepare thoroughly and match your answers to competency-based questions against the job description during interviews. Also, if you’re looking to change specialisms, then research the area and train thoroughly.”
Highlight your skills
At Hays Social Care director Tom Hawkins says that working in care is, essentially, about promoting dignity and safeguarding, empathy and personal interaction.
“You should be able to demonstrate skills in team working, communication and the ability to problem solve. Employers are looking for social care professionals [who] are patient, tactful and able to cope with situations in a sensitive and non-judgemental manner.”
When writing your CV bring key details to the fore by summarising your qualifications and what niche experience and knowledge you have, in a succinct and digestible way. “Use bullet points to describe previous roles, instead of long and prosaic sentences”, he says, along with advice about a cover letter.
“This should be an introduction to your CV not a summary of your CV. Your cover letter is your opportunity to capture the attention of a prospective employer and demonstrate the qualities that set you apart from other applicants.
“In an interview, you should be prepared to talk about situations you have dealt with and how you displayed these skills and attributes to highlight your working manner. Don’t be scared to sound passionate about what you do, expressing why you do it and why you enjoy it”, says Hawkins.
Know where to look
“Trends for 2017 are set to follow those of Q4 from last year, with Child Protection workers set to remain in high demand”, says Rayfield. “Children’s services, in general, will continue to be busier than adult services whilst AMHPs (approved mental health professionals) will also continue to be in high demand.”
At Hays, Tom Hawkins predicts that the constant demand for QSWs in case work will continue.
“Those who are unqualified, but have a specific specialist skill set are also in high demand; recovery workers (drugs and alcohol), specific SENs (autism, Down’s syndrome, mobility, emotional needs). I would always encourage support workers to identify an area of interest, seek out work in that field and regularly look for any additional training or qualifications that relate to your interest.