Starting as a student Social Worker and continuing through the first 2 years or so of practice, it is imperative to be able to see good practice modeled in the field. Becoming a good practitioner doesn’t happen through osmosis, unfortunately, and only partially comes from reading through the literature. Social Work is one of those professions that makes sense theoretically but you can never know what really works for you in practice until you’re out in the field. For me, even that wasn’t enough. For me, seeing people do the work is what helped me formulate my professional identity. We all approach a profession with our own personalities, characteristics and life experiences; all of which will influence the type of practitioner we will become. However, seeing good practitioners in action is also a great way to learn new skills. A great way to do this:
1 – Shadow other, more experienced Social Workers. Try to shadow a few different Social Workers because everyone will do it differently though they all may get the same kind of results.
2 – Pay attention to those who do it well, find out how they do it and emulate them. Imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery.
3 – Using pieces of good practice from everyone you’ve shadowed or met, create your professional self
4 – Adopt a buddy, someone whose practice you admire and respect. They will be instrumental in helping you begin to work through some of the issues you are facing in the field and may have suggestions about how to overcome them
5 – Find out what you’re good at, then become great at it. Never be afraid to acknowledge what you do well and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know as long as you outline how you intend to find out.
6 – Find ways to give back. Once you’ve become comfortable in your practice and can acknowledge the things you do well, share what you’ve learned with others by mentoring, offering shadowing opportunities, taking on a student or some other activity to help the profession progress
Being a Social Worker is about being a change agent that role can extend to your profession as well as your clients. Developing good practice standards, learning from others and allowing others to learn from you keeps the profession going and good practice spreading.