Surviving your Social Work placement

Hannah Madsen

Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Department: School of Education and Social Care
Course: BA (Hons) Social Work
Category: Social sciences and social care

29 September 2015

So, you’ve made it through year one, attended all your ARDP days and passed the assessment. You are now deemed eligible to be sent out into the world to work with real live service users.

Depending on your background this may or may not be a daunting concept, either way you’re going to have to navigate the next 70 days. This may sound easy, but throw in the mix of study, work, essays, portfolios, presentations and trying to have a life; things can get heavy quick. There are a clutch of things you can do to prepare yourself, in some vain attempt to have an illusion of control.

  1. Relax – Where’s my placement? When’s my placement? Have you found out about your placement? Why have you find out about your placement? I’ll never get my placement! These are all things that will go through your mind, but are useless to you. Remain calm and composed, your placement will wing its way to you in due course.
  2. Interview Offer – It’s happened! You have been contacted and offered an interview. Make sure you research into the agency you’ll be working for, brush up on legislation and policy; try again to relax.
  3. Placement Basics– You aced the interview, your placement is secured, now you have 70 days and counting (this goes very quick). The basics of good professionalism are usually the same whether you’re in social work or subway. Make sure you’re on time, dress job appropriate, are enthusiastic and make an effort to integrate into the team.
  4. Organisation – while on placement you’ll have a lot of balls in the air, so organisation is the key. Whatever works for you; diary, wall chart, writing on your hand. My personal tip would be to spend at least 1 hour a day on your portfolio, as this is quite a body of work and does require sometime to understand its formatting.
  5. Speak up! – Don’t understand what you’re meant to be doing? Unsure of what that jargon acronym was? Why did we decide on a section 4? What day is it? If the answer to any of these questions is I dunno, then my friend you need to speak up. In most cases the answer/ explanation is not offered so do not feel shy about asking questions. Asking questions is the foundation of all learning, and we are doing a degree now aren’t we?
  6. Confidence- Sometimes in an established team of qualified professionals it can be difficult to get your voice out. Ok, so you’re not qualified yet, but you’re not far off now! Your opinion matters, your knowledge matters, you may have a perspective which no one has considered; SPEAK UP! If your nervous about speaking up, fake it, fake it, fake it. Most people have nerves, reservations and fears of putting themselves out there to be judged; but just do it anyway, the more you challenge your comfort the easier it becomes.
  7. Your number #1! – You are the student, this is your degree, your time, your money. That in mind I cannot stress enough that your number 1! If you feel you’re struggling, not getting enough help or are being forgotten about, just talk to someone. Practice educator, personal tutor, placement tutor, on site supervisor; a whole team is geared around your success so please talk to someone if you feel you’re not getting the best out of your placement.
Ok so with all that in mind, go forth and prepare to succeed.
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