My name is Nicole. I am a newly qualified social worker in the VEP field. We have a running joke in our organisation that I am still under guarantee, because I graduated less than a year ago. Lately I have been thinking a lot about what I would have told myself this time last year, to help prepare me for what was going to come my way in 2019.
Let me give you some context. November 2018: I was facing my final exams of my social work degree and I had no idea what I was going to do in 2019. I had nightmares about having to perhaps take a job in a field which I would not enjoy (like Child Protection), just to ensure I would have a job. I was fearful that I would realise that I studied the wrong thing and that I would need to start all over. Anxiety. Anxiety. And more anxiety was breathing down my neck.
Now one year later, in November of 2019, I wish I could go back to 2018 and tell myself some things. I will share these with you in the next few lines.
You are almost done with your degree. It might be scary, and I know you are worried about what your next year will look like, so let me tell you how this will play out.
You are going to study hard, and graduate with cum laude from university. You will have a beautiful summer holiday after graduation, and you will start looking for jobs. You will find that there are not many jobs available that are not in Child Protection. You will consider taking a job in that field, but let me encourage you to keep looking for a job that suits your vision for your life. You will get a call from the head of the Social Work department at your university and he will tell you he knows someone who is looking for a social worker and he has recommended you. You will meet with this organisation and feel overwhelmed because you have no idea what they do or that the field they work in even exists. And then you will realise this is the opportunity you were hoping for. You will be so thankful you did not settle for a job in a field which you did not want to work in.
You will start working in VEP and feel out of your depth, but you will learn more than you learnt ever before. You will be surrounded by amazing colleagues who will support you and challenge you to be your best. You will wonder if you have what it takes to be successful in this field (PS. You do. Just keep going). You will realise that you have to carry big responsibilities and that this is a different ball game than what you were exposed to when you were a student, but you will be thankful that your university equipped you with more skills than the average student. You will wonder why you weren’t exposed to the various fields of social work which you will get to know during the next few months.
You will feel like you are pretending to be a social worker, for a long time. You will wonder if everyone else knows you’re just pretending and when you’ll be caught out. You will face frustration and anxiety because what you learned in university is not always how things look in the reality of your job. Then you will realise you have the skills to translate what you learned into something usable for your context. You will see that creativity and being flexible is the most important thing to make sure you bring your best.
So do not give up, keep going, keep learning, keep asking questions and reading. Keep pushing forward. Know that you will feel ill-equipped and not prepared based on your time as a student, but that there are enough resources out here in the real word to equip you for the job you are about to step into. Give yourself the freedom to feel overwhelmed and scared, but let that fuel your way forward and drive you to stepping out into this wonder field of VEP.
But most importantly, know that this will always be about more than just earning a salary to keep food on the table. And that is why you should not settle for a job which you are not passionate about. Social work is so much more than you think it is, so much more than what your studies made it seem. It is a beautiful and broad, expansive career which will always be wonderfully exciting, and you have no idea what an exciting journey you are about to embark on.
So basically, just be ready for the biggest challenge, and the biggest adventure of your life!
Ready, set, go!