It is that time of year again when final year social work students are finishing up not just the semester but also placement and graduating. With this comes a lot of excitement, fear, and responsibility.
The excitement and celebration of an absolute hard slog (1,000 hours of practical placement alone is enough to celebrate surviving) is a must. Taking the time to recognise your journey and what it has taken to make it so far, is important as it helps your recognise your strengths and the supports you have.
The excitement of exploring and applying for jobs that align with your practice framework.
The excitement of finally being able to introduce yourself (and sign off on support letters / case notes) with your professional title, instead of “Social Work Student”, “Student Social Worker”, or “studying Social Work”.
The excitement of being able to respond to “but what even is Social Work?”, with “well it is quite broad, but my experience this far is…”
The feeling of walking down Excitement Lane can quickly take a turn and you end up down Fear Alley.
The fear (and reality) you might have to (yet again) tweak your practice framework when your perfect job isn’t a reality right now.
The fear that you now don’t have a supervisor to review and sign off on all your work; you’re the practitioner now.
The fear that you really have no heckin’ idea what social work is or what you are meant to be doing.
Along with fear comes doubt, and more commonly we are hearing and speaking of “imposter syndrome”. Imposter syndrome is more than a feeling of self-doubt, it is also self-sabotage; maintaining a mindset of inadequacy and losing the ability to identify who you are and how / why you practice.
We often work with our clients to understand and be able to differentiate between the feelings of nervousness / anxiousness and excitement / anticipation, and it is now time to apply those same processes of positive self-talk to yourselves. You are going to need to draw upon the key structures of critical reflection and your practice framework, as the transition from student to practitioner that your supervisors and lecturers have been speaking about (for the last 2 years!) is now a reality.
The weekly supervision mandated as a student by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), which you might once have thought an overkill and an interruption to your week, is now a distant memory and safe place you must now replace with your own skills and resilience.
It is now your responsibility to maintain your practice aligned with the AASW Practice Standards and ensure your application of evidence-based and ethical practice continues.
It is now your responsibility to ensure you are receiving adequate supervision, beyond initial training and case reviews with your line manager, which focus on your practice and lifelong learning.
It is now your responsibility to continue to apply theory to practice and be able to justify your decision making and intervention strategies.
If, in reflection (as all good social workers do), the “distant memory” of supervision is something you feel is missing and would be of benefit within your fortnightly or monthly routine, it is now your responsibility to seek this out. It is also a commitment for the retention of accreditation with the AASW that you engage in regular supervision.
Supervision can be challenging, supervision can be time on an already packed calendar, and supervision can fall off the list of priorities;
Supervision is you demonstrating your commitment to ethical practice within the social work profession, supervision is a reminder and an opportunity to not think you are in this alone, and supervision is a form of self-care.
Supervision helps us to shake the feeling of being an imposter, remember what we have in our “tool kit”, and reminds us why we show up and do the work we do.
If you are seeking supervision, please reach out to talk further to our social workers who are experienced supervisors.