Current employer: Plymouth City Council
Current job title: Social Worker
Current location: Plymouth
“Your tutors, the practice learning team, and lecturers are all there to support you, but they won’t ‘spoon-feed’ you. You need to be able to embrace ‘self-directed learning’ and a sense of autonomy, but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you really need it.”
Tell us about your career path since graduation.
I was able to start working within my chosen career path before I graduated. The University arranged for my final placement to be based with the local authority, and after I finished my placement, I enquired as to whether they had positions available for the summer. A social worker was due to take some leave and they needed temporary cover. I was employed as a community care worker, which is a similar role to that of a social worker – though it is a non-qualified role as I'm awaiting my qualification. I work in a specified area within the local authority that was created due to a recent change in legislation.
What was the most difficult thing you faced finding a job?
The area I wanted to work in, social work, is a highly diverse profession with huge scope when you have a social work degree. There are statutory and non-statutory sectors with very different perspectives, and the idea of choosing an area that you feel you would work most effectively in can be quite difficult to make. I knew I wanted to work with adults; I have young children and I felt that working with children and families at this stage in my career would be too emotive. I applied for a few positions and was offered interviews, but turned down the permanent posts to stay as an agency worker in my current team. This was down to the job role; the agency position is part of a newly created team that offers a diverse insight into the recent implementation of new legislation, and it was an opportunity I could not miss (even though it is a temporary position).
What, if anything, would you have done differently at university?
I don’t feel I embraced the culture enough; it can be very easy as a mature student to ‘never have enough time.’ I feel that there is a very supportive environment at Plymouth University, and this shows within the cohort. I wish that I had made time for the things I wanted to do, but I never prioritised.
Your time at university passes ‘in the blink of the eye,’ and looking back my only regret is that I didn't spend more time enjoying it. Being a student is much more than studying, and half the battle is won with support from your peers on the course. If I could go back to university, I would make time for more study groups and social events – to really establish relationships.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?
You have to be committed to studying and your placement, not only as part of the degree, but also as part of the profession. Research ways you can enhance your UCAS application. Employers look for experience, so volunteer, or work in areas such as support or enabling. Use the supportive framework within the University. Your tutors, the practice learning team, and lecturers are all there to support you, but they won’t ‘spoon-feed’ you. You need to be able to embrace ‘self-directed learning’ and a sense of autonomy, but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you really need it.
How did studying at Plymouth help you?
It was easily accessible and as it’s my home town, it was my only choice. However, Plymouth University operates a supportive environment, and I feel that I made the right choice. With this support, I feel it has enabled me to reach my academic potential.
As a care leaver, I had access to other services within the University Care Leavers team, who supported my entire journey throughout my time at Plymouth University. The support they offered enabled me to continue studying on occasions when, due to different stresses, I contemplated leaving the course. Alongside the widening participation team, and Student Ambassador work, I was able to complete my course.
What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?
I have many fond memories of being at Plymouth, but I think my favourite is working for the widening participation team as a Student Ambassador. On one occasion we worked with Plymouth Music Zone and recorded a song with the students; I'm tone deaf, but the students commandeered the instruments before I got there, as I was outside talking to another student. When I realised that I had to sing I was mortified, but none of the students would swap with me as they thought it was hilarious! I knew I couldn't sing but went along with it anyway. Listening to the playback I could hear myself above it all, very clearly singing out of tune!