Fitting into your new social work team
By Gemma Raw
If you’re an experienced locum social worker, you’ll be used to starting new job roles and hitting the ground running. But if you’re used to working in a permanent role, then taking the plunge and joining a new team can be a daunting experience. This is why we’ve created a handy list of pointers to make it easier for you to fit into your new social work team.
Find a helpful mentor
Every social work department works differently.
Although the job role may be similar, different expectations, different priorities and different reporting systems can make it much harder to hit the ground running. Where possible, try to find someone who can be your mentor and will take the time to help you settle in. This person doesn’t need to be a traditional mentor who offers you supervision and guidance, but could be someone who simply takes the time to explain the team culture and helps you know who to turn to when you need advice and support.
Embrace changing working styles
Within your first week, you’ll soon pick up that your new team may be working differently to how you’re used to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – if you’re struggling with your new IT system and you’re unsure how to load your case files effectively, ask someone to show you what to do.
It can be easy to get stressed by new working styles, but try to embrace it as a positive. Think about how this is developing your social work skills, and how you could flourish in a new working environment. Remember, there is a reason why you chose to leave your last social work job so try not to dwell on what work you may have done on the past. Instead, think about what you’re excited to achieve in the new role.
Take time to get to know your team
Regardless of what social work role you are going into, it’s almost a guarantee that all of your colleagues will be working as hard as possible to support their caseloads. As a result, team bonding may be harder to come by than in other sectors as everyone is so busy.
If you’re working in a new job role as a social work team manager, then it’s important that you get to know your team quickly. You’ll need to know their strengths and their weaknesses, and you’ll need to understand how to develop a managerial style which will inspire and support them. Every staff member will work differently, so you’ll need to take a flexible approach to get the most out of everyone.
An easy way for any new starter to get to know their colleagues is to take a few moments to offer to make a cuppa and a biscuit. You may not all have time to sit down together and have a long chat but the gesture will certainly be appreciated.
Build relationships with your co-workers
In a stressful working environment, such as social work, it’s more important than ever to have positive relationships with your co-workers. Not only will it mean that you can provide support and guidance to peers (and vice versa) but it will mean that you will be able to easily identify any warning signs which could indicate that they are suffering the effects of burnout.
To build a positive relationship with your colleagues, take time to ask them some questions about themselves and find out who they are, and what they enjoy outside of the office. If you find that you have things in common, you can use it as an ice-breaker to build strong working relationships.
Great social workers are approachable and communicative. You’ll know from your training how important positive communication is, so try to replicate this when you’re in the office – if you approach everyone with a smile and strong eye contact, you’ll soon be regarded as someone with confidence that can be relied upon.