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To carry on in this job even though I don't know what I'm doing

(21 Posts)
Minionsyou Tue 30-May-17 15:11:00

I qualified as a social worker a few months ago. I completed a final year placement and successfully qualified with excellent references.

Although my manager said I did very well on placement the reality is I was learning and so when I got stuck or made mistakes my manager showed me what to do and corrected them for me. To him there were no concerns.

However, now I'm in a social worker paid role I'm really noticing just how much I have to learn.
I've been here 6 months and I'm sinking faster than a cannonball.

I'm good at the needs assessment stage. The service users really like me and my assessments are of a good quality. My issue is the support planning. I don't know how to write them and the process for commissioning the service. It's so technical. I can create a support plan with the service user but typing it up and commissioning the service leaves me baffled. Then there's capacity assessments. I know all the legislation surrounding them but cannot complete them. I don't know what I'm doing, what questions I'm supposed to be asking, joe to complete building work.

When a safeguarding comes in I never have the initiative to know what to do with it.

I'm great at chairing meetings, taking duty calls and case noting. There's aspects of the job I'm good at but I feel I need someone to just sit with me and actually show me how to do the things I'm confused about.

But as a qualified social worker I am expected to know these things.

I'm on a fixed terms contract and it's supposed to be turning permanent after 12 months and I'm terrified that letting on I don't know what I'm doing will leave me dismissed and with a poor reference (I.e unemployable). That's why I've not discussed my concerns with anyone I work with, and right not my work is upto standard as I'm supported in supervision. But I need help with everything.

My manager has expressed no concerns around my work as my incompetence has gone unnoticed. This is because all the work I don't know how to do I bring to supervision for her to 'discuss' and this is where I get the information on how to complete the task. I also ask work
Colleagues how to do something if I don't know what to do.

I don't know if I'm being too hard on myself. It's clear I wasn't taught what to do on placement like I should have been. I'm hoping that as time goes by it will all because easier and my knowledge will increase to the point I get it and become competent in my work.

I just don't know why to do for now. I want to be a social worker and not a lower paid similar role. I've worked hard to get this degree and must be intelligent as I have a distinction.

But I'm so stressed and nervous about this. I just feel like I don't know what I'm doing.

I work with adults with mental illness.

bibliomania Tue 30-May-17 15:15:28

Having a clear awareness of what you need to learn is a positive thing. I know when I've floundered in jobs, the real problem was when I couldn't even articulate what I needed to do better.

Do a list of where you need to develop your capacity. Set yourself a goal that you'll tick off the list at a rate of one a week (or whatever is reasonable), whether that means swallowing your pride and asking your supervisor or a colleague or whatever.

They're not going to kick you out if you're proactively developing your practice!

I think you sound conscientious and as if you're suffering from a bit of imposter syndrome, but don't be so hard on yourself.

Minionsyou Tue 30-May-17 15:18:13

I got the job because the manager liked me. Not on my competence so I've always felt I got the job by my charm and not my abilities.

I definitely have imposter syndrome. But I am aware of what I'm good at. The bits I don't know are things anyone would need help with. There's a reason you need a degree to be a social
Worker! However I do feel really lost and behind. I feel I'm incompetent :-(

stopfuckingshoutingatme Tue 30-May-17 15:22:57

do something about it OP, as if you don't it will continue to haunt you, and more importantly some serious harm might come to people.

as you have done here write a list of the main 5 areas where you need a bit more training and mentoring, and take it you your boss and ask for advice on who could you more advice and training on how to do it.

I think the fact you are clear is actually a really positive thing

now do something to action it

GreenPetal94 Tue 30-May-17 15:23:42

I think you need to build relationships with colleagues and ask them to show you examples of their support plans and ask questions about how they got the services in place. It helps to remember that if you ask them to share you are showing you think they are ace at that bit. I used this approach in my job and got back on top of things. Good luck.

bibliomania Tue 30-May-17 15:23:53

Then list it all down on two bits of paper, one for the bits you're good at and one for what you need to learn. When you're lacking in confidence, read the first one to remind yourself. When you've learned something new, cross it off from the second sheet and add it to the first one.

I'm not saying to repress your feelings about this - I think you should use them to spur you on to get better and better. The knowledge that you're taking positive steps is the best way of dealing with lack of confidence.

And hey, don't knock being likeable in the sense of "someone I can work with". I can see why a boss would choose someone easy to work with and willing to learn over someone with more technical competence but who is a pain to work with.

Sunshinesuperman Tue 30-May-17 15:24:51

My experience as a newly qualified SW was a good while back but I remember the course taught me none of the mechanics of the job and I dropped some right clangers along the way while learning what the job entailed. Keep making lists of what you need support with and bring them to supervision, that is what is is for. As long as you aren't making the same mistake more than once I wouldn't worry. Keep asking colleagues for their advice, they won't mind. Peer support is vital in your field and will be used by colleagues no matter how experienced they are. Doing is a really effective way of learning.

Girlwhowearsglasses Tue 30-May-17 15:27:14

Some people men wouldn't be self-aware enough to know if they don't know something. You are aware of your limitations and what you need to learn, which is a good thing. If they are things you don't htink you 'can' learn that's different.

Many many confident and competent people have learnt like that - the mantra 'fake it 'til you make it' comes to mind.

Dulcimena Tue 30-May-17 15:28:02

You're doing a really great job under these circumstances. I am sure that you're doing better than you feel that you are. You've only been in the role for 6 months - I bet that there are people you work with who've been there 6 years and are still learning new things every day.

When are you due for an appraisal? It sounds as though you need some positive feedback. If you go to your manager with your training needs how do you think she'd respond? Try to identify key knowledge gaps and who/how/when appropriate training can be addressed. If social work is one of the professions in which you're expected to keep up with CPD (and even if not), you'll be demonstrating that you're a conscientious professional by identifying your needs and a development plan.

Good luck. The fact that you're concerned is a good sign. Nobody expects you to know everything already - they really don't.

Dulcimena Tue 30-May-17 15:29:45

*appropriate training can address them...

Jellycatspyjamas Tue 30-May-17 15:36:28

You're a newly qualified social worker and there's a framework in place to support you through your first years or do in practice. Look at your registering body's website to see their expectations for newly qualifieds - in England and Wales there are clear expectations about the size of case load, types of tasks and on the job training you should receive.

I wouldn't expect you to know what to do re commissioning or safeguarding because as a student, these are tasks you shouldn't have been responsible for. The degree is just the first step in becoming a social worker - not the finishing line. If you're getting the relationships with clients right, and your assessments are sound, you're probably doing ok.

Supervision is where you take stuff you're not sure of, so that's not you hiding your "incompetence", it's using the supports that are in place. Don't be afraid to check what you're doing with experienced colleagues or say that you're not sure - I'm way more worried when a newly qualified worker thinks they know it all and doesn't ask. You sound like you're doing just fine.

HerOtherHalf Tue 30-May-17 15:37:24

I feel I'm incompetent

That's OK. You've progressed to conscious incompetence: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence. It's the hardest stage of development emotionally IMHO but the harder you feel it the more likely you are to improve. You care about doing a good job, isn't that a rather good attribute for a social worker?

Minionsyou Tue 30-May-17 15:38:02

Thanks everyone.

I had two statutory placements so feel I should be better than I am. I spent 6 months in a very similar team to this one so I feel I should know what I'm doing! It was even for the same council and on the same floor.

There's no chance of my work having a consequence as it's all checked first by my manager before confirmed.

I just wish I knew what o was doing instead of having to ask constantly.

lougle Tue 30-May-17 15:39:35

You are being a complete wally! Slightly different field, but I'm an intensive care nurse, I've been in intensive care for almost 2 years now and I've completed a specialist course in intensive care nursing. I still ask for advice about pretty basic stuff each and every day at work, because it keeps my practice safe, as do my colleagues. If I'm not sure, I ask. If I thought I knew but I can't remember, I ask my colleagues. If a situation is slightly different to most situations I've come across, I ask my colleagues. It is a sign of strength, not of weakness, to rely on your peers for advice and support as you go through your work life. It shows that your self-esteem is not too fragile to seek the knowledge and support they can offer.

Just last night, a patient wouldn't do a thing for a colleague, but when I spoke to them, they agreed to treatment. Another day, I'll throw my hands up in despair and a colleague will come to my aid and have the solution to my problem. Hold your head up high - you are a social worker. You just aren't yet a social worker with all the answers, and that's OK!

hollowstone Tue 30-May-17 15:43:26

In your shoes I would find a few examples of these forms that have been completed before and basically copy the format/language etc.
Regarding know what questions to ask I would go to your manager and ask whether there is a process/proforma for topics/questions to be asked during assessment. You can always say something like "I want to make sure I'm covering everything I should. Is there a checklist of questions I should be using?"

Minionsyou Tue 30-May-17 15:46:14

Yes I find example support plans and capacity assessments. I guess with time I will 'get it'.

I'm worried I'm not going to be taken on after the 12 months. I was personally recommended for the role by the social
Worker who was in this position previously. She was permanent but for some reason this role
Was made fixed term instead. I've no idea if I'm being kept on or made permanent or unemployed.

It's stressful.

BluePeppers Tue 30-May-17 16:02:45

I think yu are doing a great job tbh!

You are using your supervision time well and do know what yu do and dont know. It is normal that when yu are just starting out, some stuff will be hard/you wont know. And i dont think anyone is expecting you to know everything just now.
Now if 12 moths donw the line, yu were as lost as you were on day1, then there wouod be an issue (but it won't be the case as you are asking as you go along and therefore learning)

ThumbWitchesAbroad Tue 30-May-17 16:09:47

Got to say that I also think you're doing fine.
You've recognised the limitations of your training, you've realised that you've not learnt everything you needed to and you've found ways to deal with those aspects of your job.
Each time you ask for support, however roundaboutly, you are learning more. So there will come a time when you no longer need to ask for that support because you do actually know what you're doing. There may be a transition where you still want to get your plans checked to be sure that they're right, but eventually you will know this too. (Although to be honest, I think it's always a good idea to get plans checked just to make sure you haven't accidentally missed something)

The important bit here is your awareness - if you were blithely bimbling along, thinking you knew it all, it would be far more worrisome!!

I used to have imposter syndrome too - both in the labs where I worked, and when I started teaching - but in both cases I was reassured by my bosses that I was fine, just needed to be more confident in my abilities. It's hard though, when you really do feel like you're flying by the seat of your pants, and that someone has to notice this at some point! So I do understand your feelings.

But - carry on the way you are. Keep notes from each case of what you learnt in terms of "how to do xyz" so that next time, you can refer to those as well/instead of needing to ask your colleague.

Jellycatspyjamas Tue 30-May-17 16:10:04

In your practice placement you're still a student, so very protected - it doesn't feel that way because it's still very hard going but there will be processes that you've not come across and you couldn't hold responsibility for safeguarding as a student. The pressures do change once you're qualified which is why your work is checked etc. Give yourself some time - this is a really normal stage of your development as a professional.

melj1213 Tue 30-May-17 16:15:39

I got the job because the manager liked me. Not on my competence so I've always felt I got the job by my charm and not my abilities.

Whilst it may be true that your manager chose you because you fit better in the group than perhaps someone who may be better on paper, it is very unlikely you were hired on popularity alone. Your manager weighed up all of the candidates and you were clearly qualified enough to do the role, otherwise your manager was always setting you up to fail by knowingly giving you a job they knew you were incapable of doing. Your manager's role was to find someone qualified for the job, and you fit the bill.

Sometimes it's overwhelming when you're newly qualified, you feel like you should know everything because you've just spent years supposedly being taught everything for the job. Unfortunately what a job entails on paper, and what it entails in the real world are often two very different things and when you're surrounded by people who have been doing the job for ages and it's second nature, it can feel even more like you're out of your depth.

Have you got a supervisor/mentor that you feel you can talk to? I'd write down all the things you feel you need help with, and schedule a meeting to ask them the best way to improve ... whether it's a regular review session, asking them to sit with you the next time you do one of reports you find difficult, finding you previous reports for you to look over and compare the structure to etc.

Also, don't be afraid to ask for help - it's better to be up front with the fact you don't know everything yet than try and fake it. I work in customer services in a supermarket, we have hundreds of different processes. When I first started, I struggled to follow the process for a simple refund because it was something new ... even after I'd been trained, recalling the exact steps in the right order took a while to become natural. Two years later and I could do refunds in my sleep because it's so second nature but there's still sometimes when even I have to call my supervisor to advise me on how to deal with a situation I've never faced before. I have a colleague who just started, he's never done the job before but he's a big fan of "fake it till you make it" ... which means rather than asking me for help if he faces a situation he's never dealt with, he just makes it up and then I have to spend hours figuring out what he's done and re-doing it properly. I love his confidence and he'll be a really good customer service colleague as soon as he learns to just ask when he doesn't know something.

highcastle Tue 30-May-17 16:24:48

Think of it this way, do you think people who have been social workers for 30 years learned nothing new along the way? Of course not.

It's impossible for a university course to teach you the ins and outs of every aspect of the job. As a professional you need to use your initiative and ask for help improving your areas of weakness. Especially with what's at stake in your line of work.

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