I had been working in International Development for five years when I applied for Frontline, and had been thinking about a career change for some time. Frontline appealed to me because of its emphasis on supporting and promoting positive change and its focus on learning by doing– at that time in my career, I did not want to return to full time education for a further two years.
Key skills I developed on the programme include adapting to new situations and unexpected challenges; communicating effectively with individuals and groups (who may not wish to communicate with you!); developing a sense of empathy but still managing my own feelings in emotional circumstances; and maintaining a professional curiosity. I am still working as a social worker in child protection, so I use these skills on a daily basis. My time as a social worker has made me more adaptable, confident in my own judgements, calm in a crisis and able to prioritise effectively. It has also given me a wonderful sense of perspective on life.
Everything that makes social work challenging at times is also what I enjoy most – every day is varied and different, and planning can go out the window as you deal with a crisis or an urgent court hearing; it can be exhilarating and daunting all at once. I enjoy the direct work with families and the little victories you achieve together for the common aim of keeping their children safe and giving them the best possible start in life. And the kids you meet are brilliant – they can have you in stitches and in tears, sometimes on the same day.
As a fellow, I have loved the opportunity to meet up with other fellows and hear about what they are doing and where – it is so valuable to have that connection with people who have shared your experiences. After Fellowship events I have always felt re-inspired about social work and have come away with a desire to be better. Even when the topic is not specifically about social work practice, they cover issues that I try to hold in mind as I go about my role.