I was asked over the weekend by someone who is just about to finish her Social Work degree and if I would recommend she goes for statutory or voluntary Social Work when she qualifies.
I had no hesitation in recommending voluntary sector work in an unashamedly contradictory manner – having worked, myself, almost exclusively in the public sector. One of those classic ‘do as I say and don’t do as I do’ models!
I have very little experience in the voluntary sector – I worked in a voluntary organisation for a few years before I qualified – but that was in residential care so in quite a different capacity to what I imagine the role of a qualified social worker would be – and my second placement all those years ago when I was training was in a voluntary sector organisation but other than that, all my post-qualification experience has been in the statutory sector.
We were generally advised to ‘get some experience in the statutory sector’ before deciding. The difficulty is though is moving on from that ‘experience’.
Statutory work is for the most part going to be paid better than voluntary sector work. And once you take the penny from the paws of the State, its very very difficult to take a salary drop to go back to voluntary work. That’s what I found anyway..
My intention was, all those years ago, to go voluntary and stay voluntary – I think in some ways, some of the social justice and advocacy/support roles that I sought to implement as an idealistic student would have been better served in the third sector.
But I’ve found it now, too difficult to go back.
Perhaps I justify it but saying that in this role, I can work from within on the change-process but I’m likely kidding myself. I barely have a voice in the organisation I work in, let alone in the wider sector.
Maybe one day..
I’d be interested in other peoples’ opinions though – what would your advice be to someone starting out on their first job post-qualification?
(and if the person who asked is still around – I’d also recommend checking out the Carespace Forum from Community Care…you can never have too much advice!).
*(Apologies to Robert Frost)