How to survive a placement in Social Work - My top tips! - Kerrie Watson

coffee cup on desk next to laptop

Hi! I’m Kerrie, a second year Social Work student currently completing my first placement. I’m going to be telling you my top tips for the process of placement, how to ‘survive’ a placement and how to get the best experience!

In my degree, I have to complete a 70-day placement in second year and a 100-day placement in third year. The process for finding a placement is well supported, with plenty of opportunities to speak to the social work team at the university!

First you complete a placement profile, this happens in your first year. This is all about yourself and what your areas of interest are within Social Work. Take this as an opportunity to show off your skills, knowledge and experience. Discuss previous employment, qualifications and life experiences which show your abilities and strengths. You can also note any caring responsibilities or specific learning needs that you would like considered as part of the allocation process. Here are some top tips for the placement profile:

  1. Show your passion for Social Work - Tell the reader what skills your previous experience has given you, what has your role been? What interests you about Social Work?
  2. Any experience is good experience - Be confident and show your experience and skills. Don’t compare your experiences to others, you can gain skills from any experience you have had whether is it related to social work or not.
  3. Speak to staff - There’s so much support available to help you find out what you’re interested in, or how to write something if you’re not sure!

The placement profile helps the social work practice learning team find a placement well-suited to you. This is great, it means less stress for you finding one! When the team finds you a placement they’ll explain where it is, and you’ll arrange to meet those who will support you during your placement. Here are my top tips for before you start placement:

  1. Research, research, research - Before you start your placement and before you have your pre-placement meeting try research what your placement organisation or team does, so you have a better understanding.
  2. Go shopping - No unfortunately, I don’t mean go on a really fun shopping spree. Go buy a pair of black trousers, you don’t want to be relying on next day delivery the day before placement. Ask at your pre-placement meeting what you are expected to wear. Buy yourself a diary as well, it’s time to get organised!
  3. Ask questions - Don’t be afraid to ask questions, whether that’s to the social work team at the university or at your pre-placement meeting with your supervisor from the placement organisation. I asked about what my role would be, starting times, lunch hours and who to ring if I needed a day off. No question is a bad question, get all the information you can!

When you’re on placement it is best to give it your all and really get involved. Here’s a few of my top tips for getting the most out of your placement, making a good impression and getting the best experience you can!

  1. Take advantage of supervision meetings - When you’re on placement you’ll have weekly supervision with the staff member at the organisation who is supporting your placement. Take this as an opportunity to expand your knowledge further and relate things you learn such as theories to practice.
  2. Ask questions - Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something, no question is a silly question.Ask for opportunities if there’s something you’d like to try, this will show enthusiasm and that looks great to placement organisations! They’ll always try and help you the best they can.
  3. Look after yourself - Placement can be different to anything you’ve experienced before. It can be a change from normal university life to placement life. The early starts, long days and learning can be challenging, but there is always support for students on placement, and you should take advantage of it if you are struggling. Academic tutors and placements advisors are always there to support you if you are struggling or Nightline can be a good alternative if you wish to speak to someone anonymously.

Most of all have fun! Enjoy the experience and make the most of every opportunity. Good luck!

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