Name: Samantha Woodall
Degree and university: Robert Gordon University – BA (HONS) in Social Work
Job title: Social Worker in the Public Protection Team (Dundee City Council)
What does your work involve?
My job involves working with prisoners who are subject to supervision once they have served a prison sentence. This mainly involves clients who have received long-term sentences (over four years), or clients who serve less than four years but are released on a Supervised Release Order, Extended Sentence, or have committed a sexual offence. The majority of clients in the team have been assessed as posing a high risk of harm and/or a high risk of re-conviction. The job involves working with clients to re-integrate them back into the community while undertaking relevant offence focused work in a bid to reduce their likelihood of re-offending. Risk assessment is a huge element of this work.
Were you always interested in social services as a career?
When I was at High School I volunteered with the Angus Special Playscheme. The playscheme offered daily respite to parents who had children with a learning difficulty. Volunteering showed me that I really wanted to work with people. When it came to applying for university courses I couldn’t decide between teaching and Social Work. Reading up on the required skills etc for both courses I decided I would probably enjoy the Social Work course more.
How did you get this particular job?
I graduated from University in July 2006 and decided to take a month off. After this I began to look at jobs and came across one working within Criminal Justice. My final placement had been within the Social Workunit at HMP Craiginches (Aberdeen) and I had really enjoyed working in the Criminal Justice sector. I applied for the job and was offered an interview. After what I thought was the worst possible interview I could have done, I received a phone call stating I had been successful in gaining a job!
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy the fact that as a result of the job I get to work with a number of organisations. I also like the fact I am constantly challenged. Although this can be difficult at times, I feel I have achieved something when I do something new. The job also offers a great deal of training and I enjoy this element. Part of the job involves undertaking Cognitive Behavioural work with the clients and I really enjoy doing this type of work.
Are there any downsides to your job?
The job can be stressful at times. If you have a supportive team and senior this makes a massive difference to how you deal with the stress. When you are starting in any sector it can be a bit overwhelming as there is so much information to get your head around and so many articles, circulars, legislation, policies to read. However, people in your team will point you in the right direction as to the information you need to know from the start and as time progresses you will build on your knowledge of your particular sector.
What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you need to make a success of what you do?
Communication is a very important skill in my job. You need to be able to have the confidence to voice your thoughts, pass on and receive information and form a working relationship with your client. An important element of communication in my job is the ability to actively listen. Clients will tell you a great deal of information and you need to be able to pick out the important strands. By showing the client that you are listening you are helping to build a working relationship. Some of the information you hear from the clients can be difficult to deal with and I think being
reflective is important. You need to be aware of how the client makes you feel and how you deal with this. If you are not aware of these things it could impact negatively on your work with the client.
What would be your best piece of advice for graduates wishing to come into this sector?
Firstly, when applying for a job, if you are interested then phone up the relevant person and ask questions. This will show them you are interested and they may remember this interest when it comes to interview. Secondly, when you get a job, don’t be afraid to ask questions. People who have been in the job for years tell me that they are still learning. If you don’t ask questions you run the risk of making mistakes that could have potentially serious consequences. People don’t expect you to know everything when you are newly qualifi ed so they’ll cut you some slack!