Decision-making can be tricky at the best of times. I’m living in the heart of a decision I made to leave a job I had had for a number of years— a job I enjoy for the most part and think I generally do quite well, and move to a job which will be in a completely new area of practise for me, going back to direct social work after just over 6 years away.
I am excited, invigorated and terrified. I think I’m doing what is best for me but am trying to wriggle out of the pervading thoughts of whether this is the ‘right’ thing for me to do. If I would be better off staying in a job I know, with a lovely team and most importantly, the best and most supportive manager it would be possible to have than jumping into the unknown because, well, because I have a niggling feeling that I could use my training and experience in a way that could be more effective. Because, in a way that can sound quite feeble when you try and explain it to someone else, I want to be useful. I want to help.
I think the work I did was important. I wouldn’t do have done it if I didn’t think it made a difference, but with each day, I missed that personal contact and working with individuals which I don’t get now except through the lens of talking to others who do it.
Then I’ve wavered with the ‘what if I’m just really bad at it?’ and think I’ll be better than I actually am. What if I am taking a step from a role I am comfortable in into one where I just will not be capable. I have confidence in my knowledge and skills but this is a new field for me where I will go into a position where people will expect me to be ‘mid-career’ competent. On the cusp of change, I don’t feel competent. I may fail at the most basic question. At least, I guess, I won’t be over-confident. While I do think I can get there, I am not sure that will be my starting point. I don’t know what the expectation will be from the team I am moving into. Will they think I know more than I actually do? I have read books and papers to prepare myself, to see if I can ‘fake it’ for long enough not to appear incompetent but I go into a new place, a new employer and a new field of work.
Then I try and switch things around. I know about ‘imposer syndrome’. I know it is more likely to affect women. I know that I have done some really complex pieces of work that aren’t ‘easy’. I can do this. And then, that niggle of ‘what if it’s not imposter syndrome and I am just really bad at it’ sneaks back in.
It would have been easier to stay where I was. In an interesting and ultimately a good job that I know pushed me. But taking this step means change and learning. We need learning to grow. I also see it as a protective factor against burnout.
I am excited by the opportunities available. I am excited by the learning and growing that I will have the chance to do. I am excited by the fact that I will be working directly with people who encounter social workers and need to have access to the best quality input that we can provide in a professional capacity. I am excited by social work.
It is a deep privilege to do the work I do. It is walking into someone’s life and seeing potential as well as risk. It is walking alongside and helping to see growth. It is putting lives in a social and societal perspective. It is knowing the legal and ethical obligations towards those who may come across us and guiding the ways forward using the values, both personal and professional to be as humane as possible. It is working with as well as working for. It is loyalty to the profession and its values above loyalty to an employing organisation.
As I teeter on the brink of great change, I will not know if I have made the ‘right’ decision for months, perhaps years even. But I know it won’t be for want of trying.
It feels like both a slightly frightening journey into the unknown, but it also feels like a journey home. Back to where I was meant to be. I don’t feel I ever left social work. But I am invigorated, excited and enthused to be going back.