Top Five Ways to Create a Positive Agency Experience

Unfortunately the idea to install treadmills in our offices didn't make the running.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.
Unfortunately the idea to install treadmills in our offices didn’t make the running. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Monday being over!  Hopefully you had some good self-care this weekend and are ready to tackle work or internship!

The years spent in social work school can be challenging, especially since in most cases we don’t choose our field placements and even after graduation, have to adjust to the new role of working professional.

However, working with what we have and keeping in mind the person-in-environment philosophy of social work (which one, also applies to us, and two, is a good test term to remember cough), we can create internships or first job experiences that can become foundational to our growth.

Based on work experiences and conversations with peers, here are top five ways to create a positive agency experience, whether you’re a fieldwork student or new professional:

  1. Advocate to work with the clients or areas you have most clinical or population interest in.

While many agencies will operate on the basis that you be willing to work with whom there is most need (as do social work values), advocating to work with clients or areas that make you excited about the work will engage you and your clients more in the long-term.  Conversely, an area of work that you thought you wouldn’t like can also become a meaningful learning experience.

2.  Get good supervision.

Remember how one of the foundational things you learned in your generalist practice classes is that forming good therapeutic rapport is often one of the strongest factors that will determine the efficacy of treatment (Martin, Garske, and Davis; 2000)?  Well the same applies to supervision.  While we don’t get much choice in who supervises us (for the record, I got lucky…hi supervisors hopefully not reading this!), advocate for a supervisory relationship that meets “the big three”:  supportive, educational, and administrative (NASW, 2003).  Hint:  possible test content.

3.  Form peer support.

Two pluses:  peer supervision has less “official stakes” attached to it (Your co-workers won’t be writing your annual review) and you’ll know the best places to eat or have happy hour in town.

4.  Use education opportunities.

Remember our last post on continuing education?  Yup.

5.  Provide awesome customer service.

This applies to both your clients and your co-workers (The Dale Carnegie institute calls this external and internal customer service, respectfully).  It doesn’t make sense to use empathy and active listening with our clients if we don’t treat our co-workers with the same empathy and respect.  We’re all vulnerable to similar stressors and we’re all brightened up by a brief passing of sincere appreciation, praise, or patient understanding.

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