Case study

Project worker — Heather

Heather secured her role as a family support project worker after completing a series of work placements. She has found that this experience was invaluable when looking for a job

How did you get your job as a project worker?

I had been volunteering for the organisation that I currently work for since I completed a work experience placement with them when I was taking my GCSE's. I loved it and kept going back to work for them during the school holidays. I also volunteered during the week on a casual basis throughout my A-levels and my degree.

I did some on-the-job training with them and they offered me a position after I graduated.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

I graduated with BSc in Psychology, which is very relevant.

It taught me how to think critically and how to problem-solve quickly using my initiative while considering many different points of view. It's also helpful to have knowledge and understanding of personality disorders, psychological effects of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and how these can impact the individual's children and wider family and what the long-term consequences may be.

I also understand how the intervention we deliver works on a psychological level and through this I can demonstrate the skills needed to do this job.

What's a typical day like as a project worker?

At the start of my day I will receive a handover from the member of staff who was working before me. I will then help the service users with their day-to-day lives. I provide on-going emotional support to the service users and their children who may be struggling. I deliver activities with the children to help them to re-develop relationships with their family and manage their behaviour and feelings.

How has your role developed?

I have developed the confidence to perform these duties on my own without the supervision of a senior member of staff. I now have the knowledge and skills to know what needs doing and when and how to do these tasks without permission or help.

My ambition is to develop my skills and confidence further and to devise and deliver interventions on my own and further my studies in the future to become a psychotherapist.

What do you enjoy about your job?

It's incredibly rewarding. When families first come to us they are very traumatised due to their experiences and through working with us they leave confident and capable people.

The staff morale is amazing too, everyone is here because they want to be and it's not 'just a job' to any of my colleagues; everyone is hardworking, helpful and caring and it's a great environment to work in.

We also work with people from many different countries, cultures and walks of life, which opens your eyes to different values and ways of living. You need to remain open-minded.

What are the most challenging parts?

Some people (including children) are hard work and demanding and it can be very draining. You always need to think about what you are saying and doing. It's the same with professionals in other organisations; delivering multi-agency intervention to families can sometimes be difficult if there is a conflict of ideas and decisions.

Finally, it doesn't happen often but not every case is a success story - no matter how hard you try some people just aren't ready to engage

What advice can you give to others?

This job really isn't for the faint-hearted. You have to build up a strong resilience to the stories that you will hear and the things that you will see and that takes time to develop. You need to be enthusiastic, determined and hardworking.

Volunteer somewhere similar first to give you a taste of what you are getting yourself in to. Your gut instinct will tell you whether this is something that you would love to do or if this type of work just isn't for you.

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