I thought it would be useful and insightful to share some of my experiences as a social work student within the Youth Services Team at JewishCare. During my placement, I worked alongside my supervisor and staff, assisting with the day-to-day operations of the Big Brother Big Sister Program.
First and foremost, I want to convey how grateful I am to have been privileged enough to work with such an incredible team. The easy-going and supportive nature in which they welcomed me and continued to treat me was a blessing and their kindness reinforced the importance of working collectively as a team.
I found that the more I challenged myself by stepping outside my comfort zone, my learning began to fast-track and I began to notice improvement in my skills. They say that the greatest way to learn is to be thrown into the deep end. My experiences at JewishCare have taught me that bombing into waters where the depth is unknown is a sure way to tackle it. Just make sure you are wearing floaties, which brings me to my next point- the importance of a role model and guide.
My growth as an individual and professional was facilitated and nurtured by my supervisor, Kira. I can’t express enough how vital this role was in my successful experience of placement. I’ve found that there is only so much you can do by yourself when surroundings are unfamiliar and tasks are complex. The best advice I can give, having coming out the other side of a student placement is to identify the qualities you admire in another’s practice, and strive to achieve these. Ask for feedback and performance evaluations as a learning tool to measure improvement. Take any feedback on board as it is crucial for improvement. It has taken me many years to realise that feedback from professionals, teammates or peers is not an act to tear one down, but a platform for honesty and positivity, and a clear sign of respect.
Feeling overwhelmed in a new environment whilst learning new skills is unavoidable. In fact, it happened to me more times than I can count. At one point, when it was blindingly obvious that I was in a panic, my supervisor raised a confronting, yet vital point- I was becoming overwhelmed and worked up by focusing on the things that I didn’t know, instead of focussing on what I did. I was surprised by the obvious nature of her logic. It makes perfect sense to utilise the skills you already have in order to develop the ones you don’t yet possess. This has been a life lesson that will stick with me throughout my studies and future career. Furthermore, Kira encouraged me to acknowledge and play to my strengths in order to give myself the credit I deserved, which is a great lesson to anyone and everyone.
So, what makes JewishCare special? It’s simple. The people.
The team members I worked alongside were first class representations of what a professional should be. The knowledge and skills they possess are cutting-edge, constantly participating in professional development training and engaging in peer learning. Their passion was admirable, it is what made my placement special, and it’s what makes JewishCare such a unique and wholesome service provider.
I can confidently say that my experience with the JewishCare Youth Team will remain second to none. The skills, passion, integrity, authenticity, warmth and professionalism guided me for a memorable 4 months and provided me with 4 dedicated teachers. It only took me two weeks to miss the team enough to get re-involved with one of their many outstanding volunteer initiatives.
In my 4 months at JewishCare, I have learnt and grown more than I could have possibly imagined. It has shown me that a combination of factors, including the support and encouragement of colleagues, receiving and acting upon feedback, and belief in one’s self can enable infinite growth.
By Mikaela Cato.