Youth work is a difficult profession. It requires the patience of a saint, the wisdom of Aristotle and the stamina of a thoroughbred. In the craziness of all we do sometimes excellence is traded for efficiency. How many of us have been asked to cut corners to meet our funding targets or have been required to work with more clients to meet deadlines??? Often when our efficiency increases our effectiveness suffers.
Ultimate youth worker’s recognise that efficiency is not the be all and end all. We seek to find the best opportunities to meet the needs of our clients time and time again… and for the most part these opportunities are different for each client. The idea of best practice meaning one single fixed form of doing something is foreign to the youth worker. However, being there through thick and thin, when others leave and our young people see no hope that is the mark of an Ultimate Youth Worker.
|Reflective practice is a skill that takes practice|
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit“. Aristotle
The best youth workers I know are those who spend their time repeatedly doing the work of a youth worker. They run groups, case manage, play games, build relationships, advocate and plan programs to name but a few tasks. They do this over and over again until it seems like second nature and then they do it some more. When they are asked to do something outside their purview they become canny outlaws and work for the best of their client without dropping effectiveness.
In his ground breaking book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to become truly successful at a task. This means that the average full time youth worker would need to work for just over five years to become successful, or upwards of ten years for a part timer. If we as a field expect excellence of our youth work colleagues we must first understand that it takes time and energy (at least five years) to learn how to do the job. If the anecdotal evidence is anything to go by then the average of a two year career expectancy for youth workers leaves them startlingly short. We need to invest more time in new youth workers in the first five years of their career to help them achieve excellence.