What is the best way to start as a youth worker?

I have been asked this question about a dozen times over the last six months by eager young potential youth workers looking to get a foot in the door to their future career. I have to say it is a hard one to answer. For me, I fell into it after a mate asked me to help out his Friday night youth group. So my own experience was of moving from volunteer to paid work and then study. However, many of these eager students are straight from school into youth work courses so what is my advice to them??? Work out what is going to work for you!
Here are a few ideas I have for these students and other would be youth workers:
  • Know who you are! The amount of students I speak to who do not have a good understanding of their own values and what makes them tick would blow your mind. One of the first things I ask when trying to help potential youth workers is why they want to be a youth worker… if you cant answer this question you may need to take a while to sort it out before continuing.
  • Volunteer work is a great way to build skills and experience. If you are young or have not worked in the sector before then volunteering with a reputable organisation can be a great way to get skills and training… and a job (or at least a good reference).
  • Get some qualifications. In this day and age qualifications are king. You need to have the piece of paper under your belt before many organisations will even look at you. Currently there is a push towards a minimum standard of a two year diploma in Australia, but more is better.
  • Build your networks. Join local council groups, local area networks and peak bodies. Anywhere there is a youth worker join their group. This gives you profile in the sector and opportunity to get information and information is key to good interviews.
  • Work out what area of youth work you most want to get into. Youth work is a wide and varied and it can give you an immense amount of joy… if you are in the right area. Work out what gets you going and then run for it with all your might.
Finally, when you have all of this completed just go to the organisation you are interested in working for and meet with the management. Give them a resume and talk about why you would like to work for them. They may through it in the bin, but they will remember you when you apply for an opening.

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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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