7 signs you need more supervision

7 signs you need more supervisionYou need more supervision!

When we tell people what we do at Ultimate Youth Worker and that youth workers need more supervision we often hear “But I get supervision at work?”. When we unpack this with staff members what they mean is that their boss knows something about their caseload or program and occasionally allows them to do some professional development. When we ask how often they get this supervision most say that it is sporadic at best. 

In the AYAC National Youth Work Snapshot 2013 a survey of youth workers showed that 8.4% of surveyed youth workers had never had a supervision session and around 51.7% receive it less than once every three months. As an industry that claims professional status this is appalling. It is no wonder that the sector in Australia turns over staff at 23% every year. Supervision is important to staff retention. The most unfortunate part of this is that the average youth worker doesn’t know what a good supervision framework looks like and so they do not see a problem until it is too late. With this at the forefront of our minds here are the 7 signs that you are not getting enough supervision.

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  1. You are bored at work. One of the most damaging things that can happen to a youth worker in their role is boredom. I know what you are thinking. How can I be bored when I am up to my eyeballs in trying to meet KPI’s. When we meet youth workers for external supervision one of the biggest issues we see is that they are not being challenged. At least not in the right ways. We all need to be stretched just a little bit to be our best self. We need to try new things. We need to find new solutions. If you do the same thing day in and day out you get bored. If you are bored in your role you need more supervision.
  2. You see supervision as punishment rather than development. Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice”. If you see it as a chore in which you will be rebuked for doing the wrong thing rather than encouraged towards best practice then you need more supervision.
  3. Your boss only talks about tasks in ‘supervision’ sessions. If like most youth workers your boss is giving you their version of supervision which most likely is checking in that you are completing all your tasks then you are not getting supervision. You are getting the administration part of good supervision. Making sure your cases are going well and your paperwork is done is only a small part of it. Tasks take up less than a third of good supervision practice. Hence you need more supervision.
  4. You have less than one hour once a fortnight. Best practice in supervision says you should be getting at least one hour of reflective supervision every two weeks. If you are not getting the opportunity to develop you as a person and as a practitioner as well as to deal with the admin side of your job then you are not developing as a youth worker. This takes more than one session a month or God forbid one a year. Supervision takes time, but it also pays dividends. In our experience, for every hour spent in supervision it gives you an ROI of 24 hours of exceptional practice.
  5. You have started to look for a new job. You don’t necessarily hate the job you have but you are starting to feel that if you don’t move on the job will eat you alive. This sense of needing to begin a career search is often where we see most of our clients. Either they or their manager refer them on in an attempt to keep them going. But its hard to stop the Titanic sinking with a bucket. In short if you have started to look for a new job it may be too late. This is always a clear sign you need more supervision.
  6. You are not up to date with youth work theory and practice. One of the key reasons for youth work supervision is to keep up to date with best practices and current research. If you are not getting this then you are not getting supervision. If you are not being moulded into a better youth worker every session then something is not right. Your supervisor must grow your knowledge and help you to critically reflect.
  7. You don’t remember the last time supervision looked like this. If your supervision seems lacking after reading this you are not alone. most youth workers we speak to feel the same way. Most managers and team leaders wish they could provide this level of support too. The key is too recognise it and move forward. If you feel like you need more supervision then get it. If your organisation won’t provide it Then get an external supervisor who will.

If you have read this post and you are now wondering what to do then we suggest you look at the links throughout the post as they are a rich source of wisdom in this area. If you can’t find a supervisor in your organisation that is able to provide good supervision then you really only have a few options. Stay and suck it up. Stay and find an external supervisor. Leave the organisation you are currently at for something better. Unfortunately, the stats would say they are few and far between.

At Ultimate Youth Worker we want to see a well supported youth sector. It is why we began back in 2012 and why we started providing supervision from day one. If you need a benchmark then use the resources on this site. If you want us to supervise you we do face to face in Melbourne and Skype throughout the world. Our biggest wish though is that your organisation will provide you with the best supervision.

Apply for individual supervision today

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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14 online tools youth workers need to use

14-online-toolsOnline tools you need

We live in a time of myth and legend. Apparently Youth workers are mystical creatures who need little money or time to effect massive changes… At least that seems to be the neoliberal view of us. Another myth is that we are all hip and cool with mad computer skills. I admit to having spent my fair share of time on an Xbox or play station over the years but that is the level I play at. A few years ago I was affectionately know in my team as the IT guy because I knew how to use Microsoft Outlook and use our reporting system. Most youth workers are tech novices. So we thought it would be good to have a list of online tools every youth worker should have access to. Most of these can be accessed by a smart phone, tablet or the dreaded PC. So if your service still chains you to your desk you can still use them… But I would say you need to speak to management about moving to portable devices 🙂

Evernote

Evernote online toolEvernote is one of the great online tools for organising all of your thoughts. It is like having a notebook in your pocket that you can put ideas into quickly and easily without needing a pen and paper. You can arrange your notes into ‘Notebooks’ to easily combine relevant ideas together. It takes pictures, adds weblinks, allows you to set reminders and even draw pictures. If you’re like me and have ideas about many topics and you have scrap paper or multiple notpads everywhere this program is for you.

https://evernote.com

You can have it on two devices for free.

Dropbox

Dropbox online toolI was presenting off site last week when the USB I had my presentation on died. Completely fried. I almost went into a melt down. What was I going to do. Enter Dropbox. I called a colleague and had them drop the presentation into our Dropbox and with the help of the internet gods it was there when I logged in. Dropbox is a cloud based storage space where you can upload and download all manner of digital documents at the touch of a button. The free version gives you 2GB to use which is more than enough for most of us. Never be caught out again with great online tools!

https://www.dropbox.com/

Cloud based so all you need is an internet connection

Canva

Canva online toolIf you are like me you are graphically challenged. I cant draw and I struggle to use tools to get beautiful flyers out of my head and onto paper. A former student put me on to Canva, online tools for those of us who are graphically challenged that is literally already set up for us. Need a flyer for a program… Done. A Picture for Facebook about your event…Done. Literally any visual marketing you need all available at the click of a mouse.

www.canva.com

Won’t replace your marketing team, but its part way there.

Adobe Colour Wheel

Colour wheel online toolOur good friends at www.nourishingmedia.com put us on to this one. Being graphically challenged it also bodes that we are colour challenged. yellow goes with everything right??? If you need some help in this department whether for flyers, presentations or anything else you can think of Adobe Colour Wheel provides a template to help you choose colour combinations.

https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/

Since using this more of our flyers are able to be read.

Inspiration

inspiration online toolIf you are a visual person you know all about mind mapping. Its an amazing way of getting thoughts out of your head and into some semblance of order. If you like lists a jumble of circles on a page makes no sense at all. Inspiration solves our communication problem. It takes either a list or a mind map and converts it for the other. I mind map when I am dreaming and visioning and then I click the button and I have a list of tasks to complete.

http://www.inspiration.com

This is gold. If you need some inspiration to get things out of your head this is it.

Prezi

Prezi online toolIf I have to sit through another presentation by someone who has just found Microsoft Powerpoint or Apples Keynote I may just explode. Boring presentations on basic themes with too many swishes, lets be honest we’ve all been there. Prezi takes the hard work out of designing a slide deck that looks good and has animation with its online tools. Some really cool templates with fill in fields turn a lackluster presentation into a wow instilling performance.

https://prezi.com/

Cloud based and downloadable files make this a great tool for presentations.

Psychdrugs

Psychdrugs online toolMore and more young people seem to experience mental health issues that need medication. When doing intake forms I would regularly hear the names of medications that I had no idea about. I’m not a pharmacist. What they do, what dosage is high or low, the common names and much more is at your fingertips with Psychdrugs. Easy to use and with most mental health medications listed this is a top tool.

I have used this since 2008 and have not been disappointed.

The Google Platform

google-logo-1200x630I have only recently been introduced to the amazing array of programs that google has in its arsenal. We all know the search engine is great and may even have a Gmail email account, but there is so much more to their online tools. spreadsheets, word processing, calendars, groups, hangouts, translate… The list goes on. If you are looking for free and amazing usability then the Google platform has it all.

www.google.com

 There is a reason people benchmark themselves against Google.

iTunesU

iTunesU online toolKeeping yourself educated is essential to great youth work practice. You should get more qualified than you are right now. If you cant commit to a course of study for some reason right now then iTunesU might be the thing for you. Download a podcast style uni course for free and listen in your car or on the train. There are hundreds of great courses that will help you become a great youth worker.

http://www.apple.com/au/education/itunes-u/

I just finished listening to UC Berkeley Sociology 101 course…Fantastic

Survey Monkey

Surveymonkey online toolMost services struggle to get feedback from their young people and when you stick a paper survey in their hand it usually ends in the bin. Survey Monkey is a free tool that alows you to create great surveys in minutes and send them via email, facebook, whatever system you want. The best bit is it aggregates all the data. You just need to read it.

https://www.surveymonkey.com

The free tool limits the size and type of surveys, but unless you do a lot its fine.

Kindle

kindle online toolIf you read a lot then you probably use Kindle. Bring all your books, journal articles, ebooks together in one space and get reading on the go. If you travel a bit it means you don’t have to pack heavy books in your bag. I struggle with reading on screens sometimes however you can deal with that for the ease of use and access to a huge library of content merely a click away. The kindle app for iPad is also a great investment.

Best for reading on the go.

Bitly

bitly online toolIf you send emails or use facebook you have probably sent a link before. Most people just cut and paste and then you end up with lines of nonsense which are the link. Bitly can shorten the link into something much more manageable. It also has the added functionality of allowing you to see who clicks on the links and from where. Some features are paid but you don’t really need them if you are just shortening links.

https://bitly.com

If you don’t have analytics for your website users you need them.

Trello

Trello online toolI am new to Trello but it has already significantly changed how I work. Trello lets you create separate boards for projects and then populate the boards with lists. Each list then gets cards. If you were doing a project you set up a board, Add topics to be done and then add list of steps under each topic. We use it for everything at Ultimate Youth Worker tracking workflow, developing podcasts, our intranet, you name it.

https://trello.com

I wish I had this when I was studying, particularly group assignments

Slide Share

Slideshare online toolIf you create slide decks for young people why not put them on the internet so others can see them. It promotes your organisation and yourself and could end up helping people all around the world. Slideshare has become for slideshows what youtube is for videos. There is a myriad of information out there for us to use as well.

http://www.slideshare.net

Every presentation you give should go on here


If you begin to use these online tools you will find that your productivity increases and your time stuffing around decreases. You will also begin to do marketing of your programs better and by default have better engagement with your young people. Some of this will feel a little backwards when you start. Learning a new skill takes time. Pick one and start using it today.

Would you add any others?

 

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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Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Podcast 008: How do I become a youth worker?

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast
Help us keep the podcast going by donating a few dollars to the running costs.

How to become a youth worker

Our podcast this week is an audio version of our blog post “How do I become a youth worker“? Over the years we have had hundreds of people speak to us, email us, message us on Facebook and even get their parents to reach out to us to ask us the best way to become a youth worker. Honestly, I get asked this question so much that I have decided to put it into a podcast for prosperity sake… and so I had somewhere to point people when they ask. I say this so often it has become a bit of a spiel so stay with me and by the end you will have a clear guide on how to become a youth worker.

It is small easy steps that help you to become a youth worker. All you have to do is:

  1. Why do you want to become a youth worker?
  2. Understand your values
  3. Know what type of youth work you want to do
  4. Volunteer
  5. Read
  6. Go to training
  7. Network
  8. Get an education
  9. Make the most of placement opportunities
  10. and never ever stop learning.

Take this list and work through all the tips and we guarantee you will become an awesome youth worker. It is a process. You need to take little steps in the right direction.

If you really want to be a solid youth worker that has some career longevity then starting right and getting some support while you do this is so important. Get a person who can mentor you through this process. Someone who has been in the sector for at least five years. When you finally become a youth worker get some good supervision and work for agencies that will look out for you.

Help us keep the podcast going by donating a few dollars to the running costs.

Do you think we missed anything???

Let us know what we need to add by emailing us.

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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Career Development

Podcast Episode 007: Career Development

Career Development
To support the podcast, donate here!

One of the biggest concerns youth workers have about the job is the lack of opportunity to move up the pecking order. Most youth work agencies are rather small or they are a niche within a larger service such as health organisations, education or larger non government conglomerates. This leads youth workers to feel that their career options are severely limited.

There is also an erroneous thought that your organisation is meant to look out for you. That they spend time and effort developing you as a person and as a professional to take the next step in your career. The fact of the matter is that if you are not looking at developing your career it is likely that no one else is either.

Career Development

Start by asking yourself “what position, role or job do I want in 5 years”? 5 years can seem like a long time but if you need some new qualifications or some experience it could take you that long to get it. When you have worked out what type of role you might like its time to hit the job boards. Download 3-5 position descriptions for the roles you might like. You want to audit those positions for the Skills, Traits, Abilities, Experience and Qualifications they are asking candidates to have.

Download our template here Skills Audit

Once you have completed the Audit of position descriptions you need to start breaking the results down for yourself. The easiest place to begin is by asking yourself “Do I have the qualifications I need for the job I want“? This is a question of the depth and breadth of your qualifications. How skilled are you in your area of expertise for example: youth work. Do you hold a certificate that took you 6 months or a Masters which took you 5+ years to get? How broad is your expertise? Is it just in the one field or do you have qualifications in many areas.

Download our Qualifications_Depth and Breath template here

Check out Aaron’s Example here

What experience do you bring to the job you are after? Do you have relevant employment experience? Have you held similar roles? Have you volunteered? Remember when it comes to career development experience is important but more passion trumps experience almost every time.

Check out you local Job sites:

www.jobseeker.org.au

www.ethicaljobs.com.au

www.seek.com.au

If you are not networking you are standing still. Networking is the second most important career development skill you must have (the first is self care). Are you a member of Peak Bodies or Industry Groups? Are you involved with your Local Youth Work Networks? If not you should be!!! You should also be a member of LinkedIn.com (come and find me when you are signed up).

To support the podcast, donate here!

Conclusion

If you want a long and successful career in youth work the only person who can help you do it is you. Spend time planning and doing the hard yards to get yourself there, but make sure those things are the right things. Work on the areas which will give you the best rewards. Most of all keep going in the sector. We need qualified and motivated people to lead the charge.

If you liked this cast don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes

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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What is Youth Work?

Podcast 006: What is Youth Work Part Two

What is Youth Work?
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What is Youth Work?

In our previous cast “What is Youth Work – 002” we looked at the broadest overview of youth work. We spoke to the most broad understanding of the youth sector and the term youth work that is surrounding the sector. We also looked at the broadest youth work definition that we use at Ultimate Youth Worker. If you are paid or volunteer in your capacity to provide support to young people as your primary concern you are doing youth work.

Recap of previous podcast “What is Youth Work – 002

  • The main reason for a youth work definition = Professional status
  • In Defence of Youth Work = Emancipatory and democratic youth work that is voluntary and starts with their concerns (link to open Letter)
  • National Youth Agency = Non-formal education in various forms (link to NYA)
  • RMIT = Youth work is about Justice and Human Rights (link to RMIT)
  • YACWA = Youth work is about providing formal and informal support to give young people a voice in their community (link to YACWA)
  • YACVIC = Working for and with young people, young people are your primary concern (link to YACVIC)
  • European commission on youth = Opportunity for young people to shape their own future (link to EU Youth).
  • Department of Children and Youth Affairs = Youth work is complimentary to formal education (link to DCYA)
  • Judith Bessant = Engaging with young people as our primary constituency in their social context
  • Infed = A history of youth works development (link to Infed)

Today we want to speak about the youth work definition that is most accepted in Australia.

In Australia we have been debating the core work of youth workers for decades. The earliest clear definition of youth work as a distinct industry came through the Jasper Declaration 1977.

The most current youth work definition used within Australia is from the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition 2013. After a consultation that brought together thoughts from all over Australia a whole day was devoted to defining youth work in Australia at the Australian Youth Affairs Conference 2013. The best part of 100 youth workers argued and debated for the day to craft a definition for our sector. After the conference there were a few more consultations and the definition was set.

A caveat to this – There are many in Australia who do not agree with the definition. Particularly, many from the North believed that the professionalisation debate was overshadowing good youth work. That the Southern and Eastern states had hijacked the youth work definition for their own. Funnily enough it is those states which have Degree programs.

Thought to end on

Youth work in Australia is still a contested site. The question of qualification is still at the forefront of the debate. From volunteer to PhD there are many who call themselves youth workers whether qualified or not. Another contested area is whether people are paid or not. There are thousands of people who volunteer to work with young people across Australia without who the youth sector would be considerably understaffed. Until we clarify as a sector what we mean by the term “Youth Work” we will be at the mercy of other definitions. We need to clarify professional paid youth work from volunteer work and other forms of youth support. This clarification does not need to reduce the amazing contribution of people to the sector, but it does need to focus our attentions.

To support the podcast, donate here!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

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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BREXIT and youth work

Brexit text with British and Eu flags illustration

Brexit has come

So last week saw Britain vote to leave the European Union. The Brexit referendum saw an unprecedented youth voice get quashed by the roar of the elderly seeking a return to a Great Britain of old and Baby Boomers who are worried that their pensions are being sent oversees. Throughout the campaigns the fear mongering was phenomenal. From concerns about refugees and financial performance to the beliefs of politicians every opportunity has been taken to spread fear in the Empire.  The most concerning issue from this whole ordeal was how easily this happened.

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32CB754C00000578-0-The_polling_data_showed_big_differences_between_how_different_ag-m-11_1459672827371Almost half of the population of the United Kingdom either didn’t vote or were unable to vote in the referendum. Many of those who were unable to vote were young people and refugees. The very people that the Brexit vote will affect the most. Of those who did vote, a significant proportion of of those who wanted to remain in the European Union were young people. This begs questions for youth workers, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the world… When will we listen to young people? What does this mean for youth support services? What opportunities will avail themselves to young people and what will they lose? These questions among many others have been the focus of discussion by many of recent days.

A few thoughts from an Aussie whose family was banished to this great south land from the cold and dreary shores of England:

  • A country which has built itself on a nationalist framework will always struggle to let it go and play well with others. It was inevitable that Britain would leave the EU. Sadly until the voice of those who remember the height of British nationalism are silenced the generations will be stuck in the past.
  • The push of Neoliberalism will always seek to see splintered economies where some will prosper and most will eek out a meager existence. The mere existence of a Union is an afront to those seeking freedom in trade.
  • Young people have always been pawns to the will of the old. Young people are not listened to and do not have a strong enough platform from which to change this. As youth workers we spend our careers trying to amend this.
  • We live in a society which looks at the here and now. The future is of little consequence. Climate change, Economics, social breakdown and corruption all come from wanting a better now rather than a better future. We have more food than ever before and yet more poverty. We have more medical technology and yet die from preventable disease. Our now is more important too us.
  • Young people will always have to deal with the rubbish left by the old until there is a revolution. When power is held by one group over another there will never be freedom. Power must be distributed equally amongst all. Young people are under the power of those who are older, but that will only last until young people feel slighted enough to rise up. Better to share than be over ruled.

The future is now uncertain for Britain and more widely the European Union. Both sides of the debate believe they know what will happen and both will be certain in a few years. But one thing is certain, Young people believe their voice is not being heard. Brexit just proved it.

 

 

 

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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Keeping motivation in youth work

MotivationMotivation is key

Life is tough, and so is youth work. Keeping motivation can be difficult. From the outside most people only see the coffees, conversations and if everything goes well a young person who appears to be well rounded. What they don’t see is the hours of paperwork, the phone calls, the parent meetings, the heartache and tears. When all of this gets mixed together with the trauma our young people experience and the lack of structured support from our organisations we come up against vicarious trauma. When this happens it is really hard to stay motivated.

At first you find that all the tasks in your day begin to seem mundane. You start to think you have heard your clients stories before. You are bored by tasks you used to enjoy. Your clients become just another number. Then all of a sudden you are looking at the job boards thinking of your next position. I have worked with dozens of youth workers in just this position over the years. They come to me for advice on how to address their job search as they just need to move on. The first thing I alway address is the reason for wanting to leave.

Youth Work MotivationI wish I could catch these youth workers six months earlier. Planning for your care is so much easier than trying to cobble together a career when you have lost all motivation. You see motivation is hard to regain, but it is pretty easy to maintain.

Here are a few of our go to motivation maintenance techniques that we believe will help any youth worker stay fully motivated for the work ahead:

  1. Know why you became a youth worker. Your values, philosophy and frameworks of youth work are intrinsic to your motivation. If you do not know why you became a youth worker, or what your motivations were to start then it is hard to focus when times get tough.
  2. Get supervision. We harp on about supervision because we know its worth. We don’t just mean the task supervision that you might get at the moment. We mean supervision that asks you to be critically reflective, to look at you as a person as well as you as a practitioner. You need a place to wrestle with the challenges of the job and how they affect you as a person.
  3. Have a life outside of work. Most of the people I know that have lost motivation or burnt out in youth work have lost their ability to live a full life. Their blinders are on and all they can see or think about is work. Get a hobby, catch up with friends and family, take a holiday… Live life outside of work.
  4. Stay up to date with the sector. Get involved with your peak bodies and networks, read journals and books, study, sign up to blogs and newsletters. Be involved with the sector not just your little patch. It helps breed a wider and deeper perspective.

If you do these four things you will find that when the dark days come… and they will, you will have a strong foundation from which to stand with motivation.

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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Youth work and politics

Politics is great

One of my favourite questions for youth work students is how much they love politics. It asks them if one wall is ‘I hate politics with a fiery passion’ and the opposite wall is ‘I love everything about politics’ where do you stand on the continuum? Most students herd themselves down the ‘I hate politics end’, I have even had a few leave the room completely. Every now and then a few likely souls brave the tides and step towards their love. They show their comrades that politics is not to be feared or despaired over but embraced fully.

politics and youth workThe fact of the matter is that all youth work is political. Whether you are supporting an individual young person through an education program or you are advocating for hundreds at a symposium, all youth work is from a political framework, in the political system and funded because of political ideals. As youth workers we must have a strong understanding of the political sphere and the process that helps bring the decisions to the fore. We need to know the players and their political bent. We need to understand how to influence these decision makers and help them hear the voice of our young people.

Our profession is motivated to provide a world that listens to and embraces young people as equal citizens. This is a very political statement. It puts a flag in the ground that we will not give up. Sometimes it puts us politically against those in power. Sometimes our vision aligns. Either way our employment and our future is intrinsically linked to politics. Whether your a liberal leaning lefty or a right as rain conservative if you are a youth worker your work is politically challenging. You are more like a lobbyist than you think.

Whats your take on political youth work?

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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Youth work and your family

Family comes first

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting on the pressures youth workers face because of the job. We have high rates of psychological distress, we deal daily with vicarious trauma, our jobs are often at the mercy of government whim and to top it of we work long crazy hours. This takes a massive toll on us as youth workers, unfortunately it also has ripple effects around us.

youth work family lifeI have seen a number of memes lately that have really got on my nerves. Mainly because they hit the bullseye. As youth workers and indeed human services workers in general we can become so focussed on the people we serve that we forget about the ones we love. Our partners, spouses and children forget what we look like as we spend every night out at meetings, running centres and programs. Our kids in particular feel the burden.

I have met many young people over my career who had parents who were youth workers. most turned out pretty ok. A number of them however had fallen off the rails. This detour through trouble often came because they felt abandoned by their parent for other young people. Often hearing about how the more troubled kids need their parents attention at the moment.

As a youth worker I have not been immune to this either. Studying, working weird and wonderful hours and being out at nights and weekends has been a part of my life for well over a decade. The final semester of my Masters degree I was working 80+ hours a week and was lucky if I saw my wife and children on a week night or more than a couple of hours on the weekend. As a family we knew this was only going to be for a season, yet the strain was clear.

A few weeks ago my family grew by two. Beautiful identical twin girls. This has made me slow down and reevaluate. Some things have taken a hiatus, some have been cut fully. One thing has been a clear reminder to me in this time, My family is the most important people in my life. When it comes to balance my family wins every time. If we put others young people before the needs of our own children what message does that convey to them. I know there will be times where for the short term we have to put our work first, but if our own children continue to lose out then they will become the clients of other youth workers down the track.

It is a cycle I intend to break. Being a professional means having thing work at home and at work. Will you join me? Put family time first n your calendar. Your family comes first.a

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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Recruit great youth workers

7 tips for recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers

Recruit great youth workersRecruit great youth workersRecruiting Ultimate Youth Workers…

Recruiting is one of the most important jobs a youth service manager will ever have. Managers are responsible for two major tasks: results and retention. You can never get great results if you have mediocre people and you will never retain people if they don’t believe in what you are doing. So the answer is simple… recruiting the right people in the first place solves 90% of your issues.

First things First

You do not need someone so badly that you have to hire bad candidates. The absolute worst thing you could do is hire the wrong person because you feel the need to fill a spot. This will inevitably hurt your team and your ability to get the results you so desperately need to show. We all have stories of when the wrong person had a role and they tore a team apart. There is no time ever that you need to have a full complement of staff over recruiting the right person. No matter what anyone says you can take your time to get the best.


Tip 1 – Write a great position description: A great position description isn’t a fluffy document. Many HR departments have templates that have so much information and window dressing that you actually have no idea what you want a person to do, or even worse… you want them to do everything. Be clear and concise. The position description should include the duties you want the candidate to fulfill, the behaviours you want them to exhibit and the knowledge the must hold to do the role to which they are applying. If you feel like you are adding more than this it is simply window dressing. If you have the opportunity to have input into writing the position description make sure it is imperative that you make it fit your role perfectly.

Tip 2 – Initial cut down: You should ask for a resume, a cover letter and a response to your key selection criteria. Start with the cover letter. You are looking for an opportunity to weed out all those who wont fit your role. Many recruiter will spend less than 10 seconds scanning the cover letter. But, what should you look for??? Well here are a few ideas:

  • Is the document well formatted? Are there paragraphs? How are they justified (left or fully is the only way to go). Is it more than three or four paragraphs in length? Is it grammatically correct?
  • Are the candidates contact details on the document?
  • Has the candidate let you know where they heard about the role?
  • Have they addressed it to you or just used a ‘to whom it may concern’?

If a person makes it through the first round move on to their resume. Are the candidates contact details on the document? Do they have the qualifications and experience to fulfill the role? Is the document well formatted? Have they told you what they did in their roles or just put what they should have done from previous position descriptions? If they make it through these checks then you move on to the key selection criteria.

The key selection criteria should address your criteria within the position description. Have they answered your points with a clear PAR story. In a PAR story, they will describe:

  • Problem that existed
  • Actions they took to address the problem
  • Results they achieved solving the problem

If they make it this far they are OK. But, OK is not enough to fill your position. Its time for you to proceed to the next step.

Tip 3 – Phone screen interview: If you have other staff members on your team this is a good opportunity to get them to show some leadership, if not you can do it yourself. A phone screen interview is a short 30 minute interview that starts with the question ‘tell me about yourself?’ and ends with a behavioural interview question. You don’t tell the candidate your decision here (provide a good no letter if they didn’t make it). This is the most cost-effective and timely way of eliminating candidates who don’t stack up.

Recruiting to interview

Tip 4 – Interview those who are left: A day of interviews and testing and it’s what we use at Ultimate Youth Worker when we hire staff. But if your organisation can’t afford a day of interviewing then here are a few ideas for you:

  • Behavioural interviewing is a must. You need to see how a person will react to situations which will happen regularly in the role they are applying for.
  • If you aren’t getting your young people to help it’s not worth interviewing. The young people add a different dynamic that shows a lot about how the candidate works with young people.
  • An hour is not enough. Even the worst people can put on a good show for an hour. Try an hour of panel interviews, testing such as DISC profiling or a big 5 and finish with a half hour interview with the team. If you do this as a minimum you will be leaps ahead of your competition.

Tip 5 – It’s always better to have a bench: If you have a job opening and you already have a person who will fit the role you save yourself a lot of effort at the start. Most Government funding requirements expect transparent recruiting into roles, however if you have a person who will fit your role there is no rule that says you can’t get them to apply. Students who have done placements with you, former staff that you would have back in a heartbeat and casuals who are looking to expand their careers are all great people to have on your bench. If a role comes up that you think would fit a bench warmer then get them to apply. 

Tip 6 – References are not as useful as people think: If a person has put down a referee it is highly unlikely that person will have anything negative to say about your candidate. It is important to make sure they have all the credentials and qualifications they say they do. The best use of reference check is to qualify all the information the candidate has provided to you.

Tip 7 – If they aren’t excited they aren’t the right person: We don’t mean they have to be extroverts (we love introverts) but they do need to show enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for the organisation, the mission and the role. If the candidate doesn’t have a smile on their face and a spring in their step they are most likely the wrong person for your role. You should take excitement for the role over just about every other metric you use in hiring. Everything else you can teach or have it taught to the person who gets the job. Passion is something which can’t be given.


If you use these seven tips we guarantee you will get great candidates. These tips work for 90% of candidates 90% of the time. The rest comes down to your hard work and tenacity. If you want to take your organisation to the next level then you need to have the best staff. Recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers means setting the bar high and never settling except for the best.

 Once you’ve got the right person, don’t forget to keep them!

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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