Secret social worker: ambition

Lila Halliday is unashamedly heading for the top

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Something I’ve always been aware of in social work is a lack of willingness to be overtly ambitious. To be ambitious in social work is to have a desire to step away from the people you came into the profession to help. It’s to walk into roles that ally you to The Man. Social work is an inherently subversive profession. We see how our society’s systems disadvantage people, how cruel life’s unfairness actually is, we work to level the playing field, we work to subvert the system.

The term Career Social Worker is sometimes bandied about like a dirty word. People who are ambitious can be seen as self-serving and social work is about the service of others. I am here to proclaim loudly that I am a Career Social Worker and I’m proud of it.

I went into management early in my career and have now been a manager longer than I was a social worker. Sometimes I feel this disadvantages me and feel that I should have stopped for a minute and enjoyed what I had as a social worker for longer. But now I am where I am – a bit higher than first line management – I have stopped and taken time to enjoy it.

I had many reasons for aspiring to management. Many social workers feel frustrated with their managers. Mine were brilliant but I always thought I could do it better. I couldn’t. Management is hard and there are things you don’t see that influence decisions you think are unfair. I had spent all my adult life with a young family and, quite frankly, broke, so I thought the money would be good, and it is. Mostly though, I couldn’t bear subverting the system one case at a time and not really getting anywhere with the bigger issues. The problems I could see came from the top down and the only way to change them was to be at the top – so that’s where I’m heading.

I want to get as far as I can in social work. That could look like any number of things – the head of council or a central government position, if I’m ever considered worthy of such positions. I am not ashamed to say that I want to get ahead and some of that is about supporting my family and my own pride, but mostly I know that’s how I can have the most impact. We live in a deeply unfair society and as social workers we see that from cradle to grave. I don’t believe that anything I can do in my lifetime will fix it but I’m going to try and have as big an impact as I possibly can. Wish me luck.

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