A journalist turned social worker
Social work student Georgiana Ndlovu on her career change from the press to practice – and the shared skills between the two professions
Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 12 January, 2022
You might not think it at first but I’d argue that my former life as a reporter has held me in good stead for a future as a social worker.
As a journalist I worked on local newspapers, teen magazines and even took a role with the regional BBC.
After 25 years, I took a break from reporting and conducted extensive voluntary work – helping everybody from the homeless to those who had been affected by substance misuse and domestic violence.
And you know what? I relished it. I was able to utilise well-honed journalistic skills in interviewing, report writing and evidence-based working while helping and empowering vulnerable people. It was satisfying, enriching and eye-opening.
I was able to explore my values of social justice and exposing the truth while helping members of the public with human interest issues. From the blind woman whose lifeline was cut off after her local bus service was stopped to the man who was suing his local hospital for malpractice it was hands-on grafting for the people and I loved it.
I also looked at single parents who were struggling to bring up their children and residents of a poverty-stricken estate with nothing to engage its large population of young people.
As a volunteer I relished the chance to advocate for people and it wasn’t long before other professionals were suggesting I retrain into social work using my transferable skills as a stepping stone.
So was the drive and determination of a young girl of 15 with visions of having her own office in Manhattan with ‘editor’ embossed upon the door forgotten?
Do not believe a word of it.
In my new role as a student social worker I am more ambitious and motivated than ever - yet this time it’s more about the people I am helping than having my own name in lights.
I still keep my hand in journalism. I was recently offered the chance to write a piece for a US based social work magazine and of course I am now a co-editor of London Metropolitan University's social work newsletter, The Loop.
I am planning to pursue a criminology PhD next year part time alongside work – to marry my passions for criminal justice and forensic social work and writing.
The journey never ends – and frankly why should it? I believe skills bought from other backgrounds can only extend the scope of social workers to fulfil their roles.
So what skills have I bought? Well, writing is an obvious journalistic skill, alongside interviewing, keeping evidenced-based records and translating complex principles into user-friendly copy - a skill in itself.
Sharing information and putting a spotlight on little-known issues is useful for social work as is communicating with members of the public far and wide to capture a story.
Storytelling of course is fundamental to journalists, who act as conduits narrating on real events and facts and this might be necessary for social workers representing their clients at interdisciplinary meetings or in court, for example.
Persistence, tenacity and self-motivation are key and the values of empathy, social justice and exposing the truth are concerns for journalists and social workers alike.
As a journalist I was often involved in advocacy reporting and as a social worker-in-the-making, human interest agendas like these are once again at the fore.
I was a proud journalist and I’m a proud social work student.
And I’m happy that I have not had to forgo my passion for writing for my new role when the two can work so beautifully together.
Moral of the tale?
Embrace the transitional skills that you have gleaned in your former work and life experiences and bring them full force into your social work practice.
You and your clients will thank you for it.
Georgiana Ndlovu is a MSc social work student with lived experience at London Metropolitan University about to start her final year placement
See February’s PSW for Georgiana’s article on how social workers can work with the media to get their message across