Tom Hogg (2013) on making a difference after graduation
After graduating last summer with a BA in Law, Tom Hogg blogs about his career and his determination to make a difference.
Children’s Services covers a wide range of activity. My work so far has consisted of supporting children in need, and offering help to families to overcome particular issues that are detrimentally impacting upon the welfare of the child. I’ve already worked with people suffering from mental illness, learning disabilities and substance misuse.
I’m constantly inspired by the other social workers in the department, and the fact that the job gives you the chance to be creative, and be your own leader. The direct work with children demonstrates this, and often it’s the best part. My day job regularly sees me kicking a football round the park or playing with Lego. Doing activities which the children enjoy helps to build a good relationship and helps me understand how they see their world.
Social work is ultimately about helping people and ensuring the safety, happiness and wellbeing of children. But that in itself is a huge task, especially given the extent of the personal and social problems many families face. The biggest challenge is knowing how to juggle all these issues while keeping your work child focused.
What Cambridge did for me
I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the emotional side of this work. Working with people and trying to resolve their very real, and very difficult, problems is an emotional task and no training or education can really prepare you for it. That being said, what Cambridge did give me was an ability to examine issues from various perspectives, and consider them in a deeper context.
Problems in life, and the problems the law often tries to resolve, are often deeper than they first appear. So the law and practice often need to go further, and you need to look to other factors that impact on the life of the child. Cambridge prepared me to look deeper for answers and examine cases in finer detail.
I guess my motivation is broadly the same as the university's - I want to make a positive change in the world. At the moment I feel the best way for me to do that is to be on the ground, in a frontline social work role. The teaching at Cambridge definitely strengthened this desire.
Studying the family law paper allowed me to explore the cases, the policy, and the political and ethical contexts in which social work operates. Having an academic insight into all these issues is useful, but I’ve always been driven to act on what I learn. Training to be a social worker is allowing me to fully appreciate how law and practice come together. I hope that with the solid understanding of law I gained from Cambridge, I can help vulnerable children and their families. Indeed, one day I hope I can influence the law and policy, combining both my degree knowledge and my social work experience.
I think the biggest thing I’ve gained from my work is a real awareness of quite an obvious fact – we were all children once, and our upbringing has a direct impact on our future prospects in health, education, and future social mobility. This will influence my career direction because I want to continue helping children and vulnerable people through difficult periods of their life. I may well stay in social work for many years or I might move into family law practice. Having the grounding in social work could be quite helpful, as I hope I would be able to empathise with both the Local Authority and the family, and from that hopefully I can achieve the best outcome for all involved.
Applying to Cambridge
I went to Durham Johnston Comprehensive School in Durham. No one in my family had been to university, so I had very little knowledge about higher education in general, let alone Cambridge. I obviously knew it was a top university, but in terms of the application process, I had little idea what was going on.
The open day gave me the opportunity to see Cambridge for myself and come to my own decisions about whether this was the right place for me, and whether I wanted to pursue an application. When I began to apply, I often found myself feeling in two minds about it. On the one hand, I felt like I was just applying on a bit of whim, with a 'might as well give it a go' attitude. Other times I felt I might be making a bad decision, and found myself constantly justifying myself to other people. Some teachers were incredibly supportive, but the myths of Cambridge were definitely present.
But the positive attitude, and sticking to my gut instinct of ‘just give it a go and see what happens’ paid off. As soon as I started at Cambridge I realised that it was nothing like what people had said to me. Although people in general were absolutely spot-on with one thing - it was hard work! But it came with so many benefits and opportunities. Jesus College was such a friendly and welcoming place and I got to know so many other students so fast.
This article has been written by Tom Hogg and the opinions expressed are those of the author. The original article was published on the University of Cambridge website.