Celebrate

Become more than you are right now: A youth work specialist

As a parent I want to see my children have more opportunities than I did as a child. I want to see them become more than I became. I want to see them reach their fullest potential. As a youth worker I want to see the young people I work with reach their fullest potential as well. Becoming more than the sum of their parts. As a youth worker though, there was a time I was happy just to have finished my degree and been in a job I enjoyed. I did not want to grow, be challenged or reach for anything. I just wanted to sit still and ponder on reaching the top.
 

 

What I realised rather quickly was that you can never reach the top. Government policies change the landscape of practice. Our own yearnings lead us in new and undiscovered directions. Jobs that were around 10 years ago for youth workers do not exist now. We can not stop to long to smell the roses because the world will pass us by.
 
I have heard over the last year or so a number of youth workers express their satisfaction with where they are in their career journey. I must confess it worries me. It worries me to see 40 year old veterans still on the front with no leadership or mentoring responsibilities. It worries me to see people content to be generalist youth workers in a world of complexities. It worries to see degree qualified youth workers thinking they have reached the Utopian heights of education. In short I am worried about our profession.
 
Recently, the Victorian state government has stated that it will require minimum qualifications for youth workers in child protection. I think the idea of qualifications is great. What I do not like is the idea of minimums. They set the bar so low. It is an epidemic in the youth sector. Government, organisations and youth workers seem to set the bar extremely low. As a profession we rarely use words like excellence, outstanding or superior to describe our outlook. Imagine if a job advertisement asked for outstanding behaviour or superior qualifications, wouldn’t you be interested in looking a bit further???
 
I was speaking to a really passionate youth worker recently who was explaining that her work with young people experiencing issues with mental health was so rewarding but that sometimes the issues they were facing seemed to go beyond her skills. I asked if she had considered doing some more study like a grad cert in young people’s mental health or a bachelor of social work to gain some new skills. She bluntly replied that she was a youth worker and those courses would not be of help. It was if I had asked her to stop being a youth worker and become a monster instead. I often hear of youth workers who are counselling young people say that it is beyond them. Many of the youth work course that I know of have but one subject around counselling if at all. Yet when I ask if they would be willing to do a course or attend a few training sessions they can’t find the time. I once even heard a youth worker say that they would not do supervision with a social worker because they would not understand his practice.

 

In a world that is blurring the boundaries more and more we need to be fresh and up to the job at hand. We need more than a generalist youth work degree to get through the issues we are faced with. If we work in a clinical environment learn about it. If you work in the community, develop your understanding of community development. Do you counsel young people? Read something on narrative therapy or do a short course. We must become specialists in this new world of youth work. It is all well and good to do basic training, but you need your specialist skill sets to make it through the battle. We should all be generalists. But we should never stay that way.
 
What is it that your situation needs right now??? Counselling skills, supervision skills or maybe even community building skills. What does your next career step need? Management skills, financial skills perhaps even people development skills. When you think about the next 3 years of your career do you see yourself moving forward or do you see yourself doing the same thing? If you answered the same thing perhaps you need to think about it harder. Because the job you are doing now will not be the same in 3 years.
 
We need to step up or step off. If we step up we will be future focused and developmentally minded. If not, we should do everyone a favour and move on. The time for generalist youth work being the glorified mountain top is over. We are at the dawning of the age of the specialist youth worker. What will you specialise in?   
 
 

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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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What will youth work look like in 2013? The finale.

Its been a month and a half in the making but we are finally there. The finale of our series looking at the next twelve months or more in youth work. We have had blogger’s and professor’s of youth work from one end of the globe to the other. We heard from Shae and Stephen from youthworkinit.com, Sam Ross from teenagewhisperer.com, Professor Dana Fusco from CUNY and Professor Howard Sercombe from the University of Strathclyde. Each had their own perspectives on the current and future trends in youth work. Each brought a different perspective on what forces were pushing and pulling youth work. Each one had a particular pearl of wisdom for us. Today’s post is a wrap up of these posts with a focus on the similarities between them all. We will also give our view of the year ahead.

Wrap up

Our amazing guests spoke about a number of areas in which youth work will develop over the coming year. They spoke about youth worker education, technology, the economic situation and the need to be holistic in our practice.

Youth Worker Education

Dana Fusco spoke of the changes developing in youth work education world wide. In the US there has been a 900% increase over the past four years in youth development courses offered by higher education facilities. In the UK and Australia These courses are in decline. Dana laments the decline in youth work education, “In 2013, it is hard to predict where those who want to study youth work and youth studies in these countries will go. If they go into existing, related disciplines, e.g., social work, then youth work will too likely become case management; if they go into education, then youth work will become para-teaching“.

Howard Sercombe also laments the current education setting for youth worker’s. From developing a cozy little home for ourselves throughout the sixties and seventies to becoming a mainstream course in the nineties we sold our soul to the devil of higher education. Like all good corporate conglomerates the universities shafted us. Taking a subject area steeped in the tradition of practice wisdom and narrative and turning it into a McDonaldised cookie-cutter model of research-based best-practice. However true to our history we steered away from research which ultimately is leading to our higher education downfall. Conversely, Howard states, “For the first time, I can run a course for youth workers using a selection of books on youth work written by youth workers“.

Technology

In her response to the question Sam Ross states that she always thinks of the new technology on the horizon. Sam speaks of the massive uptake of mobile and smart phones by young people. She shows the statistics of American young people’s use of their phone and how much of their attention it takes…Are you on social networking sites? They are! Sam speaks of the need for youth workers to use this love of mobile technology to keep the attention of young people focused on what we want them focused on.

However Sam also implores us, “So while 2013 may be technologically more advanced and our ways of connecting and engaging may expand we shouldn’t forget that good youth work was the same in the past as it is today and will be tomorrow“. Its all about the relationship.

The economic situation

There is not a person alive today that can’t attest to the effects of the global financial crisis on the hip pocket. Everything seems to cost more today than it did yesterday. Even in countries like Australia which have had some reprieve from the tidal forces of the economic collapse the financial situation is difficult.  As Howard put it “Austerity measures have required significant cutbacks in local funding and this has carried through, often disproportionately, to youth work services“. But we are not the only ones feeling the pinch. Our young people are finding employment harder to gain, University fees have shot through the roof and the general cost of business has increased significantly.

For youth workers this means difficulties at every turn. Shae and Stephen state, “Over the last 25 years, the cost of university education in the US has more than tripled, which has resulted in 1 in 11 people defaulting on their student loan repayments within two years of making payments“. Many of our guests stated that this cost was prohibitive and that if you are one of those who are entering a university to study youth work then you are likely to pay through the nose and then struggle to pay it back.

If you rely on government funding or philanthropic support to run your organisation you may be short on funds for a while. Many governments are finding their budgets significantly in the red. Many philanthropic organisations have seen their investments dip over the past few years as well and are giving out less to allow for their continuation. Its not happening everywhere yet but as Howard said, “2013 may well be the year when the expected decimation actually happens“.

The need to be holistic in our practice.

Gone are the days where youth work happens in a silo. On any given day we are expected to hold a number of roles. Sam points out that our ability to build relationships with young people is core to our work and that this foundation is what we build on in our context. Shae and Stephen point out that young people do not live in silos but have lives with intersecting and overlapping parts. Work on one without the other areas being addressed is ineffective.

Dana states, “In the United States, youth work is not a unified or singular practice; rather, it has been described, and still is, a family of practices“. Its not just the states, its world wide.  We work from the same base but in different contexts. Our young people need us to have an understanding of more than how to run a good game. As copious as the needs of our young people are, the knowledge of a youth worker must equal… at least enough to refer to other professionals.

What will 2013 look like???

At Ultimate Youth Worker we have loved the guest posts over the last month and a half and have been pouring over them and a bunch of other research and have come to many of the same conclusions.  Technology is going to be more important this year than ever before. 12 months on from the death of Steve jobs saw the smart phone war at its highest. Exponential growth in mobile, web and personal technology has meant that the ability to communicate or gain information has never been more accessible. Youth workers need to become more tech savvy just to survive. New web applications, social media and even the ubiquitous email are more important than ever to our relationship building. As youth workers we believe there will be a shift to online training, both formal and informal. Blogs, webinars, podcasts, university course and professional development groups are all starting to toy with developing a solid presence on the web. With the hardware never more than arms length from most young people and youth workers we need to be there.

Youth work education will need to adapt. Aside from becoming more tech enabled we need to gain more breadth and more depth in our education. Young people are changing so fast that we need to keep up with the trends. We hang our shingle on our ability to develop relationships with young people. Good. But we need to develop this skill set. We are a relatively emergent human services field and as such need to develop our purpose, values and critical approach. This is depth. We also need to gain an understanding of where we fit in the multidisciplinary field that young people now frequent.  We need an understanding of who and what our colleagues in other field bring to the table. We need to understand their language, their approach and their skill sets. It is the only way we will be able to speak into their work and intervene for our young peoples best.

Money has never been more important and less relevant. The affect of the financial crisis is all around us and will continue to mess with us for years to come in ways we can’t even imagine yet. IT DOESN’T MATTER. The most effective tools in our toolkit are FREE or really cheap. Building relationships takes time. A facebook page can be accessed by free wi-fi at McDonald’s. A mobile phone plan is cheaper than ever. The tools to build relationships are time, energy and interest. Most youth workers have that in trumps. But that means we need to have them around. Youth workers need to feed their families too. With lay-offs happening throughout the sector worldwide there is fear of being cut. Like Howard says, its happened before. The cycle will return. Be the best you can be with what you’ve got and you will be one of the last to get chopped. 

Be more!!! Be holistic. What do you do when you have that relationship? We believe youth workers need to see young people as whole people in their context. We need a biopsychoscialspiritual focus. We need to understand the person, their context and their pathways out of their situation. We need to support our young people in every way we can. We also need to look after ourselves. As the stress builds and we are asked to become more and do more we need to have the reserves to keep going.

We also agree with Dana and Howard, Now is the time for an international presence developing the practice of youth work. We are seeing great international youth work research, texts, blogs, conferences etc coming to the fore. We need to build on this.

2013 holds possibilities and risks. We have  tried to play it safe for the last decade or more and have seen the rug being pulled out from under us. No more politically light weight youth work. We must band together and do it differently or we will see the death knell of what we hold dear… relationally based critical 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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Survival plan for the stressed youth worker.

Over the years I have become a keen survivalist. Not the crazy people with guns coming out their wazoo that you see on American YouTube videos, More like a less fit Bear Grylls. I can start fire by rubbing sticks together, get water to drink and build a place to live out of the materials around me. This means I am fairly self sufficient in the bush, A great comfort to me and my family when we go away. I still have a bunch of great gear that makes a hike more pleasant but I know that if stuff goes pear shaped I am able to deal with the ensuing issues.
 
 
I didn’t learn these skills the first time I tried them. It took practice and patience and the consumption of a lot of knowledge. I practiced and I read. I tried and I watched videos. I trialed theory and spoke to experts. I developed the basics and built on them. And I learnt that the basics of wilderness survival apply to youth work just as well as in the bush.
 
 

Food, Fire, Shelter and Water 

In wilderness survival you need to be able to source or find Food, Fire, Shelter and Water from any source you can to sustain and protect you. If you do not have these skills then the only thing you can rely on is what you have in you pack and the hope that you will stumble across a McDonald’s. Not exactly the best way to go into the wilderness.
 
The same goes for the wilderness that is youth work. As a youth worker you can either endure it with knowledge to help you survive or you can go in blind and live in hope.
 

Food

In Survival Food is often the last thing you need. It is most often the easiest to find. You can survive upwards of thirty days without food however, having it gives you the energy to keep going when the situation is bleak. There are many types of edibles plant and animal which provide sustenance and each of them is found to have its own flavour and texture.

In the wilderness that is youth work our food is usually the “food for thought”. We need to fill our minds with knowledge…food for thought. Like real food we can go a substantial period of time without it, but it does provide us with sustenance for the journey. Read a book, a blog or even a journal. Do a course, attend a seminar or a webinar. If all else fails have a coffee and a chat with a bunch of colleagues about a topic that has some meat.

 

Fire

Fire provides a place to cook, scares off the beasts and keeps you warm. Fire is almost always in the first two things I do when surviving in the wilderness. You get a sense of extreme joy and peace when your fire finally comes together. It lights up the darkness and takes away your fears.

 

It is similar to having good mentors and supports. A good mentor is hard to find but when you do they make you work…stoking the fire. You can rest your fears on them. They provide light on dark paths. They marinate your food and warm your heart. They also provide a place to sit with your thoughts were you can reflect.
 

Shelter

Depending on the situation shelter is either a small net to keep the flies away or a solid structure which takes days to build to suppress the elements. Shelter provides safety from the nasties and a place to regain your energy. Shelter is the only thing between you and the elements which could take your life in seconds.

 

Good policies and procedures provide the same role. They cover your backside from the elements. They keep small niggling pests at bay and provide clear walls and boundaries for your practice. When storms arise…and they will, policies and procedures keep the crazies outside while you are safe inside.
 

Water

Is the life giving elixir that you can’t do without. It cools you when your hot. It washes away the grime from the day. It eliminates waste and helps you digest your food. It is not always easy to find but is often the most important. If it is not number one it is usually number two on my list.

 

Water is similar to your values. You can’t do without them. The make you live. They cool you off when things get hot. When you feel uneasy (read dirty) about a decision your values will wash away the dirt. When you are packing on the responsibilities your values will help you to eliminate wasted effort. Your values make the knowledge you gain palatable and sustaining. Like water they take a bit of work to find and purify, but that makes them all the sweeter when you drink them in. Without your values you can not live for very long.
 
So there you have it. to survive the wilderness of youth work feed yourself as much knowledge as you can. Warm yourself by the fire of a good mentor. Shelter yourself in policy and procedures. Seek the life giving water that is your value system. With a little knowledge on survival you will stay alive in the wilderness for a long time. Same goes for youth work.
 

Remember: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. 

 
Have your survival kit fully stocked and your journey will be that much more comfortable.
 

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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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Read a book.

Ongoing Professional Development is one of the foundation pillars which underpin the Ultimate Youth Worker. However, it can be hard to gain enough GOOD development opportunities for us to grow in our abilities and careers. This can be difficult when our orginisations have such small professional development budgets, there is a shortage of worthwhile training and its hard to find the time to get away from the office. So how can we deal with these issues and still gain great develolpment???  Read a book!

So with the myriad of books out there how do you get a good one???

  1. Look for three great ideas
    • When you come across a book in a shop dont just grab it because the title was good. Don’t grab it because you like the look of a couple of chapter headings flick through a few of the pages and find three great ideas. What you consider a great idea may not be the same as the next person but three makes sure you are getting a top read. For me its looking for three ideas I can impliment immediately in my own practice.
  2. Check out the most recommended books on amazon.com
    • There are millions of books on amazon and at the time of this post there were 25,693 books which came up when I typed in youth work to there search engine. But don’t stop there. Read widely! Look at counselling skills, mental health, group work or any number of other areas of practice.
  3. Check out a reputable review of books

There was a story a few years back that may have been apocryphal but why ruin a good story. Apparently George W. Bush Jr read 95 books in one year whilst President of the United States of America. Some believe this to be a bit of a fishing story however if it is even half true then one of the busiest men in the world was still able to out read most people hands down.
How is your reading collection going? I currently have six books on the go as well as a number of journals (probably about my limit whilst retaining info). My Bedside table looks like a bomb went off. My professional development is my responsibility and reading a book is the easiest and most readily available mode. It is hard to find time, money or a good book. But as our friends at Manager Tools say, reading is one of the most important things a person needs to do each week.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and you will be kept up to date on all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker. Just add your details to the form at the top right of this page it’s all you need to do.

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And by all means leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter. It is a supportive community that makes us Ultimate Youth Workers.

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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Deep engagement in youth work

All too often in youth work we are forced to commit ourselves to shallow engagements with young people. Whether because of funding, policy or staffing constraints we are required to put aside relationship building to satisfy paperwork for bureaucrats. More and more young people are crying out for real support from youth workers, and more and more the squeeze of the bureaucrat tears our loyalty and professionalism in two. How can young people trust us when we can’t offer them the basis of trust…time?
 
In my mid twenties I was seconded to a small rural drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre as their Assistant Manager. I was excited. However that excitement barely lasted my first week. I was tasked with transforming the service into a dual diagnosis rehabilitation facility by our government benefactors within very stringent time lines and policy environments. One of my constraints was that a maximum stay with our service was eight weeks with many young people leaving before the sixth week. The government saw this as young people having an inability to stick at rehabilitation. I saw young people who did not trust the staff and could not develop lasting relationships in six weeks being oppressed by a system set up to help them.
 
 
I advocated for a change to our constrained time frames and was blocked. We showed client feedback and were countered by vagueties and innuendo. We even provided cost benefit analysis to the minister showing the need. Nothing. The idea of engaging with young people beyond a surface level was one which we just could not get the bureaucracy to understand. This led me to become as Schwartz and Sharpe (2011) a canny outlaw, Trading conventional wisdom for practical wisdom. I found every opportunity to keep a young person on for a second stay. I developed links to supported accommodation and provided staff to outreach to the young people. My rationale was that if we were to really effect change in our young peoples lives then we had to gain their trust and that required a deeper engagement than six weeks could provide. It was during this time that I began to develop my understanding of the need for deep engagement as a pillar of successful youth work practice.
 
Young people are seeking genuine care from youth workers. Care built on developed trust. To build this trust we must share life with our young people and this can only happen by spending time with them. I have worked in many corners of the youth sector, government departments, residential care, family services, homelessness and ministry; the same issue exists in every one of them. Policy constraints, lack of funding and a lack of trust from our young people. If we wish to turn the tide of societal disintegration we have to step into the gap. Our identity as youth workers places us in that gap. We believe that young people should have every opportunity to develop and the best way for that is to engage as deeply with them as possible. Sharing in their struggles, triumphs and developing a trust that can only come from a shared path.
 
 
 
We are accountable to many stakeholders as youth workers. In this role we must hold our accountability to our young people as our highest duty. To provide the best practice possible to our young people we must engage deeply and build trust. But how do we do it I hear you say? It is no easy feat. We will have to move counter culturally to the norm of current youth work practice. We must spend more time with our young people in meaningful activities rather than one hour appointments.
 
Deep engagement is difficult in our current service system however, it is the only way to build the foundation to work with young people to change their trajectory. Deep engagement is the benchmark for youth services provided by the team at Ultimate Youth Worker. It is also the central concept in all of our teaching, supervision and coaching around client engagement. We believe this so intensely that we routinely pass up work that is not geared towards enhancing engagement with young people. This is our number one imperative when working with young people. If you are not willing or able to engage deeply with young people do not engage at all! 
 
In coming months we will discuss how to engage deeply with young people, however it may require you to shirk the ‘rules’ imposed on you. Are you willing to become a ‘canny outlaw’ to support young people more effectively?
 

If you haven’t yet sign up for our newsletter, find out all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker by signing up using the form at the top right of this page. It is all you need to do.

 

 You can also sign up to have our blog posts sent straight to your email by adding your email to the subscribe button on your right.

 

You can also leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

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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Observe the C in DISC for youth worker’s

Over the last five weeks we have looked into the best tool we know of to help people build relationships with people the DISC behavioural profile. So far we have looked at three of the quadrents DOMINANCE, INFLUENCE and STEADINESS. This week in our ‘Thursday Think Tank’ we continue with the final quadrant in the profile and an overview of the CONSCIENTIOUSNESS behavioural style. People with this style are usually reserved and task focused.
 
 
Mr and Mrs facts and figures. People with high CONSCIENTIOUSNESS in the group are the epitome of dot your I’s and cross your T’s. They are slow to speak but when they do it is meticulous and ordered. They focus on task and process. They respect people who are precise and accurate. They often have a sterile work space. They are time conscious but not restrained by it. They are hard to read when it comes to body language and above all else want to be right! If these guys were a slogan they would be HTC: quietly briliant.
 
A person with a high level of CONSCIENTIOUSNESS in their profile is a rule follower. If there isn’t a rule they want one created. These people are usually polite and diplomatic. They will often communicate in writing over face-to-face. They do not focus on big picture but get down in the weeds, the detail. No abstracts or opinions here, They only discuss the facts. A high C can often get stuck in the old ways of doing things and systems of old and would rarely act without a precedent.

A high level of CONSCIENTIOUSNESS can lead to giving in to avoid conflict. They can be slow to act and do not see the forrest for the trees. They see the problems and can be critical of others. To make a decision these guys need every piece of information and every avenue of thought to be addressed… even then if there is any risk they may not act. They are thorough and persistent. They are matter-of-fact which can come accross as abrasive.

 

Here are our top seven tips for working with people with CONSCIENTIOUSNESS behavioural traits:

  1. Give clear expectations and deadlines: If you want a decision tell them that. Be clear about the time frame too. Don’t extend your timeline be clear that a decision needs to be made and when you want it done by.
  2. Show dependability: Let them know that you depend on their work and that they can depend on you to support them.
  3. Show loyalty: Back them whereevr you can. These guys don’t like conflict so will not argue with you if you go against them, they will just withdraw. If you can, Show them you are on their side.
  4. Be tactful and reserved: Even if you are going to go with another idea be supportive of them. They are not party animals so tone it down and focus on their knowledge and expertise.
  5. Honour precedents: If something has worked in the past and they bring it to your attention try to run with their idea. If there is a rule in place, even if it is unwritten, be aware and open to following it.
  6. Be precise and focused: this is similar to number one, however is more about how to do it. Do not leave any ambiguity. Be clear consice and if necesary say it twice. Set SMART goals and require them to report on their actions. Send your request in an email… they’ll love it.
  7. Value high standards: These guys expect perfection and then attempt to deliver it. When they want to have it perfect but you have a short timeframe express your thanks for their standards but explain the need for brevity. Hold it in high regard. Praise them for their effort. Let them know you still expect the highest possible quality within the timeframe.

 

 Some well known high CONSCIENTIOUSNESS behaviour holders you may know and have seen.

 
 
Colin Powell



 

 

Mr. Spock



 

 
Bill Gates



 

 
Kevin Rudd



 

 

Fred Hollows



 

 
James May

If you haven’t yet sign up for our newsletter to find out all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker. The form at the top right of this page is all you need to do.

 

 You can sign up to have our blog posts sent straight to your email by adding your email to the subscribe button on your right.

 


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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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Accountability through ongoing learning

Throughout my career I have met hundreds if not thousands of youth workers with varying levels of expertise, varying knowledge bases and within differing organisations. Whether they are eighteen or eighty (yes I have met an eighty year old youth worker) they all brought their understanding and experiences to their practice. The ones who I respected the most were the ones who had the guts to say they didn’t know something and asked how to do it. Whether it was looking at a new theory and not knowing how to translate it to theory or developing a program and not knowing the best evaluation methods recognising your limitations and seeking to gain education to fix this is the mark of a true Ultimate Youth Worker.
 
 
Recently I have met a handful of youth worker’s who have spent more than a decade in the field. These youth workers are in positions of leadership throughout the sector. They also have a limited understanding of youth work basics. They do not hold qualifications and believe that their knowledge level is ok. These workers are not held accountable for their practice by anyone. Because of their lack of accountability these youth workers have not been required to develop their skillset, their practice or their ethics.
 
One such worker stated to me that after thirty years in the field she did not know how to evaluate a program properly. She followed that comment up by saying that it was ok because she would leave program evaluation to her staff. I don’t believe that you need to know everything as a supervisor but you should have a basic level of understanding. This worker did not see her deficit as needing to be addressed. If she had stated that she wanted to know how to evaluate a program or that she was looking into some articles about evaluation this post may not have been written. We need to aim for excellence in youth work. We owe it to our clients, coleagues and community. Anything else is slack.
 
 
The fact is it is easy to fix. I do not know everything. I am the first to admit it. The rest of the team hear at Ultimate Youth Worker do not hold the ticket of all knowledge. Together we are not bad but we still don’t know it all. But we do ask questions, we read widely and attend every piece of training that we possibly can. The first step is to identify where there is a deficit in your practice. The second step is to seek a way to fix this deficit and to be a sponge of any knowledge you can find to aid you in this mission.  
A way to get your professional learnings right on your phone, tablet or computer
Until recently I had never written a social media marketing plan. I spoke to friends and colleaguews in the communications field. I read articles and blogposts and anything else I could get my hands on. I spent endless nights slaving over the keyboard and eventually I wrote my first social media marketing plan. I have also been working with a young youth worker who is developing his first project proposal. When we first spoke about what it would entail before he could open the doors to his first project he almost fell off his chair. The task seemed so big. It was unknown. A few chats and a couple of articles later and the task didn’t seem to scary. Knowledge is a powerful tool.
 
The other side to this coin is to have someone who will keep you accountable to ongoing learning. If you are blessed (or cursed as I may be) you may have multiple people who get you to think about multiple areas of your practice. The point is you never become an expert… you just become a life long learner. The education of an Ultimate Youth Worker is a life long commitment and a duty to be fulfilled. But more on that next week.

 

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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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Observe the S in DISC for youth worker’s

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at the DISC behavioural profile and its use for youth worker’s in developing relationships and networks. So far we have discussed the EXTRAVERTS of the group and we continue on with the PEOPLE focused groups today. This week in our Thursday Think Tank we continue with the third quadrant in the profile and an overview of the STEADINESS behavioural style.
 
STEADINESS is the nurturer of the bunch. The motherly figure. The thrive on small talk. They are the first people to ask you how you are going. They prefer to ask rather than tell. They love to listen rather than talking. They are the slow steady deliverers. Those that have a STEADINESS profile are often reserved and speak with a lower volume. These people will use first names and speak with a warmth that is genuine. STEADINESS behaviours tend to prefer speaking one-on-one rather than to a group. They speak calmly and methodically and are often seen as the steady ship when all around is chaos because they proceed carefully. These people often have photo’s all over their desk, are embarassed when praised but are the first to celebrate others and seem to be everyones friend. On the negative side they are often resistant to change, have difficulty prioritising tasks and sticking to deadlines. They struggle with systems and struggle with presentations and believing that their part in the grand scheme really is worthwhile. If these guys were a slogan they would be Optus: We hear you.
 
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A person with a high level of STEADINESS in their profile speak rarely. They want to check on how a decision will affect others and are slow to impliment tasks particularlly if there is not a precedent. These folk are all about the story…all 18 volumes of it. They want to be part of the team and let everyone have a say. The saying you have two ears and one mouth so listen more than you speak was written by a high S. When they do speak though it is at a hundred miles an hour…they have a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it.
 
It is hard to get a rise out of a high S. They epitomise the ostrich sticking their head in the sand. They shy away from any conflict as it goes against everything they stand for…Status quo and friends for all. They will rarely fight back, but if they do it is usually over the notions of justice and fairness. When they do fight back it is usually a quick explosion of how unfair an idea is and that as a person you are unfair because of your decision. It is also over as quick as they can make it happen as they want to get back to the way things were. Remember they are people persons.
 
 
 

Here are our top five tips for working with people with STEADINESS behavioural traits:

  1. Be logical and systematic: These guys struggle with priorities and systems but they need to have a plan of action, otherwise they would spend all day around the watercooler or at a cafe chatting about your life. set clear boundaries and timelines for task completion.
  2. Provide a secure environment: They do not like change! Make their environment as predictable as you can. Do not ask them to change thier password, move desks, do a rush presentation or lead a project that needs a quick resolution. Make them feel safe.
  3. Tell them about change early: If there needs to be a change, pre-wire them early. Give them a heads up. Provide time for them to become comfortable with the idea of change. Walk them through it step by step and address their concerns.
  4. Show how they’re important: If they do something great. Minimise your appreciation in public and be as sincere as possible in private. They struggle to feel their work is important so explain how they have made a difference.
  5. Teach them shortcuts: If you let them run the show it will take two days to make a cup of coffee! The conversations will take up all their time. They want consensus and a clear picture of everything that needs to be done. The key thought here is do not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Some well known high STEADINESS behaviour holders you may know and have seen.

 
Michelle Obama
 
Ghandi
 
Pope John Paul
 
Grant Hackett (Australian Swimmer)
 
Mother Teresa

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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Why youth worker’s need to embrace technology for professional development

Are we falling behind???
Are we becoming as obsolete as the home phone, the floppy disk or the hand held calculator???
Are we able to keep up with the rapid expansion of technology?
 
 
It used to be that if you needed your home stereo hooked up, your website developed or an email list for you group you could ask a youth worker and they would have an understanding of what to do…however rudimentary. However, over the past ten years I have seen an alarming trend towards a lack of technology use in youth work. Even worse, youth worker’s who do not have the skills to meet even the most basic of technological requirements.
 
 
 
A few years ago I was whimsically known in my organisation as ‘IT Support’. If any one in my team had an IT issue I was called in before we would call our organisations IT officer. How did I get this job you may be asking? Was it my years of study in IT? Perhaps because I was an avid gamer or computer nerd? conceivably, it was my years of university study where I used Microsoft Word on a daily basis. Actually, it was none of these! One day I helped my team leader to categorise and colour code her calendar. That is what made me the IT guru in my organisation.
 
Many of the ‘problems’ I was asked to fix in that team were pretty basic. As my wife says, it will ask you first if you really want to do something before you kill the machine. I fixed a few Word, Excel and PowerPoint issues and recovered a document or two, but nothing I would write home about. These skills were learnt by asking questions of people who knew more than me when I experienced those issues and then being able to remember what to do when it happened again. A small confession… I am the least tech savvy person in my friendship network.
 

With new technology coming onto the market every minute you would hope youth worker’s were at least keeping up, sadly if anything we are falling behind at an ever increasing speed.

 

Over the past few months I have read dozens of articles which lament the current situation and then implore people in the sector to embrace technology. Speaking of not-for-profit marketing Andy Lark, Chief Marketer for the Commonwealth Bank in Australia said Ten years ago, if someone had said there would one day be no more record stores or book stores, you wouldn’t have believed it. We will be the last generation to use a keyboard and a mouse. Technology is the force that changes everything.” Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President  said, Europeans are hungry for digital technologies and more digital choices, but governments and industry are not keeping up with them. Even former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, believes technology is the way of the future and that if we do not take these innovations seriously we will be in trouble. So if some of the key thinkers in the world believe that we need to embrace technology then why are we as youth worker’s falling behind?
 
There are a few reasons we at Ultimate Youth Worker believe that as a sector we are falling behind:
  1. Our organisations. Organisational policies and procedures have become quite stringent as a knee-jerk reaction to possible legal and ethical issues which arise from the use of technology
  2. Technology is changing so fast it is hard to keep up. If you do not devote time to seeing what is out there you can not keep up to date.
  3. Technology costs money. I worked in an organisation two years ago that were still running windows ME on their computers which were ten years old!!!
  4. It is not seen as a priority compared to face to face interactions with young people. Every day in Australia young people aged 15 and over spend approximately two and a half hours on the Internet. That is more than they spend with me as their youth worker!

 

So if it is important to our interactions with young people we should learn a bit about it right???

 
I was recently given the unpublished results of a survey from the UK where youth workers were asked how they preferred to take on professional development. No surprises, we prefer face to face contact. The biggest surprise for me though was that using technology to gain professional development was ranked lowest of 18 possibile choices.  A cursory look at some of our social sector colleagues shows that their use of technology for professional development is expanding. The Australian Psychology Society and the National Association of Social Workers in the US provide great online training opportunities for their members however, the world across there is little for youth worker’s. This MUST change!!!
 

Here are a few reasons this can and should change.

  1. Web based training is cheaper than other forms available. If and average worker is on $20 and hour and they attend a half day seminar that goes for 4 hours it costs the organisation $80 before they even get there. lets say it is in a major city and your organisation is in the outer suburbs, roughly an hour each way by transport is another $40 in lost productivity. Train tickets or petrol =$$$. Then there is the cost of the training. Is it catered, add more money. The average half day seminar in Melbourne currently goes for around $120.
    • The equation looks a little like this:
      • Conference attendance/lost productivity = $80
      • Transport/lost productivity = $40
      • Transport costs = $???
      • Parking = $???
      • Seminar cost = $120
      • Catering = $???
        • Total cost =$240+transport
          • Same seminar done online =$200 (no transport costs, no catering etc.)
  2. It is easier to attend. If your seminar is from 10am-2pm you can get to work at 9am and spend an hour catching up on emails. at 2pm when the seminar finishes you grab a bit to eat and are back at your desk by 2:30pm (and you had a snack or two at your desk while you were at the seminar). All you need is a computer with Internet access and a headset with a mic. Also you can attend training on the otherside of the world with great trainers just by getting online…No need for a $1000 plane ticket.
  3. Online seminars provide handouts etc online. Whether you are at a webinar, listening to a podcast or watching a pre-recorded PowerPoint most providers also give you access so that you can go again and print/save documents for future reference.
  4. Your boss won’t think you are playing hooky. From our experience we have found that many bosses struggle with sending staff to PD because they have issues with trusting that you will be there the whole time and actually pay attention.  It is usually not because you have given them a reason but they are remembering what it was lie for them. If you are in your cube or office and you are visibly doing your training then there is no reason to doubt you.
  5.  
     
These are just a few of our thoughts, we know there are many more. Obviously we are biased. We write a blog for youth worker’s because of the lack of available professional development. We use social media including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon and Pintrest to further the networks and development opportunities for youth worker’s who want to become the best they can be. We believe that online is not only the best but the only way forward for us as a sector seeking excellent professional development.

To that end we wanted to let you know what we have been up to for the last couple of months and what it means for you our loyal readers. Recently we asked you to complete a survey for us (if you haven’t there is still time) this has cemented our ideas on professional development needs in the sector. We have been getting our heads around some technology to provide some opportunities for exceptional, inexpensive, online professional development for Ultimate Youth Worker’s (if you want to better yourself you are one!). We have also been writing up our training packages to support your needs.
 

So what does this mean for you as a youth worker?

 
In December we will be launching our first ever webinar to support youth worker’s to develop a self care plan. Stay tuned for a date closer to the event (hopefully first week in December).
 
 

In late January/early February we will be launching our podcast. We are currently recording and are getting some amazing guest hosts to provide inspirational and informative content to support you and your practice. Stay tuned for our official launch party!!! Its going to rock.
 
 

Of course we will also continue to provide our social network with challenges, inspiration and questions so please get on board and like, follow or pin us where you can, and PLEASE tell your friends and colleagues. This revolution in youth services support can only happen with your involvement and a swell of numbers.

Thank you for your support and encouragement so far. If there is anything we can do to support you please let us know.

Aaron

     
 
 
 





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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Observe the I in DISC for youth worker’s

Last Thursday we began a looking at the individual quadrants within the DISC behavioural profiling system with “Observe the D in DISC for youth worker’s“. We are half way through our overview series and hope that you have been able torecognise some DOMINANCE behavioural styles in those around you. In this blog we continue the series with an overview of the INFLUENCE behavioural style.
One of the most exciting behavioural style to be around (and it is my secondary behavioural style) is that of INFLUENCE. The social butterfly or life of the party, people with thisbehavioural type often have large networks and seem to draw people to themselves. They are talkative, they over communicate, are born performers, are style setters, in teams they are the idea generators and they are very quick-witted. They are the most enthusiastic and active people you will ever meet and develop relationships quickly. They are fast starters and begin project with gusto. All of these positive adjectives are often linked to a person who is exhibiting a INFLUENCEbehavioural trait. On the other hand you have probably seen their negative behaviours as well. They work off intuition without reason. They can be highly emotional. They are sporadic and scattered. They start fast but rarely finish. They have too many projects on the go. If they were a slogan they would be Nokia: Connecting People.
 

 

A person with a high level of INFLUENCE in their behaviour speaks in a way that about 75% of us struggle to keep up with. They sell ideas with an inspiring style. They talk a lot at the 50,000 foot view but struggle to get down in the grass. They avoid bringing up difficult subjects but give good constructive feedback. They enjoy interaction and focus on the feelings of their subject intently. They get enthusiastically involved in discussions and often talk too much. They may not assess what is being said and can loseconcentration and get sidetracked easily. They speak in stories and anecdotes often from personal experience. They are prone to exaggeration and when excited they speak really fast and approachyou closely using lots of facial expression.
 
Most of us struggle to get a word in edgeways with a High I and we are confronted at the speed and tangential thinking present in their conversation… but we do enjoy their conversation. They do respect a smile, a pat on the back and seven conversations at once. So how do we work with these people when their excitement is off the charts and you are not really sure which conversation you are having with them?
 

 

Here are our top six tips for working with people with INFLUENCE behaviour traits:

  1. Approach them informally. These guys and girls hate feeling constrained. A meeting in an office with suits and ties and a policy document may just make them explode. A brief chat on the way to lunch or even a confab at their desk is the best way to get them on side. Do not start with facts and stats or a policy document it will make them throw a toddler tantrum.  
  2. Be relaxed and sociable. Even if you need to pull them into line be chilled out. These guys take their reputation seriously and if you are not sociable they will take it as a sign that you hate them.
  3. Let them tell you how they feel and how awesome they are. Yes the sun doth shine from their backside and you would do well to acknowledge this with a hearty nod of the head. They are the centre of attention and you are a tool for propping up their ego. Whilst they care about people it is hard to notice them through their haze of awesomeness.
  4. Keep the conversation light. Remember, they are up there in the clouds in the land of big dreams. It is a place where balloons pop very easily. You want to be a fluffy cloud and sharp grass. Details are the enemy. There is no pressure here. It should be like a trip to Tahiti.
  5. Provide written details to focus their attention. As those with INFLUENCE behaviours can be flighty and forgetful write things down and get them to take notes. It also helps when they begin to go on a tangent if their KPI’s are written down as you can steer them back on course.
  6. Use humour. Everything has a funny side… even paperwork!!! Try to lighten the mood by making a joke or finding a humourous take on the situation. If all else fails steal a Robin Williams skit. It will diffuse any tension and let them see you have a pulse.
Here are just a few people you might have seen on a TV that have INFLUENCE in their behavioural style.
 

Bill Clinton

 
Oprah Winfrey
 
Richard Branson
 
Dolly Parton
 
Robin Williams
 
Shane Warne (Cricketer)
 
Hamish Blake (Australian TV and Radio Personality)
 
Han Solo
 
Ellen DeGeneres

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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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