The string to my kite: How supervision contributes to the development of a newly qualified social worker’s professional identity


  • Lynn Bruning NMIT/Te Pūkenga, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Kathryn Hay Massey University, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Kieran O'Donoghue Massey University, Aotearoa New Zealand


Supervision, newly qualified social workers, professional identity, social work education


INTRODUCTION: A social work professional identity is constructed through a period of education and training, including workplace experience. For students transitioning to professional work post-qualifying, there is a period of significant adjustment, requiring an anchor from which professional identity can continue to develop and grow. The study reported in this article aimed to explore how newly qualified social workers perceived supervision as the string to their kites, anchoring them to their professional foundations.

METHOD: A qualitative methodology using semi-structured interviews explored the experiences and views of eight newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) in relation to the continuing construction of their social work identity, the challenges they faced in their transition and adjustment to their new professional status, and the role they regarded supervision had in facilitating this process.

FINDINGS: An analysis of the narratives indicated that the NQSWs regarded supervision as essential in building confidence and professional autonomy and ensuring they remained engaged in the construction, maintenance, and ongoing shaping of their professional identity.

CONCLUSION: For NQSWs to successfully navigate the transition and adjustment from student to professional social worker, frequent and regular access to quality supervision in their first-year post-qualifying was highly valued in supporting safe practice and professional identity development. Ensuring a more intensive approach to supervision in the first year of practice presents both a challenge and an opportunity to social work employers and the regulatory body that sets standards for the social work profession in Aotearoa, New Zealand.


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How to Cite

Bruning, L., Hay, K., & O’Donoghue, K. (2024). The string to my kite: How supervision contributes to the development of a newly qualified social worker’s professional identity. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 36(1), 89–101. Retrieved from



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