Professional careers involve a number of transitions from one role or activity to another (Arnold, 1997) and one of these transitions is particularly learning intense; the move from professional education into early professional employment. There are two broad perspectives for viewing this transition. The first is that the learning acquired through professional education prepares the individual for employment. The second is that professional education can only teach general information which must be transferred, applied and situated in work contexts (Zucchermaglio & Alby, 2009). This transition can be seen, not as a moment in time, but rather as a prolonged adjustment with multiple phases (Wendlandt and Rochlen, 2008) which build towards cohesion or fragmentation (Moriarty et al, 2011). Using semi-structured interviews with newly qualified social workers in Ireland, this study examines the ways in which social workers situate and contexualise their professional knowledge and skills through early professional practice. It explores the factors that promote effective learning in the practice setting and how newly qualified social workers fill in the learning gaps that professional practice presents. This study also helps to illuminate the sometime uneven learning pathways that can mark this key transitional journey (Holden and Hamblett, 2007) particularly for those in a profession devoted to social justice who must learn to reconcile ideals with the realities of practice.