Everyone wants to do well in their career. It isn’t always easy to stand out, though, especially when others have the same goals as you do. For social workers, standing out takes more than just showing up to work on time and getting through a long task list. It’s a role that requires real human connection and communication – something that can’t be done without genuine care and passion.
A social worker’s drive comes from their desire to help those in need. From there, it takes endless drive, commitment, and a whole lot of learning. If you want to go above and beyond in your social work career, use this guide to standing out as a social worker.
Get Your MSW
The better educated you are, the better you’ll be at your job. Not only is a master of social work necessary for increased knowledge, but it also shows recruiters that you are experienced and serious about your line of work. Don’t worry if you are already in full-time work, as there are online courses that you can work toward on the side. Have a look at advanced standing SW for a master’s course that is flexible to suit your schedule.
Network with Other Social Workers
Networking is an integral part of getting ahead in most careers, and that includes social work. The more people you know, the more you will stand out, so network with as many social workers as you can. This should usually start during education when you are surrounded by lots of other future social workers, so make friends there and keep in touch.
Work on Your Interpersonal Skills
Social work involves a lot of one-on-one communication, which means your interpersonal skills must be excellent. The chances are you are already committed to working well with others, but there are usually areas you can improve. You might be a great listener, for example, but you could work on positive body language.
When it comes to social work, you must aim to be a person who makes others feel comfortable and at ease. After all, you won’t just be handling polite and understanding individuals – there will be a lot of tough clients. The better your interpersonal skills are, the better you’ll be at handling those situations.
Be Involved in the Community
You can usually understand the root of people’s problems by looking at the community. Wherever you work as a social worker, it’s important to get to know the community fully so that you can understand your client’s lives a little better. Talk to more people, visit community centers, and join online community groups to integrate yourself better.
Look After Your Own Health
Every career comes with hardships, but social work can be especially challenging. While there are plenty of positive moments, especially when you get to see a client thrive after going through a bad situation, there are also times you have to witness the sadder side of humanity.
No matter how emotionally strong you are, you must be able to recognize when you’re hitting a wall and need a little help. Remember – your health is just as important as anyone else’s, so get to know the signs of burnout and look after yourself if they rear their ugly head. The better you look after yourself, the better you’ll be at your job.
Listen to Feedback
Whether you receive feedback from a client or your superior, you must listen to it. No social worker is perfect in their practice, especially at first, but you might not always know the areas you need to improve. By listening to feedback and actively seeking it out, you will gain a better understanding of what you need to work on, allowing you to blossom into the best social worker you can be.
Manage Your Time Effectively
Organization is essential for all social workers. When you are working with multiple vulnerable clients each day, you don’t have room for lateness or missing documents. To ensure you stand out as a social worker for all the right reasons, then, you must learn to manage your time effectively.
Have a Sense of Humor
Social work involves a lot of emotions – both good and bad. To make sure you keep a lighter state of mind, you should try to have a sense of humor. Not only will this help you, but it’ll also help you connect with your clients better. Just be sure to read the room, as not every situation calls for a light-hearted joke!
Read a Lot
Your learning as a social worker never truly ends. There are always discoveries about sociology, psychology, and healthcare, not to mention how society is ever-changing. To keep up to date with it all and ensure it reflects in your work, get into the habit of reading a lot. There is no shortage of books for social workers out there, and you can also keep up to date with the latest social work news through journals and blogs.
Learn from Your Supervisor
In your early days as a social worker, you will be assigned a supervisor, and they are a pivotal part of your journey. To make the most of them, watch what they do and how they work with clients. You’ll likely pick up plenty of tips along the way, from the best way to take notes to how to react in difficult situations. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either. Even if you’ve attained your degree, there’s still a whole lot to learn.
Be an Active Listener
Communication skills are a must for social workers, but that doesn’t just mean being a good talker – you must also learn how to actively listen to your clients. You’ll be dealing with a lot of different clients one on one, and you’ll need to listen to their issues with your full attention so that you can help them in any way you can. Pay attention to body language as well as the words said, as that can also tell you a lot about the way someone is feeling.
Don’t Expect Instant Results
Many new social workers think that they can change a person’s life within a couple of meetings, but that usually isn’t the case. In fact, you won’t always be able to help every client, and you need to come to terms with that. Instead, focus on the things you can control and where you can help, and that will be where you shine the most.
Work on Your Resume
If you want to impress a recruiter, then you’re going to have to work on your resume. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have or how well educated you are – if your resume includes grammatical errors or a bad layout, recruiters won’t want to hire you. Remember, social workers are all about patience, and a shabby resume doesn’t demonstrate that you have the patience or skills to create a well-read document. If you need some extra help with your resume, have a look at social work resume examples online.
Stay Calm Under Pressure
A lot of pressure comes with being a social worker. After all, you have several vulnerable clients relying on your advice and help, which is often overwhelming. It’s important to stay calm under pressure no matter what, though, as freaking out will only show incompetence for the role. Being able to address tough situations with a sense of calmness shows reliability – a trait that will help you stand out.
Look for Opportunities to Grow
The chances are you won’t stay in the same social work job for your entire career. There are always more opportunities out there, so keep an eye out and look for opportunities to grow, specifically in areas where you thrive.
Once you’ve spent some time as a social worker, you will have a better idea of where you work best. You might realize you want to work specifically with families, in a school, with domestic violence survivors. By choosing a social work career that’s right for your talents, you’ll have a better chance of standing out.
Expand Your Credentials
There are lots of social work credentials and certifications you can gain throughout your career, so try to expand yours as much as possible, as that will show your range of experience. For example, after achieving your MSW, you might want to get a LAPSW to become a Licensed Advanced Practical Social Worker.
Commitment is the root of all successful social work careers. It’s not an easy job by any means, but no matter how challenging the day is, you must be able to commit your time and efforts to help the people in front of you.
There are lots of brilliant social workers out there, which means standing out will take more than a little hard work. By committing to the role and always seeking new opportunities to learn and grow, though, you will soon shine in your field.