Social workers play an incredibly important role in society. At its core, social work is all about helping families work through difficult situations, such as dealing with divorce and helping someone overcome their drug addiction. With such a crucial role, social workers must put in everything they have every day.
Knowing what you need to do to go above and beyond in a career isn’t always easy. Whether you are considering becoming a social worker or are already well into your career, here is how to excel each day.
Begin with a Great Education
The first step to excelling at something is learning everything there is to know about it, so find the best social work course that suits your needs. You can become a social worker with a bachelor’s, but if you want to work in a more clinical role, then you must acquire an MSW.
When studying for either your bachelor’s or MSW, you must put everything you have into it. This means creating a study schedule and sticking to it, keeping up to date with all your work, and making connections while you are there. Remember, education is the time to make mistakes, so don’t be afraid of voicing your opinions and questions. The more you learn while studying, the better you will be when you get your social workers’ license.
Don’t worry if you feel you have little time to spare for education, as there are plenty of online courses out there. If you want to do your masters, then you can take an MSW course online, allowing you the flexibility to work around your other responsibilities.
Gain as Much Experience as Possible
If you want to become a clinical social worker, you must complete at least two years after your MSW. Of course, not every social worker needs to do this, but work experience is always essential. The more experience you have, the more likely you are to succeed. While you can learn a lot in the classroom, there are parts you can only discover when on the job, including how you react when confronted with a difficult person.
Fortunately, when doing your bachelor’s or MSW, you will have the opportunity to go on placements. Not only does this mean you can gain the experience required, but you will also have people there to guide you in your work before qualifying.
Make Plenty of Friends
Social work isn’t always easy. You will have to deal with messy situations, and sometimes they will leave you feeling drained. Having stable friendships will help you get through this.
You should start by making friends when studying for your MSW. Having like-minded people who understand your situation will make talking about your problems much simpler, as they will completely understand what you are going through. If you’ve had a difficult day, nothing is quite as relieving as meeting up with friends and letting everything out of your system.
Up Your Conversational Skills
Chatting is a large part of social work. You will chat with your co-workers and your clients daily, so you must have excellent conversational skills. This is especially crucial when you are talking to clients. Each day, you will meet many different people, all from varying backgrounds. While your primary goal is to provide solutions, you must also make them feel better about the situation they are in and calm them down if anything gets out of hand. The responsibility is enormous, and being a good communicator will help you achieve success.
Alongside conversational skills, you must also be a great listener. Some days, you will have a long to-do list and need to see a large number of clients, each with their own problems. No matter how many situations you’ve dealt with that day, you must give your entire attention to whoever you are meeting with at that moment.
Every person has a different story, and every single word they say is important. Not only will listening help you make the best decisions, but it will also show your clients that you have respect for them and their words.
Look on the Bright Side
Being a social worker is anything but easy. You will see some terrible family situations, and there will be times that they bring you down and make you view the world negatively. To push through, you must adopt a positive outlook on life.
It helps to remember that, no matter how many negative experiences you must deal with, you are contributing to a better society.
Have a Sense of Humor
One way to ensure you look on the bright side is to have a great sense of humor. This means that, while you should always remain professional, you must also make light of situations when you can. You’ll be surprised by how much this will help you get through even the darkest of days! Plus, your clients will appreciate your ability to make them laugh even when they are going through a rough time.
Have Real Empathy
When working as a social worker, it is not enough to have sympathy for your clients – you must also have genuine empathy. Sympathy makes you feel sorry for a person, while empathy helps you understand things from their point of view, which is what you need to do to provide them with the best help possible.
Some people are naturally empathetic, while others need to work on it. If you have a genuine passion for doing your MSW and becoming a social worker, then the chances are you already have enough empathy to get you through.
Know How to Prioritize
As a social worker, you will have a large number of clients to work with. This can prove tricky at times, especially when you want to give all your efforts to everyone who needs it. Knowing how to prioritize will help you here – if you have a client who is particularly struggling and whose needs are bigger than others, you must recognize that and meet with them sooner.
Improve Your Writing Skills
You won’t just need excellent spoken communication skills to excel as a social worker; you must also be a proficient writer. This is because a lot of your day will be spent on your computer solving problems and communicating via email. Due to this, you should learn how to express yourself succinctly when writing, so the person at the other end knows exactly what you are communicating.
Your writing skills will improve while you do your bachelor’s and MSW, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve on them after that. If you find that it is an area you struggle in, consider taking some courses to hone your skills.
Manage Children Well
Most social workers often work alongside children, which means you must know how to manage them properly. Speaking to children is much different from speaking to adults – they are much more vulnerable and won’t always understand the situation they are in, especially if they are very young. Some children will be harder to manage than others, especially those in particularly tough situations. Learning how to calm them down and make them feel better will help your job immensely.
Your clients will appreciate honesty. There is no point in promising anything you cannot deliver, as you will only lose the trust your client had with you. Instead, focus on being as open and honest as possible. This might not be something you learn while doing your bachelor’s or MSW; but it is important for being a reliable and trustworthy social worker.
Look at the Situation from All Perspectives
As a social worker, it is your responsibility to deal with a situation in a fair manner. This means that, while you are speaking with a family, you must take all perspectives into account. Situations are rarely straightforward, and it will take you empathizing with every person involved to be able to come up with the best solution possible.
Separate Home and Work Life
What you see and deal with each day mustn’t go home with you. If it does, then you run the risk of becoming stressed and not making time for self-care.
You should practice keeping your work life separate from home when studying for your bachelor’s of MSW. Keep your studies limited to when you are at college or studying at home, but let yourself fully enjoy yourself and relax on your time off.
Learn from Others
You don’t just wake up one day and instantly become an excellent social worker – you must work hard and learn from others. When you are studying for your MSW, you should absorb everything your professor says and use it when on the job, but they aren’t the only person you can learn from.
You will meet many other social workers throughout your career, all of whom have slightly different methods. To become the best social worker you can, you should aim to learn at least one new thing from every single person you meet.
Keep Up with the Community
Social work isn’t all about individuals; it’s about helping families and people to better the community overall. This means that if you want to perform to the best of your ability, then you must keep up with what is going on in the community.
By knowing the problems that the community is facing all around, you will gain a better understanding of what your clients are going through. If there have been mental health cuts, for example, and your client struggles with anger or anxiety, you will be more understanding about the struggle for getting therapy.
Learn to Manage Your Emotions
When it comes to social work, you must do your best to keep your emotions in check. You will be dealing with many unfortunate and upsetting situations and even ones that will make you angry. No matter how much you want to show your true feelings, you must keep them inside to remain professional and help your clients.
Some days you will deal with clients who aren’t friendly to you. This is an unfortunate side of the job, but one you must be able to brush off. Remember, you can’t take what they say personally, as your priority is to provide care.
Learn the Signs on Mental Illness
While not all of your clients will deal with mental health problems, a lot of them will. Some of them will be diagnosed, but some won’t, and it is your responsibility to notice the signs.
You will most likely learn how to do this while studying for your bachelor’s or MSW, but you still need to remind yourself from time to time. Recognizing the signs of mental illness and providing a client with the right help can truly transform a life.
There is no set routine when it comes to social work – don’t expect a career that is a simple nine until five with a neat list of meetings. Instead, you will have a long list of tasks and the responsibility of prioritizing them. Sometimes, when emergencies happen, you will have to alter your plans for the day to accommodate that, which means flexibility is a must.
Look After Yourself
You cannot excel as a social worker if you are stressed and burned out. To provide the care that your clients need, you must make sure you look after yourself.
To do this, you must eat a healthy diet, get enough exercise, and give yourself enough time alone. If you ever feel like stress is overtaking your life, do not be afraid to seek the help of your doctor or a therapist, as there are ways to manage it.
Social work is both difficult and fulfilling. For all the difficult clients, you will also experience ones who make you remember the better parts of humanity. By staying strong and focused, you will provide your clients with excellent care and succeed as a social worker.