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10 Tools for Your Career as a Social Work Professional

March 26, 2019

Chances are you are interested in the field of social work because you’ve been told you possess one or more of the skills needed to be a social worker. But what are the social work skills required to launch you into a fulfilling and successful career?

1. Communication

Actively listening to clients, absorbing and thinking critically about their statements, then responding either in face-to-face interactions or in your writing is one of the most basic social work skills required for this profession. Skillful communication is also required for coordinating client care, dealing with colleagues and navigating the bureaucracies social workers come into contact with every day.1

2. Organizational Skills

Social work sits at the intersection of a client’s needs and the various relationships that make up their network of support. Social work professionals have many clients, so many that at times it can be tough to keep track of them all, so good note-taking skills and an organizational system are a critical tool in the social worker toolkit.2

3. Boundaries

There is a limit to what you can accomplish on a given day or with a given client. The ability to set boundaries is crucial to protect yourself from burnout. Setting clear physical and emotional boundaries is one of the social work tools you’ll develop as experience teaches you how much you have to give.

4. A Code of Ethics

In this field, there is very little black-and-white decision-making. The client issues you encounter will be difficult to manage without your own code of ethics guiding your decision-making. It’s part of why your course of study is so crucial; one of the most important characteristics of a social worker is the ability to learn and develop your own sense of what is appropriate and what kinds of encounters should be avoided.3

5. Personal and Professional Support

Being a social work professional is personal work, which means you’ll need your own network of support to keep you going when times get tough. Making time for colleagues and your own friends and family is not a luxury, it’s essential. You need somebody to support you, too.

6. Persuasion and Coordination

You’re going to encounter a lot of sticky situations as a social worker, where everyone seems to be working at cross-purposes with one another. One of the skills needed to be a social worker is the ability to get everyone on the same page. You need to be able to gently but firmly get everyone to commit to working toward a common goal. Which means you’ll need a lot of...

7. Patience

Some days it will feel like hardly any progress is being made, or worse, like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. That’s part of the job, and learning to manage your feelings in those situations is one of the most vital skills for social work.

8. Professionalism

Professionalism isn’t just how you treat your clients, it’s how you represent the field of social work to everyone you meet. People you meet may not understand what a social work professional does, or may have a negative impression from inaccurate things they’ve heard in the media. By behaving responsibly and with expertise, you can help promote the field.

9. Continuing Education

There are numerous professional associations for social workers (National Association of Social Workers, Council on Social Work Education, Clinical Social Work Association, just to name a few) and all of them offer networking opportunities and access to continuing training throughout your career. Take advantage of these opportunities to continue your development as a social work professional.

10. A Commitment to Self-Care

You can’t help anyone if you’re burned out. You got into this field because you have a lot to give, but everyone has limits. Recognizing yours and managing them through rest and self-care is one of the social work skills that’s absolutely essential to a long and fruitful professional career. Remember to take a break and recharge as often as necessary so that you can get back out there and continue making the world a better place.

If you’ve got the makings of a great social worker and you’re ready to take your career and passion to new levels, check out the online Master of Social Work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and answer your true calling.

1 Retrieved on March 5, 2019, from thebalancecareers.com/list-of-social-work-skills-2063769
2 Retrieved on March 5, 2019, from humanservicesedu.org/skills-socialwork.html
3 Retrieved on March 5, 2019, from socialworker.com/feature-articles/career-jobs/9-tools-for-your-professional-social-worker-toolkit/