Every March, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) celebrates the profession by calling attention to the work and accomplishments of its members. Choosing “Generations Strong” as this year’s theme, the NASW wants to recognize the country’s more than 700,000 social workers,1 from those who are just entering the field to those with decades of experience. With 2020 marking the beginning of a new decade, this month is an opportunity to look back at what social workers have accomplished and also look ahead to their future.
From individuals to communities, social workers impact much of society, so there’s no shortage of ways to recognize both the past and future of the profession. At Yeshiva University, we see every day the ways our students, alumni and faculty are creating positive change. In honor of National Social Work Month, we’ve identified five ways to celebrate by raising awareness and taking action yourself.
Connect With Social Workers
Across the country, chapters of the NASW are hosting events to celebrate social work month, but don’t stop there. Also check online to see if the organization is hosting any other volunteer or learning opportunities that seem like a great fit for you. From continuing education to advocacy campaigns, there are many ways for you to get engaged with the work your local chapter is doing and connect with other social workers.
Recognize a Colleague
Celebrate National Social Work Month by celebrating the great people around you. Find someone in your life, whether it’s a coworker or mentor, and ask if they’d be comfortable if you gave them a shout-out in the workplace, at a professional event or even on social media. The field of social work can be a challenging one, but it’s also filled with dedicated, hard-working individuals. Taking a moment to recognize someone’s storied career, or a younger worker’s bright future, can be a small but meaningful way to honor those who have and will make a difference.
Bring New Life to an Old Issue
The 2020 theme of NASW’s National Social Work Month is intended to highlight the past accomplishments of the field. That includes taking a look at some of the issues social workers have made such great strides on, from advocating for the minimum wage to pushing for increased access to medical and mental health care. Start advocating for a new social justice cause—or find inspiration from the past and commit to furthering those causes. For example, healthcare is still an expensive burden for many in the U.S., and nationally the minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009.2
Share the History of Social Work
The NASW encourages its members to write letters to the editor for National Social Work Month. The organization’s sample press releases and letters highlight just some of the ways social workers have shaped our world today. You can follow those initiatives up by raising awareness on social media as well. This is a great opportunity to do research on some unsung heroes in this profession (and for you to learn more about its past accomplishments). Jane Addams might be the most well-known social worker, but there’s a long history in the U.S. and abroad of trailblazers, like Harry Lloyd Hopkins, who ran the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, or Helen Harris Perlman, who was an early pioneer in the field of short-term psychotherapy.3
Build New Relationships
Whether you’re already a social worker, plan to become a social worker or are just considering it as a potential career option, there’s a great deal to learn by talking to others in the field. Grab a coffee with a friend, instructor or acquaintance—especially if they work in a different specialty—and ask them about their experience and the struggles they have faced. Focus on learning more about their day-to-day experiences and share a bit about yours. Talk about the policies and red tape that hinder your work and new strategies that have helped you do your job better. This can be a great way to learn from others and to educate yourself on what to expect before entering the field.
Recognizing Social Work’s Impact and Your Own
Social work has made an impact on a national and international scale, but at its heart, its ultimate goal is to help individuals lead better lives. Whether you’re considering a career in social work or are ready to take the next step in your career, Yeshiva University’s online Master of Social Work can help you prepare for the challenges ahead, so you can find out how rewarding this career can really be.
1 Retrieved January 31, 2020 from socialworkers.org/news/social-work-month
2 Retrieved on January 30, 2020 from pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/04/5-facts-about-the-minimum-wage/
3 Retrieved on January 30, 2020 from naswfoundation.org/Our-Work/NASW-Social-Work-Pioneers/NASW-Social-Workers-Pioneers-Bio-Index