A social worker is someone passionate about becoming a voice for vulnerable people in the community and helping solve their problems.
As a social worker, you will be in charge of assisting people dealing with mental, emotional, and behavioral challenges.
The profession is quite demanding, and it requires you to wear many hats – advocate, case manager, counselor, administrator, etc.
To set foot in these diverse job roles, you need to gain in-depth knowledge and expertise. However, your education is not enough to be successful in your career. You also need to hone some essential skills to meet the demands of your job and take your social work career to the next level.
Although there is no definitive list when it comes to what essential skills a social worker needs to be successful in their career, listed below are common but critical skills that every aspiring social worker must develop:
Being a professional social worker requires you to practice lifelong learning. As a social worker, you must be updated with the latest laws and regulations.
After all, knowledge of laws and regulations of a community, you can’t tackle your client’s case. So if you wish to be a leader in your field, pursuing an msw online degree might be an ideal option.
The degree equips you with the principles of social justice, diversity, ethical practice, and human rights. With an online program, you can learn at your pace and from the comfort of your home.
Social workers work with different clients; hence, they should communicate effectively. In addition, their variety of job responsibilities – advising, teaching, supervising – all demand these professionals to have strong communication skills.
As a social worker, you must be clear with your clients about what service you provide and how you will assist your client with their problems.
Moreover, developing verbal and non-verbal communication skills can help your client be comfortable to open up to you about whatever is happening in their lives.
- ACTIVE LISTENING
When facing a problem, it isn’t easy for some people to talk about it. How do you expect to assist your client if you don’t even know their situation?
Therefore, your active listening skills can come in handy here. Moreover, being attentive towards your client is a great way to earn your client’s trust and respect.
As an active listener, ensure you pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues and try to remember the information your client gives you.
You can’t be a skillful social worker if you don’t feel for other people. Being empathetic refers to putting yourself in other people’s shoes and understanding their feelings and emotions while facing challenges.
Most professionals in this field are naturally empathetic because they pursue this career in the first place to help people in need.
This skill allows you to understand your client better and puts you in a better position to ask relevant questions.
As a professional social worker, you become the voice of people. It becomes your responsibility to advocate for social rights for your clients.
Advocacy refers to speaking out for a particular case. It is a crucial skill, especially if your clients can’t speak up for themselves.
So you would be representing your clients and assisting them in connecting them with services or resources they need from government or non-profit organizations.
- CRITICAL THINKING
Throughout the case, you need to be an excellent observer and listener to gather the correct information. However, once you’ve collected the data and identified the issue, it’s time to use your critical thinking skills.
Each case is different; you can’t come up with the same approach every time. But, you can offer the best solution with creativity, intelligence, and kindness.
Let’s face it; the job of a social worker is anything but easy. You would be busy taking care of different things throughout the day.
Sometimes you might even be working on multiple cases at one time. So possessing organizational skills can save you from losing your mind at times like these.
So make sure all your records are accurate and documents are in proper order.
- BOUNDARY SETTING
The field of social work is demanding and stressful. As a social worker, you might be thinking that you must serve others. While it is valid to some extent, don’t forget to take care of your health.
Most social workers complain about feeling burned out. It is because they don’t set boundaries in their profession.
Setting boundaries is an excellent way to achieve a work-life balance.
- TIME MANAGEMENT
Once you decide to be a professional social worker, you have to be mindful that you will not be dealing with a single case; some days, you will have more work than you can handle.
Therefore, time management skills are an essential part of your day. You can manage your time efficiently by avoiding procrastination and keeping things organized.
Time management skills can also save you from feeling burned out.
- CULTURAL AWARENESS
As a social worker, you will deal with people from different walks of life. For example, you might encounter a client whose belief or tradition is unknown to you. So developing cultural awareness can help you in your career.
In addition, the desire to learn about different cultures will help you understand the case and offer a better solution to the problem you’re facing.
One best way to learn about your client’s culture is by getting to know them rather than rushing into the meeting and process.
Unfortunately, the social work profession can be emotionally challenging. Even though it is good to stay dedicated to your job and help others, you can’t ignore your health in helping others.
So practice self-care to avoid stress and burnout. Mindfulness meditation, yoga, taking breaks, reading, getting adequate sleep are some strategies to practice self-care.
Let’s be honest; the field of social work is pretty challenging. Each client will have a different situation. For example, some days, you will have to deal will an individual with drug problems. Other days you might come across a case in which a student is struggling in their career.
Becoming a social worker is a massive responsibility and requires lots of energy, time, commitment. Therefore, it would be best to work on your personality to succeed in your career.
Last but not least, don’t worry if you lack any skills mentioned in this article. Everyone needs time to develop and polish these skills. Take your time and learn through education and hands-on experience.