Social work is a career that is focused around helping others. The main aim of a career in social work is to work closely with people who are in situations where they need help and support, figuring out the best way to help them to support their lives. It is a very varied and often demanding profession that will often require the professional to take on many different roles in one day. Social workers often provide advice, therapy, care and practical support while taking on administrative roles, advocating for the people that they work with and much more. A social worker who possesses a set of well-rounded social work skills and qualities is best positioned to thrive and excel even when their job becomes challenging.
Whether you are considering social work as a future career option or are already getting started on studying to become a social worker in the future, here are some of the main skills and qualities that every social worker needs in order to succeed.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and identify with their circumstances, emotions or needs – even if you cannot relate to them through your own personal experience. Since social workers will often be tasked with working with a range of people in different situations and from different backgrounds, the ability to empathize is more important than ever in this role. Every day, social workers will help people through some of the most challenging problems in their lives including heartbreaking situations that have a huge impact on people. In order to best determine how to help people improve their lives and overcome these situations, social workers need to be able to empathize and understand the individual’s experiences.
Communication and Listening
Communication is a key part of social work jobs. Social workers work closely with people in a wide range of situation so listening skills in particular are extremely important in order for them to get a clear idea of what these people are going through and come up with the best ways to offer help and support. Social workers need to have the ability to listen carefully, ask important questions and retain information that is communicated to them. This is especially important in the counseling aspect of social work, enabling these professionals to build trust with the people that they work with and discover important and valuable details about these people and their unique circumstances.
Social workers need to be able to set firm boundaries within their line of work and be able to accept the limits of what they will be able to accomplish during a certain period of time. The nature of the social work career can often feel very all-consuming, especially for individuals who have a strong sense that the work they do is never fully complete. Establishing boundaries either with others or for themselves is an important part of successfully working as a social worker, allowing these professionals to identify, set and work within reasonable expectations.
While the job of a social worker is one that is often focused heavily on helping to improve the lives of others, many social workers find that their choice of career is often instrumental in improving themselves both personally and professionally. This is because in order to succeed as a social worker, these professionals need to be very self-aware. In this line of work, reflective practice is required on a regular basis in order to figure out if there are any areas for improvement in your work. Social workers will also routinely receive feedback on their performance from various sources including supervisors and the people that they work with, and it is important for them to be able to put this information to use when it comes to self-improvement and working towards taking their performance to the next level.
Social workers also need to be highly socially perceptive in order to succeed in this line of work. Along with receiving and processing verbal information when they are communicating with the people that they work with, social workers also need to be sensitive to non-verbal communications such as body language, social cues and implications. In addition, social workers often work with people from a diverse range of backgrounds meaning that they need to be aware of cultural behavior patterns. It’s important to bear in mind that not all clients are going to be able to clearly state their needs and work together with social workers in a focused manner. Many will find it more challenging to express themselves concisely and some will be unable to, particularly children. Because of this, social workers need to be highly perceptive and able to read between the lines in order to better interpret situations and determine the best actions to take.
The job of a social worker is often one that is filled with busy schedules and heavy caseloads along with lots of paperwork. Because of this, social workers need to be highly organized people who are able to manage their time well and make sure that everything gets done in a timely manner. Being able to successfully prioritize and manage the various logistical aspects of this career allows social workers to make the most of the time that is available within their schedule to spend with the people that need their help the most, providing meaningful services, advice and support.
Cooperation and Teamwork
In order to work successfully as a social worker, you will need to be a good team player. Social workers will often find themselves working in teams together with other social workers and in multi-disciplinary teams of other professionals in order to provide the best outcomes to the people that they work with. Social workers often work alongside law enforcement, court and legal professionals, mental health counselors, healthcare professionals, and teachers in order to ensure that the people they are working with have access to the right support for them. In addition to strong teamwork skills, it is also essential for good social workers to possess the ability to coordinate communication and action among a range of different parties and professionals, enabling them to connect the people that they work with to the right services for their situation and needs.
Along with good communication skills, a social worker should also possess skills of persuasion. Social workers will often find themselves in situations where they will need to use these skills to persuade others to take action. Whether they are justifying the coverage of expenses to an insurance provider, encouraging a healthcare worker to provide a needed service of helping a client take action or change their behavior in order to improve a situation, a successful social worker needs to have the ability to influence and encourage others. In addition to this, social workers must also be able to do this in a cooperative manner. Often, in situations that social workers will find themselves in, gentle persuasion is often helped by the addition of active cooperation, working together with people to find an efficient route to a solution that works for everybody involved. Because of this, social workers need to be able to compromise, negotiate, and work together with others well.
As a social worker, it is not your place to judge people for the situations that they have found themselves in, but rather to help them. In this line of work, you will often be working with people in a wide range of situations and from a wide range of backgrounds. In some instances, it might be natural to wonder how a person has managed to get themselves in such a situation or why they have made certain decisions. However, successful social workers know that judging the people that they are working with will not get them anywhere. Instead, they are curious to find out more about what has led to them being in this situation and what they can do now to help the person improve their situation and their life overall. Social workers do not judge people for their financial situation, education, or other circumstances whether or not it was in their control – they work with people to determine their goals and help them overcome troubling situations no matter what led them there.
Finally, social workers must be able to prioritize self-care, relaxation and de-compression. While this career can be extremely rewarding, it’s also very stressful and filled with pressure. Because of this, social workers need to have the ability to switch off when they are not working in order to remain as effective as possible when they are. As a social worker, being able to put your own needs first and recognize when you might need some support or time away is crucial in order to enable you to continue providing the best services and support to the people that you work with.
Social workers are a unique type of professional that are focused on helping people through tough situations. If you are considering this line of work, these are some of the main skills and qualities that you will need.