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If you want to help people and support them when they face difficulties in life, being a social worker could be the right choice. As a social worker, you can work in hospitals, schools, government agencies, or non-profit organizations. You will find that this career, although challenging, is extremely rewarding, especially when the people you support get back on their feet. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and enables you to stay motivated to help others who require it.
As a social worker, you require a multitude of skills to perform optimally and advance in this line of work. If you are already working as a social worker and want to advance your career, consider enrolling in MSW advanced standing programs online. Cleveland State University offers master’s programs in social work. You can choose to specialize as a clinical social worker or an advanced generalist social worker based on your goals and interests. These programs are 100% online and emphasize asynchronous coursework. You can pursue them full-time or part-time, and you do not have to worry about campus residencies as the field practicum hours can be done in your community. That is one of the best benefits of these online education programs.
Here are some essential skills that social workers need to thrive in their careers. There are also tips on how you can develop and hone these skills.
You require effective communication skills as the work involves interacting with individuals, families, and the local community. You should be able to build trust, gather the right information, and provide the necessary support to your clients.
Communication involves speaking, active listening, and asking the right questions to get appropriate answers. In addition, non-verbal communication, such as gestures, body language, and facial expressions, is essential as, many times, you may have to use this mode of communication to decipher certain things.
You can develop your communication skills through training and practice. You can attend workshops or courses on communication, role-play scenarios, and receive supervisor feedback. Furthermore, you can practice active listening and learn to empathize with clients to understand their needs better.
Empathy and compassion
It is prudent to remember that the people you serve have had experiences. They do not need you to judge them. Rather, they expect you to be understanding. So, you need to be compassionate. When you connect and interact with clients, demonstrate a genuine sense of concern and kindness but make sure you maintain professional boundaries.
Both empathy and compassion are necessary to build trust and rapport with your clients. You can cultivate these traits through self-reflection, self-care, and personal growth. Spend time learning reflective listening and understanding mindfulness practices to be more empathetic and compassionate when dealing with clients.
Problems that require a social worker are never simple. Most are complex, and that is why you need critical thinking. It enables you to analyze complex situations and make informed decisions. When you meet clients, you should be able to assess their needs, identify problems, and develop appropriate interventions. Critical thinking allows you to gather and evaluate information, consider different perspectives, and apply relevant theories.
Most social workers develop critical thinking skills through ongoing learning, training sessions, and workshops. You can also seek feedback from your supervisors and colleagues. Participate actively in case discussions, analyze case studies, and use reflective practices. These will help you develop critical thinking skills and excel as a social worker.
Nearly every case that you deal with will not be clear-cut. You or your clients will encounter problems. How well you handle these problems will determine your success as a social worker. Remember, the main reason clients seek you out is to help them overcome difficulties they are facing. They will depend on you to identify their problems and suggest plausible solutions and interventions.
The good news is that you can develop these skills with practice, getting feedback from your colleagues and supervisors, and getting mentored by experienced social workers. Observe and learn from other social workers to see how they resolve issues they encounter.
Some social workers benefit from taking part in case discussions. You can discuss existing cases with your supervisors. Be sure to talk in detail about the issues you are facing and brainstorm different ways to address them. Alternatively, you can enroll in training programs focusing on problem-solving to develop and hone your skills.
The US is a melting pot of culture, and, as a social worker, you will be working with clients from diverse backgrounds. You should be aware of your cultural biases so they do not hinder your work. At the same time, it is essential to understand clients’ cultural values, practices, and beliefs. It will enable you to make informed decisions without letting prejudices get in the way. It is essential to be respectful, open-minded, and non-judgmental about your clients’ cultural differences.
You can be more culturally aware through personal growth, education, and training. Take time to understand every client’s values and beliefs so that you can assuage their worries and help them overcome problems in the best possible way.
How can you advance in your career as a social worker?
Besides the above-mentioned skills, you must also be excellent in time management to balance your workload, prioritize tasks and cases, and meet deadlines. As you gain experience and advance in your role, other skills such as promoting social justice in your community, strategic thinking, conflict resolution and management, task delegation, team management, and decision-making will take the forefront.
While there are training programs and workshops to develop your skills, you need the right education to back up your skills and work. You may be passionate about helping your community, but you will reach a plateau in your career if you do not have the right qualifications.
Armed with the right degree, you will have extensive knowledge about social work theories, research, social work ethics, cultural competence, and the diverse needs of communities, families, and individuals. An MSW degree program allows you to apply your learning, skills, and knowledge in a real-world setting.
It is essential to remember that to maintain your license and certifications, you need to focus on continuing education. So, attend workshops, conferences, and webinars hosted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to fulfill this requirement.