Building a Career as a Social Worker

Updated on February 1, 2022

A career as a social worker is rewarding. Of course, it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and there will be some difficult days ahead. However, if you accept that these days exist, and you learn to live with them, then you can start to build a career as a social worker that lasts and that gives back to others. So, now that you have decided what career you want to pursue, what should you begin focusing on first? What area of your offering needs your attention? Keep reading to find out how you can get the career you want. 

Why The Healthcare and Social Care System Needs You

To begin with, it is important to realize just why you are needed in the healthcare industry and more specifically in social work. Social work covers a broad variety of living arrangements, and it can cover everything from assisting young couples (perhaps starting off with a baby) to those established families suffering from a variety of problems and issues. As the work is so varied (and at times challenging) it is not what everyone wants to do. Social workers are highly in demand because there is a shortage. There is a shortage of those professionals that will listen, will show empathy, and will work with families and individuals (and not always against them). If you are prepared to help and assist those when they need it the most, then you are ready for a career in social care/social work.

A Rewarding and Fulfilling Career

Within this career choice, you will get challenging days, but these should naturally be far outweighed by the positive days. The days where you make a difference to the lives of others, and those days where you really lift someone up. A career within social work will provide you with lots of positive moments and events that you would just not get in any other line of work. Within social work, you can see and feel the difference you are making in other people’s lives. Those that you are supporting and helping will be grateful that you are in their lives, and this will leave you feeling fulfilled and rewarded (even on those not-so-great days). As you progress within your social worker career you will inevitably get more satisfaction and enjoyment from the role, because you will have experience and knowledge that you have built upon over time.

Getting Licensed – Focusing on Your Education

To be a successful professional you have to ensure that you focus on your education. The program that you study will set you up for your future career, so it is important to take your time and weigh up your options. For example, if you know that you want to study flexibly from home, then why not look at completing an Online Master of Social Work because online studying will give you more freedom and flexibility than studying at a physical campus would. It would also give you the opportunity to start working on a work/life balance. When you are focusing on your education it is important that you set both goals and targets to work towards. Having these will help you break down periods of study and ensure that you get the most out of your studies. When you create goals to study towards you take learning into your own hands.

Deciding on a Specialism

As social work is so diverse it is important to decide on a specialism as soon as possible. For example, would you like to focus on the elderly, or would you prefer to focus on children’s welfare? Getting to grips with a specialism early on – especially when you are studying will allow you to focus your attention and efforts. You will get a lot more out of your studies if you know what role you want to get into after your studies have finished. So, take some time to yourself to think about where you see yourself moving forwards. Weighing up both the pros and cons for each area will help you see clearly where your area of interest lies.

Lifelong Opportunities

There are lots of areas that you can alter and affect within your active social work role. From child welfare to behavioral health – you can make a big impact and you can make changes. As there is always an area that needs support or assistance, you can be sure that you will always be able to stay in your career, providing a sense of security and stability which not all careers have. When you have choices ahead of you, then you can be sure that you have opportunities to last the duration of your career – all you have to do is decide which route you want to take. Security and stability are not the most important aspect of all careers; however, it is a very important consideration that you must take into account.

Being the Change and Making the Change to Others

When you are starting out within your career, you must try and lead by example at any chance you get. When you set great examples for others to follow, you can then be sure that you are making a change to others (whether directly or indirectly). When you can be the change, you realize how valuable you are and how important you are to others – this is again why the role in the industry is rewarding. Even though you can be the change in many people’s lives, it is still important not to place too much pressure on your shoulders. Nobody is perfect (not even those who work within social care/social work). Breaking down the barriers accepting imperfections and flaws, and then being prepared to change them (and improve them) is what you need to focus on, because not only will this help you improve as a professional, but those around you will see and benefit from the change as well as being encouraged to develop themselves. 

Making A Difference in Local Communities

As well as affecting and impacting individuals and small families, you can take your social work to local communities. For example, if you are focusing on child welfare, you could help local communities raise their standards. Knowing that you can make a difference in the lives of lots of people will give you the drive and push to keep striving for more. When you are building your career within social work, it is always beneficial to be aware of just how many people you can reach (and positively impact). When you are aware of the spread of your practices, then you can carry on making smaller ripples. Local communities can start changing how they feel towards others, and they can change their perceptions of you and other healthcare workers, and this can be positive for society as a whole.

Exploring Your Transferable Skills

You will already have a lot of transferable skills that will be easy to apply to your new career in social work. For example, in your current role (or even in everyday life) you will be problem-solving – working out how to do something, or perhaps even working out how to do it better. You can directly apply this skill to a new role, and you can work towards or help to solve complex cases. Teamwork is also a very useful transferable skill that will really be put to the test in a social work role. There may be times when you are working on your own within your role; however, that does not mean that teamwork will not be present behind the scenes. Other harder skills which you may have, which will definitely be transferable include interview skills, leadership skills and workload management. No two days will be the same in social work and building up a strong skill set (that contains both soft and hard skills) will ensure that you can tackle what each day brings.

Constantly Enhancing Knowledge and Skills

Of course, within your role in social work, you will see that the role is varied and that it is constantly evolving and changing. To make the most out of your role, you have to be prepared to constantly change, grow and enhance both your knowledge and skill set. When you are open to change and development, then you begin strengthening existing skills and adding new ones too.

Finding a Suitable Position

Putting everything that you have learnt together with your skills, experience, and knowledge will be beneficial – especially when it comes to getting a suitable position. A suitable position for you may currently exist, or you may have to wait a little while (or perhaps even travel further than you first anticipated). To be sure that you will get the position you want to, it is important to reach out to government bodies, and voluntary bodies while you are training and growing. Building networks and building connections may not be something that you feel is important; however, this could not be further from reality. Strong connections and great contacts can help you land the position that you want, and they can help you thrive within a new role.

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