Earning your livelihood through helping others and enacting positive change in your community can be immensely rewarding on both a personal and professional level. However, this isn’t to say that everyone is cut out for a career in social work. To excel in this field, budding social workers need to possess an assortment of skills and personality traits conducive to bettering the lives of others. Anyone considering a career in social work will be well-served by the following qualities.
Superb Listening Skills
As a social worker, you’ll be providing help and guidance to a wide range of individuals. Each person you work with will have a unique story to tell and require varying levels of assistance. In other words, no two cases will be exactly the same.
As such, you’ll need to practice active listening each time you communicate with a person to whom you’ve been assigned. The more thoroughly you listen to someone, the better you’ll understand their individual needs. Being a passive listener projects disinterest, which can make people think twice about placing their trust in you. Many accredited online Master’s of Social Work programs teach active listening skills, so if yours could use some fine tuning, don’t hesitate to explore your online degree options.
High Capacity for Empathy
Empathy is arguably the most important quality for a social worker to have in their wheelhouse. Possessing empathy ensures that you’ll be able to identify with and/or vicariously experience what the individuals you work with are going through. As a social worker, you’ll constantly be called upon to put yourself in other people’s shoes, and in the absence of empathy, this can prove exceedingly difficult. Conversely, having a high capacity for empathy will make it easier to gain people’s trust and find workable solutions to the problems they face.
As any seasoned social worker can attest, trying to turn someone’s life around overnight is a fool’s errand. Every person you’ll be working with processes change at their own pace, and expecting them to magically work past their issues in a speedy manner places an unrealistic burden on both you and them. Many of the individuals you’ll be assigned to will be in your care for months or years, so getting discouraged when sweeping changes aren’t made at the drop of a hat won’t do you any favors in this line of work.
Impeccable Time Management
Whether you work in a major city or small town, you’re likely to have a perpetually heavy caseload. A busy social worker may be dealing with dozens of cases at any given time, making good time management an absolute must. This means developing a filing system, staying organized and keeping your workspace free of clutter. The more organized you are, the easier it will be to keep track of your cases and ensure that no one slips through the cracks. Additionally, if a workable filing system isn’t in place, social workers can become overwhelmed, causing the quality of their work to suffer.
In your role as a social worker, you’ll often be called upon to provide people with practical advice. This advice can run the gamut from budgeting tips to long-term sobriety tactics. Not only will you need to be skilled at dispensing good advice, you’ll also need to be persuasive enough to get people to act on it. Spelling out the various ways following your advice stands to improve someone’s life is one of the best methods for getting them to go along with your plan. Once people see that heeding your advice gives way to positive change, they’ll be more likely to get onboard with any suggestions you offer in the future.
If helping others is your passion, a career in social work may be your calling. Bringing positive change to the lives of people in need is one of the most rewarding ways to earn a living and provide assistance to your fellow man. If entering the field of social work strikes you as an attractive prospect, embodying the previously discussed traits can do you a world of good. A social worker who possesses each of these qualities will be in a unique position to improve individual lives — and in some cases, entire communities.