Social workers are employed by many different types of agencies. The government, nonprofit organizations and even private companies all use the skills and knowledge of these special people to their benefit. Dealing with emotional issues like relationships, domestic violence and child abuse can wear on the best of people; it takes a special kind of person to enter the field of social work. Here are just five characteristics of a strong social worker:
It’s not unusual for a social worker to spend an entire day working with people in situations of crisis. Consider, for example, that many social workers deal with victims of violent crime. It takes a person who is able to move beyond sympathy to spend eight-plus hours a day listening to these stories and offering assistance to those involved. A social worker must have empathy or, in other words, the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Along with empathy, a strong social worker needs to have a level of patients that has no rival. It can be incredibly difficult to offer advice, insight and feedback, only to have that information ultimately ignored. Not only can the advice given be ignored, but the issues dealt with on a constant basis are frequently challenging and complex. Social workers need to be able to remove themselves from the situation, offering the same level of care to their clients no matter how complex the case or the number of times their advice goes unheeded.
A great social worker is also a great communicator. A social worker has to have excellent interpersonal communication skills. This skill set includes active listening as well as speaking. A social worker may deal with people of varying levels of education or understanding, and will have to adjust his or her communication accordingly without making people feel inferior.
Social workers must be lifelong learners. Laws consistently change, policies develop and new technologies are invented; keeping abreast of all that changes is an important part of the job. A strong social worker is not only a learner, but a teacher. As a social worker, you may have to put people in touch with others who can provide needed services, education or assistance; without taking the time to learn about these entities, you cannot recommend them on good faith.
The job of a social worker often requires one to think on his or her feet. Additionally, a social worker rarely works from 9-to-5. Emergency situations arise, urgent matters may require attention off-site, and the end of your work day may come and go before you ever sit down at the dinner table. Social workers must maintain a level of flexibility in order to perform their jobs exceptionally well.
The job of a social worker can be an exciting, stressful and emotional one. Not everyone is cut out to be a social worker because of the wide range of negative situations dealt with on a daily basis. If you possess the qualities above and a strong desire to help the people of your community, chances are you would be a fantastic fit.
Brent Davis is a freelance writer for education blogs. If you have the qualities needed to be a social worker and helping others interests you, you may want to pursue a degree in the field. Several schools offer flexible programs, including University of New England.