If you’re considering a career in social work, then chances are you want to help at risk individuals in your local community. It requires hardwork and dedication, not least because to become a social worker takes training. But rest assured, anything can be learnt if you come at it with the right frame of mind and learning technique.
Not to mention a driving passion to help others. Social work is a role that requires passion and dedication. You need to be able to cope with instances of neglect, self harm, ill health and more. But you will finish your days knowing that you are helping to effect meaningful change in the lives of the people you work with.
Linked to this is possessing right set of skills. It takes a certain type of person to effectively handle the emotional and confronting situations Social Workers can deal with. They need to have the right personality, temperament and way of thinking to adapt. Otherwise, they’ll fail to interact with, engage and assist at risk and vulnerable individuals.
To find out what it takes, read on to see what skills are needed to have a career in social work.
As a Social Worker, you’ll assist people from many groups in society who can face many varied challenges. As you’re an outsider and someone they likely won’t trust immediately, they need to see that you’re on their side. You need to be comfortable with the idea that your involvement and advice may not always be welcomed. In this instance, you need to build a rapport and make them feel seen and understood.
To do this, you need to be able to empathise with and understand their experiences and points of view. Having empathy allows you to step into your client’s shoes to try to share their experience, perhaps by comparing it to challenges in your own life. That way, you can effectively perceive, understand, experience and respond to their emotional state and ideas.
Having effective communication skills is essential as a social worker. You need to be able to communicate clearly with a wide range of people, of all languages and speech abilities. While you have access to translators, you yourself need to be in tune with each clients verbal and non-verbal communications. Picking up on body language and cues that may signal they need help. Or that they may require another type of support.
You’ll also need to communicate effectively with agencies, care providers and colleagues. Noting important information on your clients and relaying their situation and needs clearly.
Your busy caseload and wide-ranging responsibilities can be a challenge in itself. That’s why being organised is up there with the top skills needed for a career in social work.
As well as managing and supporting your clients, you’ll need to complete administrative duties like documentation and reporting. Not to mention the paperwork that comes with referrals to third party services.
You’ll need to make sure all your cases are accurately documented, not least because it’s a legal requirement. When cases relate to some form of criminal activity, your case notes can be submitted as evidence and/or used in court.
Being organised also helps you keep your word with your clients. Each appointment you have can lead onto any number of additonal tasks. Keeping a record of what support you’re going to provide helps you follow through with what what agreed. And maintain a trusting relationship with your client.
Organisation skills also come into play when arranging the coming together of your client with third party support services. Your client, any family members, medical professionals or carers all need to be on the same page. You’ll also need to know how to prioritise your clients’ needs to effectively manage your cases.
There will be many diverse and complex cases you’ll be involved with. As such, you need to have critical thinking skills to assess each one appropriately. By remaining objective as you carry out your observation, interviews and research, you’ll be able to make informed decisions. This will help you identify the best resources and formulate the most beneficial plan to help your clients.
A lead on from communication, but to be a successful Social Worker, you need to be able to listen. Person-centered approach dictates that Social Workers are allowed to identify their clients needs and make support recommendations. But ultimately it’s the individual who decides what they want support with. Remember, they know more about their situation and its inner workings more than you ever will. No matter how perceptive you are.
Listening helps you understand what matters to them. Through this you’ll be able to see why fixing seemingly insignificant issues can help to alleviate other challenges as well.
Your clients won’t always be forthcoming with the information you need though. You might be dealing with children or vulnerable people who feel powerless or are scared of their situation.
Social Workers are perceived to have a lot of power and authority. So you need to realise your presence can make them feel anxious or intimidated. You must be able to take a calm approach, listen carefully, concentrate and ask the right questions. You’re also able to arrange a for a trusted third party to be present for additonal comfort and support. That way, you’ll be able to make a better connection with your client and find out important information.
Preventing burnout and compassion fatigue is essential to perform this role well. Burnout is the emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. With too much exposure to this, compassion fatigue can set in. Which can lead to a dimished ability to empathise or feel compassion for others, jeapordising your ability to perform in your job.
Social work can be incredibly demanding and emotionally draining. To pursue this as a career you need to recognise the signs that you need some time for self-care. So make sure you know what you need to do to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
As a professional who supports at risk individuals, you’ll be working with people from diverse backgrounds. This means you need to be respectful of their needs, wants, cultural beliefs and practices. Which requires you to be knowledgeable about what these are.
Being in tune with the varying cultural experiences your clients can have can help you build that all-important rapport. No matter if that is associated with their race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, age or disability. You need to appreciate diversity in all its forms and remain non-judgmental at all times.
Along with these other valuable skills, it’s important to have patience as a Social Worker. There will be many cases you will work on that are complex, or where clients need more time to make progress.
People can be mistrusting of Social Workers, largely because of their negative portrayal in the media. Give them the time and space they need to adjust to your presence and services, without being overbearing or hasty. Everyone works differently, you just need to ensure you’re prepared and available when they’re ready to take the next step.
You’ll also deal with cases where individuals lack the education and experience to make reasoned choices. So you’ll often find yourself having to manage them to prevent self sabotaging behaviour. This also requires a great deal of patience as your work with clients to overcome their challenges.
Get the Skills for Social Work with an Online Course
To have a career in social work, you also need to be qualified. Roles can be secured with either a Bachelors or Masters degree in social work.
If you don’t have the A Level qualifications required for university, there’s an alternate option available. An Access to Higher Education Diploma (Social Work) provides an alternate level 3 qualification. This stands in place of A Levels and enables you to enrol on a degree.
Because of the specialist knowledge required to be an effective Social Worker, this course has been designed to give you the best starting point. It covers sociology and psychology, as well as specific social work modules. These include Sociology of the Family, Combating Prejudice and Discrimination and Contemporary Issues in Social Policy.
You will also learn about academic writing skills and how to structure assignments. So you’re equipped with the study skills to succeed in university.
What’s more, Access to HE Diplomas are developed in partnership with universities. So the content reflects the materials you’ll cover in your degree.
The added benefit of studying online means you can get started right away and can qualify sooner. Course materials are studied at your pace, enabling you to work through them quickly and move onto applying to university.
You still get the benefit of tutor support, plus you can organise your learning around your current circumstances. Tailoring your studies in a way that works best for you and giving you the greatest chance of success.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is the leading UK distance learning provider. With many online courses that can help you achieve your career goals.
Find out more about our Access to Higher Education Diploma (Social Work) by clicking the link below.