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Social Work Qualities

Updated on June 11, 2020
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Venus has an MSW from USC and has experience working with middle school age kids, teenagers, and whole families.

Social Work Qualities

There is an increasing acceptance of mental health, and with that comes a need for more social workers. If you are considering going into social work, following are a list of qualities that would be beneficial to possess in this line of work. These are qualities that I learned were important to have while I was in graduate school, my internships, and former jobs.

  1. Empathy. Clients you will be interacting with may be experiencing hardship. Social workers should possess the willingness to understand what their client is going through, and this in turn builds and strengthens the social worker/client relationship.
  2. Good communication skills. Having good communication skills does not mean just being able to speak well and getting your point across clearly. Good communication skills also means being a good listener and being present to clients as they are speaking. Clients like to feel that they are being heard and understood. It is also important to have good communication skills because being a social worker requires advocating, whether it is for yourself, or for your clients.
  3. Time management skills. As a social worker, you will juggle many responsibilities and deadlines. It is important to be able to maintain your responsibilities and meet deadlines because there can be negative consequences for falling short of what is expected. Social workers are also on numerous phone calls and meetings, along with being in the field visiting clients half of the time, (and paperwork is always a given). It is expected that everything will get done in a timely matter so it is important to be intentional and focused while completing the tasks.
  4. Critical thinking skills. Critical thinking and creativity are good skills to have in social work and there are many instances in which these can come into play. For example, if you are a social worker who works with minors, it is important to be able to keep them interested during a visit or session. It is recommended to incorporate activities they like, such as games or toys into the plan to achieve their treatment goals. There is also learning and fun involved.
  5. Flexibility and adaptability. In social work, you can plan your day down to the last detail, but due to the nature of the work, an emergency or crisis can come up, and the ability to drop what you are doing, and prioritize something else or the ability to triage at the last minute is important. Of course every situation is different so you should make your best judgment.
  6. Patience. Working with people is not absolute. There will be bumps on the road towards a client’s treatment and goals. There may be setbacks for whatever reason and it is important to accept what happened, be supportive of the client, hold them accountable and continue moving on toward the goal as a team.
  7. Tolerance. You will be working with people who have different beliefs, different ways of doing things, and people who are of different cultures than you. While you don’t have to agree with them, it is important to be open to these differences. When you are a social worker, it is not about you. It is about the people you are helping, and being open can strengthen relationships with your clients.
  8. Ability to work in teams. At my old job, every client had an interdisciplinary team that worked with them, which included me, the county social worker or probation officer, a therapist if there was one, any other people supporting the client, and of course the client. Everyone’s end goal was the same, but since there were people with various skills and mindsets, the way to get to those goals differed and it was imperative that we reached an agreement that everyone on the team was happy with to achieve the goals.
  9. Healthy coping skills. Social work is a mentally taxing profession that comes with little to no appreciation. It is important that while you are not working to engage in healthy coping skills. The point of healthy coping skills is to give your mind and body a break from the stresses of work. This applies to any job you have, not just social work. Examples of healthy coping skills can include spending time with family and friends, reading, exercising, going to church, or participating in a group hobby.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the qualities that you should possess to have a career in social work, nor does this mean that if you lack any or one of these qualities you cannot be a social worker. But it would be beneficial to have a good number of these qualities. Even if you feel that you do not have some of these qualities listed, all of them can be developed with time and practice. In the end, decide what is right for you and whether you want to get into social work or not. Being a social worker is not easy, but it can give you a sense of purpose that you helped somebody, and the rewards outweigh any cons the job may have.

© 2020 Venus C


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