8 Signs a social work career is your calling
You’ve always been passionate about being a source of support for others when they’re struggling. You see a lot of value in assisting people in overcoming challenges and advocating for those in need. This is why you’re considering a career in social work — it could allow you to make a tangible difference for many individuals.
But is social work really the best path for you? If you’re curious to discover if you could be a natural fit for this field, read on to see if these signs point you towards a social work career.
You could be meant for a social work career if …
1. You are eager to help when others are struggling
Perhaps you volunteer your time for a cause that’s close to your heart. Or maybe you’re the type who’s always been willing to help a friend in need, even when it’s inconvenient. Altruistic tendencies go hand-in-hand with social work.
As a social worker, empathizing with your clients is essential for helping them feel heard. Relating to people’s feelings during times of struggle may even help you think of more innovative or effective solutions.
2. You thrive during one-on-one interactions
Some people excel when connecting with individuals or small groups. Good social workers often build rapport with clients in a one-on-one capacity. These professionals also serve a diverse range of individuals, so being able to connect quickly with a new client is critical for success.
Active listening, emotional intelligence and effective conflict resolutions are all vital skills that can help you build strong relationships with your clients.
3. You have a creative side
You don’t have to be an artist in the traditional sense to employ creativity in your career. Social workers often face roadblocks when working with insurance companies, regulatory agencies and various programs. Coupling creativity with strategic thinking can help social workers find solutions that aren’t immediately obvious.
4. You’re patient
Whether you’re naturally patient or you’ve cultivated it through parenting or your current job, this could be a huge asset in a social work career. You may encounter clients who struggle to connect with others or who are so mistrustful that they push you away. These hurdles help inspire people like you to learn new and different ways to connect with clients who may be more challenging.
Recognizing that it takes time for meaningful change to manifest is something social workers learn later in their careers. Your patience will serve you well.
5. You know how to set boundaries
It’s no secret that social workers are prone to burnout. Compassion fatigue, the overall physical and emotional strain professionals can experience when working with clients who are struggling, is quite common. Also called vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue can result from things like reviewing emotionally-taxing cases or listening to a client’s account of victimization.
Engaging in self-care is essential for social workers. The right tactics depend on your personal preferences, but meditation and exercise are a few examples. Cultivating these types of practices early on in your career can set the stage for when you enter the professional world.
Dr. Kim Bundy-Fazioli, associate professor of social work at Brandman University, recommends the following four components of self-care:
- Awareness — check in on your on physical, emotional and mental state.
- Compassion — have just as much compassion for yourself as you do for your best friend.
- Intention — ask yourself “What do I need to alleviate the stress-related symptoms I’m experiencing?”
- Sustainability — make your self-care practice a habit.
As you consider this career path, keep in mind that your job won’t mean fixing everything. Your job is to help your clients process their feelings and find effective ways to cope with their issues.
6. You’re perceptive
You’ve always been able to tell when something is a little off, which could come in handy if you pursue this profession. Social workers must be sensitive to their clients’ body language, social cues and cultural norms. While some people state their needs clearly, others may struggle to express themselves.
Especially when getting to know a new client, a social worker’s job is to help them get to know their strengths and feel empowered to work through their struggles. This requires an ability to interpret things they may not be vocalizing.
7. You’re incredibly organized
Whether you rely on color-coordinating notes or a trusty calendar app, you prioritize organization. This could serve you well as a social worker dealing with a heavy caseloads and long hours. On top of appropriately documenting cases, you’ll have to tackle administrative duties like scheduling appointments with clients and coordinating meetings.
Time management tactics like planning your day in advance, devoting a set amount of time each day for administrative duties and keeping up with a to-do list can help you further hone your organization skills.
8. You’re sensitive to cultural differences
Since social workers often work with diverse populations, they must be respectful of all backgrounds. This cultural competency requires self-awareness, humility and a willingness to learn about and respect cultures different from your own. You need to consider family systems, refugee status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, social class and mental or physical abilities.
If you embrace cultural differences and know that everyone has varying experiences based on those differences, you’ll become a more effective social worker.
Prepare for a rewarding social work career
It clearly takes a certain type of person to go into social work. If have many of the above qualities, it could be the right path for you.
While continuing to cultivate those qualities is important, you may need to start taking some more concrete steps to prepare for a meaningful social work career. To learn more about what it will take to pursue this career path, visit our article “The social worker requirements you’ll need to meet in order to serve.”
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