BY CAROL TREHEARN
Social work is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers a person can do. It gives you the ability to provide care to people when they are most in need, helping them get out of difficult situations and live a better life overall. Social workers work with families who are dealing with situations such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or financial difficulties. Due to this, they provide an extremely important service within society.
If you are a person who wishes to provide care to those who need it most, then becoming a social worker could be the role for you. Here is how you can become a successful and inspiring social worker.
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Before starting most careers, you must first get educated. The amount of education you need to become a social worker is a relevant bachelor’s degree, such as a human services degree. From there, you can get the training you need to become a successful social worker.
When getting your degree, make sure you get into good habits early on. Make friends, practice self-care, and make sure your organization is up to scratch. Once you are in the world of social care, patients will rely on you, so it’s crucial that you learn to be a rock early on.
Grow Your Communication Skills
Communication skills are more than just being able to talk clearly; you must also be able to listen whole-heartedly and speak with understanding as well as just clarity. It is something you should learn early on, so when you are getting your human services degree, make sure that you also grow your communication skills.
Most degrees will help expand your communication abilities. You will likely need to give presentations and collaborate with your fellow students, and this is a great way to gain the communication skills you will need to inspire people as a social worker.
Keep on Learning
Your education should not end once you have thrown your hat at graduation. Once you have successfully completed your human services degree, you must carry on learning. In social work, the days you do not learn something new will be few and far between. You will be researching, learning about your patients, and discovering new traits about yourself often.
A useful habit to get into is to keep a notebook on you at all times. This way, when you come across new information, you can store it and return to it later. You don’t want to be forgetting anything!
Know Your Surrounding Community
Social work is all about bettering the community overall, so it is important that you understand the functioning of your local community. The more context you have, the better. If you are working in an area with high crime rates, you will be able to understand your patients better. Understanding leads to providing better treatment plans overall.
Attend community events and make friends from the area to stay in the know. Social media is another great way of keeping up to date with communities – Facebook often hosts group pages for particular areas, so you should consider joining those.
Learn True Empathy
No matter how kind and considerate you might be, you must also be truly empathetic. Empathy is not just showing care to a person – it is being able to truly understand their emotions. Not everybody is naturally empathetic, but fortunately, there are ways of increasing your empathy.
Empathy will be what gets you through the toughest of days. When working with difficult patients, you will be able to understand that it is not personal and that the reason they are acting out is most likely because they are hurting.
Have a Sense of Humor
The most inspiring people in the world are those who have a great sense of humor. Yes, social work is a serious business, but that does not mean you cannot laugh from time to time! When your patients are dealing with intense troubles, sometimes the best thing to do is give them something to smile about. The ability to look on the brighter side will also help you deal with the darker situations you are presented with.
It is just as important to know when to incorporate humor as it is to have a sense of humor. Read the room and understand when the time is right to bring a joke into the mix. Even when you are hard at work studying for your human service degree exams, you should find the time to make light of situations.
To be a truly inspiring and successful support worker, then you must look after yourself just as much as you look after your patients. When you have had a particularly difficult day, it helps to go home and do an activity that makes you happy.
One of the biggest ways to practice self-care as a social worker is to have a hobby outside of social work. When doing your human services degree, get into the habit of not giving every ounce of energy to the work. Whether you enjoy swimming, reading, or mountain climbing, it is important to have something else to focus on. Social work is not an easy career, so you must find ways to de-stress at the end of the day.
Show up Early
If you are often late, then people will lose respect for you, meaning you will not be able to inspire and become a successful social worker. Time management is of utmost importance in any career, especially those where vulnerable people rely on you.
Start the habit of being on time before you even start your human services degree. If you must be somewhere at 9 am, then get into the habit of showing up at 8.40 am. You can always spend those spare 20 minutes taking notes, revising, or even doing something unrelated to social work like reading. Also, by showing up early, any minor delays won’t mean you show up late.
Focus on the Patients
It is easy to become overwhelmed in the world of social work, but it is important to always focus on your patients. On the days where you are overly stressed, you will remember what your patients are going through and focus on that to help you get through it.
Social work is not a career for the selfish. The chances are, if you are considering doing a human services degree and giving your life to helping those in need, then you are a selfless person already, but that does not mean that there will not be days where you feel you cannot help them. When that happens, take a step back, take a breather, and remember that you are working for the betterment of the patients. Let your focus on them see you through.
Gain Plenty of Experience
Like most roles, to be successful, you must first gain enough experience. Most people are not going to be highly-respected and seen as inspiring in their first few months, so do not let that deter you! All you can do is work to the best of your ability and trust that with enough experience, you will become both successful and inspiring.
Be Open to a Career Change
Within the world of social care, there are plenty of specializations. When you are just beginning, you might have a vision of a straight path and cannot fathom wavering from that. To allow success, however, you must be open-minded to a career change.
Your human services degree will help you thrive in a variety of work settings, so do not tie yourself down. Learn as you go and allow yourself to discover the areas where you work best. You never know, you might become an expert in a certain specialization!
Find a Great Supervisor
Role models are an important factor when it comes to your own success, so make sure you find an excellent supervisor. Your supervisor will provide you with advice that can only come from years of experience, so do not take it for granted! Take in everything they tell you and use it to become successful yourself.
If you are currently studying for a human services degree, then look at your tutors the same way as you would a supervisor. Listen to them, take everything in, and let them guide you to success. If you work hard, one day, you will be the one inspiring others.
Social work is a role that involves working with vulnerable people in sensitive situations, and that can take a toll on your own mental health. If you ever feel like you are struggling, then do not be afraid to seek counseling to help steer you back on track. After all, your brain needs to be healthy for you to provide excellent care!
Counseling can be helpful from the moment you start your human services degree. Even if you have never experienced mental health issues before, it is still a wise decision to open yourself up to emotional help when working in high-stress situations.
Teach Others as You Go
If you want to be successful, then you must learn to be a great teacher. This means you must get into the habit of teaching people from the moment you begin your human services degree – you do not have to be an expert to give others advice!
The most inspirational people are not always those with the most knowledge; what matters most is the ability to teach well. Learn the skills you need to do this, such as public speaking, and you will find you succeed quickly in your career as a social worker.
Perform Your Own Research
As previously mentioned, your learning will not end once your human services degree is completed, so you must get into the habit of performing your own research. This means you should get online, take yourself to the local library, and speak with others to soak up as much information as you can.
One of the most crucial characteristics of successful and inspiring social workers is open-mindedness. When you are working with a variety of people from a large range of backgrounds, you must be open-minded to their reactions and their situations.
While you might not fully comprehend the reasons behind everyone’s actions, you must be able to stay open-minded. Without this, you will not be able to help patients to the best of your ability.
Always Strive to Be Better
If you want to be successful and inspiring, then you must strive to be better from the moment you begin your human services degree to the moment you retire. As someone who is motivated to succeed in their work, you should never accept second best. Work on your skills, knowledge, and emotional well-being at all times to provide the best care you can for your patients.
If you are always striving to be better, then others will look at you as an inspiration. It means that not only will you improve your own skills, but you will also inspire others to expand theirs.
Be Confident in Your Abilities
To be a successful social worker, you must try to let go of any insecurities about your abilities, even if that means faking it first. Look around at the people that inspire you most, and you will see that they are people that exude confidence. If you want to be like them, then you must do the same!
When a day is hard, remember that you are talented and skillful enough to get through it and provide the best care possible. If you feel confident, then others will see that and assume you know exactly what you are doing.
With the mental health crisis in the US and the number of tough situations many American families find themselves in, social work is a critical part of society. While social work is not always easy, pursuing it means entering a career you can always be proud of.