Getting a job in social work can be quite competitive and the pay quite low -- but the overall rewards of helping people and creating social change can make the effort worth it. If you’re looking to break into the field, you’ll often need to start with a degree in social work or a related field. Beyond that, here are some tips from experts and people who have been there, helping you to land that next great job.
Volunteer your time
If you’re still in school or you’ve recently graduated, you need experience to gain some practical skills and knowledge. That’s where volunteering can really come in handy. Look for school groups, sports facilities, care centers or hospitals where you can gain some experience. Nearly any type of experience working with people can help, suggested a planning facilitator with the Sunderland City Council, as detailed in The Guardian. Those volunteer experiences have another benefit: They’ll put you in contact with people who can mentor you, helping you choose the proper coursework or putting you in contact with hiring entities.
Know the legislation, policies and best practices in your niche
When you’re preparing for an interview, be prepared to talk about the issues that are most relevant or most timely in your particular niche, reminds the British Association of Social Workers. That can include knowing detailed information about laws or landmark legislation, as well as any recent policy or legislative changes that have happened in your field.
Bring along relevant case work samples or a portfolio
You’ll demonstrate your knowledge of a certain type of case work by showing examples of what you’ve done in the past. Ahead of any interviews, put together five or six artifacts of work you’ve done -- whether that be during your education, during your volunteer work or in other jobs. Be prepared to talk about the challenges with that particular case as well as the solutions you came up with in order to solve them, suggests social worker Colin Mabbutt on the British Association of Social Work’s website.
Use networking associations to your full advantage
Speaking of professional associations like the British Association of Social Workers, be sure to join at least one, and then use them to your full advantage. The U.S. national equivalent is the National Association of Social Workers, though you’ll also find smaller organizations at the state or city level. Joining these organizations can offer you job hunting tips as well as listings for job openings. Conferences and workshops can also help you hone skills that are crucial for success in your field.
One last piece of advice: be patient
When you’re working in the social services field, many of the job openings are with government entities -- places where the hiring processes can move very slow. If you haven’t heard anything about a job in a while, it’s OK to call the office and check in, but also understand that overworked staff members won’t appreciate someone who pesters them too often.
Like every other career, actually getting hired requires you to have the right mix of skills and experience, as well as a dose of patience and persistence. With a combination of these items, you’ll be well on your way to success.
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