When you consider a career in social work, one of the major pros is the great job outlook. Statistics show that it is indeed a fast-growing field that has a great outlook for the future. In the next few years, social work jobs are expected to increase by more than 10% with a rise in the wage rate. This is possible because social workers are found in a variety of different settings such as clinics, government agencies, schools and private practice areas.
However, to take advantage of the prospects that this career path offers, it’s important to stay on top through professional development, which will give you an opportunity to advance your career and improve your chances of climbing the ladder.
There are several steps you can take to make progress in your social work career. If you’re currently a social worker and wish to make career-wise progress, here are five options that you can explore.
- Increase your transferable skills
Transferable skills are easily the most overlooked route to advancing a career. With a level of insight, you’ll be able to evaluate which skills can be applied to different work settings. These skills are referred to as “transferable skills” and can be invaluable to an employer.
As a social worker, some major transferable skills that you can focus on are communication skills, supervision, public speaking, crisis intervention and conflict resolution. These skills can put you in a better position, irrespective of the social work setting that you find yourself.
These transferable skills can be developed by volunteering and participating in internships, shadowing more experienced social workers, or working in other non-social work positions.
It’s important to first recognize the transferable skills you have or can acquire, hone them openly, and then begin to see how these skills relate to different levels of your career.
- Pursue additional training and continue your education
Every career path today is going through changes due to technological advancement and other global progressions, and social work isn’t left out. Change is inevitable, and to remain relevant, you need to stay on point and acquire relevant higher education.
One way through which you can achieve this is by advancing your educational training. Advanced educational programs offer a chance for more learning and better positioning for higher career prospects. There are several Master of Social Work programs that you can enrol in to learn more and improve your chances of career progression in social work.
You also can take online certificate courses and training that can take your career to the next level by helping you stay on top of new developments with new insights.
As a social worker, you shouldn’t confine yourself to just the ability you have to help your clients. Instead, you should always look for opportunities to further what you already know.
- Leverage your social networks
Any professional that’s going to scale up in a chosen field needs a network of people to facilitate this. As a professional, you should endeavor to always take advantage of your social network. From co-workers and workplace connections to mentors and supervisors that may be outside your primary organization, you can make substantial progress by leveraging relationships.
Oftentimes, to move into a higher position, you’ll be required to build on your network by tendering recommendation letters or references. Other times, it’s the people you know that’ll guide you through your career and recommend roles to you.
Ensure that no matter the current state of your career, you make meaningful and sustainable connections with those within and outside your career network. You have the opportunity of joining networking events both physically and virtually to not only learn more but also to widen your professional reach.
- Join professional organizations
If you’re truly looking to make career progress, you should take advantage of the benefits that certain organizations provide. Professional organizations within the social workspace offer numerous benefits to their members, including networking opportunities, job boards, advocacy resources and continuing education credits.
The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are top professional bodies in the country. You can be a part of such an organization.
However, it’s one thing to be a part of an organization; it’s another to get involved in it. You can start by volunteering to be a leader at these organizations and see how things progress from there. Simple things such as managing correspondence, leading planning committees and running for office are ways through which you can be visible in such organizations. You can be honing your skills while you are curating your social network and learning as much as possible when you become an active member of these professional bodies.
- Build on your expertise through specialization
The field of social work is truly a wide one. There are different settings and roles you can work in while you’re still in this field. However, picking a specialization is one great way of leveling up your career.
When you pick a specialization, you have the opportunity to specifically build on that and make yourself more marketable within the area you choose. For instance, you may decide to be a family and child social worker, geriatric social worker or clinical social worker. You may break down your specialty into more specific areas if you wish.
The whole point of this is to ensure that your choices are streamlined and that it’s much easier for you to find jobs.
It is true that you may choose not to specialize from the onset, but with time, you should take your experience and interests into consideration and build an expertise level in the area that appeals to you.
These strategies are efficient when you truly want to advance your social work career. However, one important thing to note is that career progression takes consistency and effort. Begin with these strategies, and with time, you’ll begin to see their impact on your career!