Learning to progress a career in social work can be a difficult endeavor, particularly given that the majority of social workers have not been given any training to help them to do research, identify their own personal goals, and get ready for job searching.
Social workers in the US often struggle to advocate on their own behalf, which can leave many stalled in their career and wondering what to do next.
Progressing your social work career involves identifying any opportunities within your existing circumstances that will be able to help with propelling your career on to the next level.
Concessions can often be important to make when transitioning in your career, such as taking on extra duties without officially being promoted or being given more pay.
These are known as workplace concessions, and although the benefits of making them may not be felt straight away, they usually lead to other valuable opportunities.
Supervisors can also sometimes ask their social workers to contribute to a big project that is not part of their usual workload, and being able to do so is a crucial work characteristic that will improve your leadership skills and overall reputation.
There are a number of steps that social workers can take to help progress their career and become a leader in their field.
Become a specialist
In almost every area of social work, there will be some type of group or organization that you can get involved in.
A good place to start with is the National Association of Social Workers, which gives almost all areas of the professional practice sessions.
There are also a number of other good places to find like-minded peers, including online groups on sites such as LinkedIn, advocacy groups, or alumni networks.
Try volunteering for some type of leadership position in a group, such as taking notes in a meeting or running for office.
Steps such as these are a way of refining your expertise in both leadership and in a particular subject area.
It is important to keep in mind that the primary attributes of a leader are taking responsibility for other people while remaining accountable for yourself.
Great leaders are required by all organizations, and this is a good way to make sure that you are equipped with these skills.
Having gained a professional brand or expertise in your field, the next step is to find the topic you feel that you know the most about and share that expertise via workshops, panels, peer-reviewed journals or guest lectures.
Be sure to recognize and cultivate the talent of others during your journey as collaboration is vital to expanding your network.
Find ways to display your knowledge
Trying to find new activities to help with your professional development can be a challenge, but after attending numerous training courses, it is important to be able to find ways of conveying your knowledge to other people.
In this process, one of the earliest steps you can take is learning how to write articles, abstracts and workshop proposals.
When you get an idea for your own presentation, get some help from a colleague, mentor, or supervisor.
Teaming up with someone you trust and working together as co-authors or presenters is a simple way to approach your first article or proposal.
Get more qualifications
There are other qualifications that social workers can take on that go beyond just CEU opportunities, such as the Advanced Standing Online MSW program.
These qualifications include programs that show a particular competence at a more advanced level.
It is important to do some research before going to your next performance evaluation or job interview, and work out what new qualification you would like to gain, the costs involved, how it relates to your current position, and when you could finish the training.
Supervisors or employers are often unable to give pay raises but may be able to use a different budget to pay you to get a certificate.
Increase specialist knowledge and skills
Change is inevitable in any career, and moving forward is essential in order to avoid becoming stagnant and lifeless.
All social workers are required to engage in continuing education, so it makes sense to have a plan to use this to help your career.
Strategic career planning is about more than just meeting expectations and involves making use of continuing education to add more skills and knowledge to your toolbox.
Be sure to take advantage of opportunities – for instance, choose to take a course on trauma-informed ethics and care if you are interested in trauma-informed care, and consider your fellow participants and the networking opportunities that such courses could also include.
Ensuring that your education remains fresh also allows you to start to recognize new trends in the field.
One of the most beneficial necessities of social work is life-long learning, so it only makes sense to make the absolute most of it that you possibly can.
Recognize portable skills
When you recognize your own portable skills, you can start to understand the ways that those skills can be applied to a number of different career path levels.
One of the biggest problems shared by many social workers is their inability to articulate the skills they have that can be transferable to other fields.
Portable skills, the term used for skills that can be transferred and utilized in different jobs, can often be acquired via non-social work jobs, volunteer work, or professional organizations.
Portable skills can help you to stand out in the workplace and create your professional niche, with examples of these skills including communication, leadership, social media, and supervision.
Such skills can seem like second nature to many people but can be of crucial importance to employers.
Learning these skills will enable you to progress your social work career to the next level.