It's difficult to define all of the important traits of a social worker due to the sheer scope and diversity of challenges they may encounter on a daily basis. Members of the profession must be able to connect and communicate with people of various backgrounds, as well as think critically and objectively when evaluating each situation. There are numerous positions and roles filled by social workers, so there are plenty of different skills and traits that can be beneficial. Anyone considering a career in social work should have a desire and willingness to work with people on a regular basis.
Interpersonal Conversation Skills
Many social workers spend a significant amount of time speaking directly with children, adults and families. Whether the goal is to educate or interview, workers need to be able to develop trust and confidence with their subjects. Active listening is an essential conversational skill as it can be a source of relevant information during an evaluation and shows that the worker actually cares. The ability to persuade or encourage cooperation is also an incredibly valuable skill because it can prevent unnecessary conflicts from complicating an already difficult situation.
Sound Judgement and Objective Observation
Even though they utilize a strong sense of compassion and understanding, social workers also need to know how to detect deception or signs of mistreatment. Attentiveness and keen senses are essential for workers who deal with family issues, particularly regarding parental custody rights. Both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence lie about their experiences, so professionals who work on these cases must be able to see past the presentation.
Managing Occupational Stress
Every job has its challenges and sources of stress. Social work may be an incredibly rewarding occupation for many of those in the field, but it can also be psychologically and physically taxing. People who turn it into a long-term career need to learn how to relax and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Activities that help them manage emotional strain, like yoga or meditation, can be particularly useful.
Organization and Attention to Detail
Even workers who spend a lot of time working directly with people also devote plenty of hours to handling papers behind a desk. Government jobs require strict adherence to procedure and operational guidelines, which typically involves completing and submitting various forms to ensure all official files are complete. Social workers need to keep their documents organized and stick to schedules every day.
Relevant Education and Training
Anyone interested in becoming a social worker should start with a bachelor's degree in the field, while those seeking clinical duties need a master's degree and clinical experience, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's also possible to enter the profession with a degree in a related field, like sociology or psychology. Many state governments require social workers to receive certification or licensing from an approved program before they start working.
Related Resource: 30 Great Scholarships for Social Work Students
Social work is growing field and there is a rising demand for qualified professionals to fill essential positions throughout the country. Even people who don't have all of the important traits of a social worker can still succeed in the occupation if they are willing to learn and develop essential skills.