While there are many characteristics of a good social worker, there are a few that are extremely important. Without them, a social worker either wouldn't be very effective at his or her job or would be extremely unhappy in his or her line of work. A person who would make a good social worker should have compassion, listening skills and organizational skills.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers often work at:
- child welfare agencies
- mental health clinics
- nursing homes
- substance abuse clinics
This means that they routinely have to work with people who have broken the law, are addicted to drugs or have abused their children. Social workers have to realize that no matter what people have done, they are still people who need help. Some clients don't have any of these problems and just need a social worker because they are financially unstable. While these clients might seem like they would be easier to help, they can be very stressed when visiting social services. To calm any kind of client down, social workers can't be judgmental. Instead, they need to have compassion and really want to help their clients get out of bad situations.
Social workers work to help their clients, and they can't do this unless they truly listen to their clients and understand their situations. Each client has different needs, and the solutions to their needs are different too. For instance, imagine two different clients talking to a social worker – both of them are at below poverty level. If the social worker doesn't listen to the clients' stories, he or she may just put both of them on food stamps and send them on their way. One client, however, may be ineligible because he previously tried selling them in order to get cash for other needed items. The other client may need more money than food stamps can provide because her child is sick and needs to stick to a special diet. In both cases, the client still doesn't have his or her basic needs met. By listening to a client, a social worker learns more about the client's situation and is able to be of more help.
Being able to stay organized is one of the most important characteristics of a good social worker because social workers are often given a large caseload. For instance, while the Child Welfare League of America states that each caseworker should optimally have between 12 and 15 cases at a time, the average child welfare worker actually has a caseload of 24 to 31 children. Social workers can only give each client the time and services that he or she needs by staying extremely organized. Social workers need to use their time wisely. If a social worker can't find case files or other types of information quickly, valuable time is taken away from clients.
Social work is a great field to work in if you want to help people, but only certain individuals are cut out for it. If you think that you may have the characteristics of a good social worker, you may have just found your calling.