A career in social work quickly becomes far more than a job, it’s a commitment to improving the lives of individuals and communities in need. As an aspiring social worker, you're embarking on a noble path—one that demands not only a strong educational foundation but also a unique set of skills that enable you to navigate the complexities of the human experience.
The combination of these skills, along with your classroom and real-world experience, will result in your ability to contribute to any highly skilled healthcare team you work with and ensure you are always at the forefront of providing improved patient outcomes.
Common skills of successful social workers can be categorized into two categories: clinical skills and interpersonal skills. These add to the unique and impactful role you will play in helping others. Whether you're considering a Master of Social Work (MSW) program or already enrolled in one of Herzing’s many behavioral health programs, this guide is here to illuminate the path ahead.
Clinical Skills for Social Workers:
Clinical skills are teachable abilities or knowledge typically acquired through formal education and training programs. These skills are fundamental to social work practice and are typically learned through academic coursework, practical field placements, and continuous professional development. They can all help you to determine the type of career and specialization that is right for you.
Some of the most important hard skills for social workers are:
- Advocacy: Social workers are advocates for their clients, working tirelessly to safeguard their rights and ensure access to essential services like housing, healthcare, and education.
- Assessment and Diagnosis: Social workers are proficient in evaluating the needs, strengths, and challenges of individuals and families. They employ diagnostic tools to develop customized treatment plans for optimal patient care.
- Case Management: Social workers excel in coordinating and overseeing client services, ensuring they have access to the required resources and support.
- Counseling and Therapy: Many social workers are trained to provide individual, group, or family therapy to address emotional and psychological issues.
- Crisis Intervention: Managing and responding to crises is a fundamental skill. Social workers provide immediate support to individuals in distress.
- Cultural Competence: Social workers respect and understand cultural diversity, adapting their practice to meet the unique needs of clients from various backgrounds.
Interpersonal Skills for Social Workers:
Interpersonal skills, the interpersonal and emotional qualities that enhance a social worker's effectiveness, are just as vital. They are developed through practice, experience, and personal growth, and they significantly influence a social worker's ability to establish trust, rapport, and understanding with clients.
Some of the most important interpersonal skills for social workers include:
- Active Listening: Effective communication and active listening are essential for understanding and addressing client concerns.
- Boundary Setting: Maintaining professional boundaries while offering emotional support is essential to protect both clients and social workers.
- Communication: Social workers are skilled communicators, conveying complex information clearly and effectively to clients, colleagues, and other professionals.
- Empathy: Social workers exhibit profound empathy, establishing strong connections with clients and comprehending their emotions and needs.
- Problem-Solving: At the core of any good social worker are exceptional problem-solving abilities and the capacity to create solutions to address a client’s unique challenges and circumstances.
- Resilience: Social work can be emotionally demanding, and resilience is critical for coping with stress and adversity in addition to providing others with sound strategies to be resilient themselves.
Ensure Your Skills Shine
When constructing your resume as a social worker, it's imperative to highlight your unique blend of hard and soft skills, as they collectively constitute your qualifications. Tailoring your resume to emphasize these skills will position you as a competent and compassionate social worker, ready to make a difference in the lives of those you serve. Some easy ways to amplify your skillset on your resume are:
- Quantify Achievements: Whenever possible, quantify your achievements to provide concrete evidence of your skills. For instance, "Assisted in the successful coordination of 50+ cases" or "Enhanced patient well-being through individual therapy sessions, achieving a 95% client satisfaction rate."
- Highlight Relevant Certifications: If you possess specialized certifications or training in specific areas of social work, ensure they are prominently featured on your resume. This provides immediate recognition of your expertise, such as "Certified in Trauma-Informed Care" or "Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)."
- Showcase Interpersonal Skills Through Accomplishments: In addition to listing soft skills, illustrate how you've applied them effectively in your previous roles. Provide examples of how your communication or problem-solving skills have supported a team and benefitted a patient.
At Herzing University, we're committed to nurturing the skills and knowledge you need to excel in social work. Our MSW program provides a comprehensive foundation for aspiring social workers like you. Your journey begins here, where you can acquire the skills to make a significant difference in the lives of those you serve.