Key skills you need as a social worker

Posted: Apr 15 2019

Social work is a rewarding career which provides attractive benefits such as flexibility and a sense of fulfilment. As a qualified social worker who has undergone the necessary education and training, you will be supporting vulnerable people in society. Depending on the field you choose to work in, this could include the elderly, those who suffer from mental illnesses or those who require assistance in the home. You will be providing an invaluable service that increases the quality of life for so many people. As a social worker, you often adopt different roles, including that of a caretaker, administrator, clinician or therapist.

Social work is extremely varied as there are many paths for career progression, both vertically and horizontally. However, at the core of social work is a basic set of skills all social workers can benefit from improving regularly.

High emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) and emotional quotient (EQ) refer to the capability to discern between the feelings of oneself and others, analyse them and act on them appropriately. In a highly emotionally demanding job such as social work, this ability is essential in demonstrating the best social work practises and to avoid burnout. This is especially important for management and leadership roles in order to guide others effectively. In fact, a study showed that 90% of top performers also ranked highly for emotional intelligence, with it acting as the strongest predictor of good performance.

Daniel Goldman, an American psychologist created a five-step process to master this, which includes enhancing self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Maintaining a professional and personal distance while still providing an empathetic and kind service can be a tricky balance, but a useful boundary to consider setting. These boundaries shouldn’t just exist between you and those you work with, but emotional intelligence also involves setting boundaries for yourself in order to accept the limits of what you’re capable of achieving at any given time.

Organisational skills

Often in social work, schedules can become hectic as people require different levels of support at different times — if these times don’t align, it can lead to heavy caseloads. Developing your ability to efficiently manage workloads by prioritising the most important tasks logically will allow you to continue providing meaningful and top-class service.

While a majority of social work can be hands-on and on-field, it’s important to keep up with administrative tasks to support your work and ensure everything is being performed to the highest standards, in line with regulations. It’s good, therefore, to have analytical and time-management skills.

Interpersonal skills

The ability to communicate effectively by actively listening, interpreting information and communicating that information is essential. Often when working with vulnerable people who may have trouble expressing themselves, it’s beneficial to hone your social perceptiveness so you are able to easily pick up on cues from body language.

You will not only be communicating with patients and co-workers but depending on your specialisation, also with teachers, doctors and the families of patients, therefore the ability to be charismatic and diplomatic is highly useful. Social work is a career predominantly based on communication and contact with a varied range of people from all backgrounds and communities. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of social cues and respect cultural differences.

Learning key behavioural management techniques can be also be useful for social workers. It’s important to remember that at its core, social work is about treating everyone with compassion and respect.

Resilience and motivation

While social work is a truly attractive career due to its rewarding nature and variety of sectors, to not experience burnout, it’s important for social workers to refine their emotional resilience. They can benefit from utilising their personal time to focus on their own needs and emotional wellbeing.  

There can be challenging or emotionally tolling times during this job, therefore a career in social work requires dedication and commitment to the art of caretaking and an intrinsic drive to bring real change to peoples’ lives. The ability to be self-aware, accept feedback and continue your personal development (CPD) is vital to improving your practises and efficiency when helping others.

The desire to help others is in the very nature of a job in social work and one should have the necessary resilience and motivation to provide the best care possible.

Your next social work job with Tradewind Recruitment Social Care

We’re looking for empathetic, talented and motivated social workers to work in a range of roles around the UK. We take great pride in our ability to elevate your career to the next step. Contact us for more information or apply for a range of jobs in social work with us today.

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