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Career Advancement in Social Services

Most professionals are looking to steer their careers onto a constant upward track. In the social services industry, figuring out which job is “better” can be tricky. Higher pay isn’t always the answer. Most people working in social services are motivated by non-financial forces as well as the desire to earn money. One very common aspiration for social workers is to advance into a position where they have more opportunities to help more people.

Overall, social work is a wide-open sector. There are already many open positions, and experts predict that the next decade will see at least a 12 percent growth in the industry. If you’re ready to move up into a more fulfilling social worker role, now is the perfect time to do it. Here are five solid tips:


1) Plan Your Move Early


Applying at the last minute is a terrible way to hunt for a promotion. The earlier you target the position you want to move to, the longer you can spend building relevant skills and experiences. Study all of the social service job openings in your region, and remember to look beyond government employment. Hospitals, counseling services, charities, and other employers also hire social workers.

Keep an open mind and consider any opening that lines up well with your skills and interests. Working as a health educator, job counselor, or teacher might take you outside the social service sector, but it can build up impressive work experience and teach you easily-transferable skills.


2) Seek Out A Mentor


Working with a mentor will help you move up the ranks. More importantly, it can teach you effective time-proven techniques for doing your work better. Mentors can sharpen your career expectations, steer you toward otherwise-hidden job opportunities, and help you secure the promotion you’re looking for.

Exercise plenty of thought when you pick out a mentor. Don’t look exclusively at the length of time he or she has worked for their current organization. Consider career achievements and overall job effectiveness. One great way to “test out” a mentor is to ask them to help locate additional resources for a client. Good mentors do more than polish up your resume; they also help you in your mission to help others.


3) Accept Extra Responsibilities


Rare indeed is the social worker who loves every aspect of the job. If you’re willing to take on new job duties and devote your extra time beyond your caseload to helping your co-workers, you may be doing your career a big favor. Putting in hard work is always helpful when you’re seeking a promotion.

Going beyond the limits of your current position demonstrates your readiness for greater responsibilities. Just remember to keep your own work at the center of your job. Meet all your deadlines and strive to deliver the highest possible standard of service.


4) Fix Problems


At its core, all social work is about solving problems. Don’t just solve problems on your clients’ behalf; put those skills to work in the office as well. Cultivating a reputation as a reliable problem-solver can make you look like a very tempting prospect for promotion.

A significant majority of organizations doing social work are under-staffed. This will generate plenty of minor issues that go unsolved. Seek these little annoyances out and fix them with ingenuity and efficiency. Making everyone’s job easier will serve you in good stead.


5) Keep Learning


Landing a new position or earning a promotion isn’t just about hard work. Demonstrating your mastery of relevant skills and knowledge is essential. To advance to certain heights, you’ll need a specialized degree or a clinical designation. Make long-term plans to earn your LCSW or LBSW in order to keep your career moving upwards.

You can also find useful tools for career advancement and credentialing through the National Association of Social Workers. You can learn a wide range of useful job skills (e.g. budgeting, personnel management, conflict resolution, presenting) with online platforms like Lynda and Udemy.

If you want some more advice on what it takes to be a social worker – check this out from SCS.

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