On the list of professions that are challenging and fulfilling, social work is close to the top. Whether you work with children or adults, social work allows the opportunity to be a force for positive change. You can be a voice for people who may not be able to speak for themselves. Perhaps you want to study social work in college.
Although some people know that they want to be a social worker, for others the path isn’t quite as clear. If you are on the fence, there are some signs that it’s time to study social work in college
You’re Passionate About Social Issues and Social Justice
Homelessness. Family traumas. Abuse. Addiction. Poverty. Inequality. Most everyone has compassion to some extent for individuals living with these issues. However, if you’re passionate about creating a better life for people, a career in social work will give you the chance to make a difference. Social workers have a desire to end injustice and help others be healthy and secure. In short, if you care about social issues and like to volunteer to help your community, then social work is a good fit.
Social workers often face situations that would raise feelings of anger, disgust, and judgment. It’s easy, for example, to negatively judge a parent being accused of abusing or neglecting a child, or an addict who refuses to get clean and sober. However, social workers must always remain objective and put their own opinions and emotions aside to make ethical decisions and determine the best course of action in any situation. Clients need someone who can evaluate the situation with a clear head and impartial judgement and see all sides and influencing factors. If you have a tendency to develop strong opinions or biases, and act on them regardless of contrary facts, social work may not be ideal for you. On the other hand, if you are known for your objectivity, it’s worth considering.
You Are Perceptive
Social workers often deal with situations in which they don’t get the full story. Clients may not have the skills to effectively communicate their needs. In many communities, language or cultural barriers prevent open communication. In other cases, clients can’t or won’t communicate out of fear. Social workers need to be excellent listeners, not only so they can hear what is being said, but also so they can read between the lines to make the right calls. It also requires being perceptive to nonverbal clues, from body language to physical and environmental conditions. Being able to “read” people and situations is a useful skill.
You’re Empathetic and Compassionate
It should come as no surprise that empathy and compassion top the list of necessary traits for social workers. After all, being able to put yourself in another person’s position, truly understand what they are feeling and take action to improve the situation are the very foundations of the social work profession. Beyond being caring and understanding, and empowering your clients, being empathetic means making yourself relatable. In other words, you’re able to provide support and assistance without making others feel bad or presenting yourself as a rescuer.
Change always sounds easy when you’re reading about it in a textbook or making plans. The reality is that change takes time, and not all social work clients want to change. There will be setbacks, and there may be times where you feel like you’re wasting your time. However, social workers need to be persistent, for a breakthrough could be right around the corner. If you are known for your willingness to keep going even when things seem hopeless, social work may be the best field for you.
Of course, these are not the only traits of a successful social worker, and arguably these traits can lead to success in many fields. That being said, if any of this sounds familiar, explore a career in social work and see how you can make a difference in the lives of others.
Interested in social work? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover colleges that feature social work as a major or program!