Overall employment for social workers is growing much faster than average employment growth according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; while employment for all occupations is expected to see 7% growth between 2016 and 2026, social work employment is expected to see more than twice that growth at 16%. With more than 100,000 projected new jobs in the ten years between 2016 and 2026, now is a good time to be pursuing a career in social work.
Increased employment in the field of social work doesn’t necessarily mean that finding a job is going to be easy, however. Social work is not easy work and requires experience, training, and dedication. The key to finding your ideal job in social work is to make sure it’s the right fit for both you and the organization. These seven tips will help you in your search to find your dream job as a social worker.
Social work is a broad field, with very different specialties and a multitude of possible responsibilities. There are a wide variety of social work organizations, each with different goals and objectives. It’s important to start your search by identifying the kind of social work you want to do and what social issues you want to address. Knowing what and how you want to make a difference will help you focus on your job search efforts.
A helpful starting point is to identify what field of social work interests you – there are child, family, and school social workers, healthcare social workers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, and many more. Even within those specialties there are an abundance of organizations and types of positions. Narrow your search by selecting a general area of social work.
Once you know what area of social work you want to pursue, it’s time to find an organization that’s out there doing the work. This step requires some research. Try searching for key terms related to your desired field of work, or look for social work institutions in your area. If you have colleagues in your field, connect with them to network and advance your job search. Others in the field can offer recommendations of organizations to research or even connect you with a future employer.
When you find an organization operating in the field of social work that interests you, take time to find and review their mission statement. This will give you a clear idea about the work they are doing and how they are doing it, giving you a better understanding of the organization and whether their goals match your own. You should also review any job descriptions they may have posted. By reading job descriptions and mission statements, you will learn more about what they expect from their team members and whether you would be a good fit for both that specific position and their culture and mission in general.
Now that you’ve found an organization you love and a job you want to apply for, you should take the time to update your resume. Your resume should not be generic, one-size-fits-all for any job you may apply for. Pack your resume with your most relevant experience and skills. Job descriptions are helpful here: the description will list exactly what skills and experience they are looking for in a candidate. You can highlight the relevant information on your resume and cover letter so they know you are the right applicant for the job.
If you have training or experience with any Electronic Medical Records (EMR) software, highlight it on your resume. Get specific with examples of the software you’ve used. This can help you jump to the top of the pile of applicants. Relevant EMR software knowledge allows an employer to shorten the necessary training time to get you started. That knowledge can make you more appealing as an applicant.
Interviewers will almost always give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of your interview. Take advantage of this! Not only will you gain valuable insights into their organization, but it is also an opportunity to make another great impression and show that you are interested enough to do prior research. Prepare three to five questions to ask about the organization or the position. Consider asking about the potential for growth in the organization or about the direction their program will take in the next few years.
Following up is important to interview etiquette. At the end of your interview, get the contact information for the staff that you met. Send them an email the same day as the interview thanking them for their time and the opportunity to apply for the position. There is a good chance you won’t be the only person they interview for the position, and this simple act can help keep you at the forefront of their minds. It also shows you are the kind of person they want on their team. To stand out even more, consider sending handwritten thank you notes – your extra effort will leave a great impression.