I’m a marketing professional and author, but also a social worker. I earned an MSW degree from Columbia University and since graduation my career has taken many interesting turns. I was a geriatric social worker who moved on to marketing and communications roles in Washington, D.C., and this fall I will publish my memoir, The Pornographer’s Daughter. I have always relied on my social work skills to move forward in my career.
Social work is not confined to working for the government or counseling. It’s a multi-faceted profession with many different opportunities within your grasp. In honor of Social Work Month (a little late), here’s the top five things I learned as a social worker.
- The world is a big place. We don’t exist in a vacuum and realizing just how diverse the world is will bring you needed perspective in your career and life. Understanding the importance of cultural competency in social work practice is also applicable to functioning effectively in a growing global economy. Cookie-cutter approaches don’t work and a better understanding of how someone’s culture impacts their beliefs, behaviors and viewpoints makes products and services more accessible to a boarder audience.
- People are complex. Understanding the complexities of human behavior will give you the upper hand. Learning clinical skills and the impact of mental illness, culture, trauma, addiction, divorce, discrimination, socioeconomic status and host of other things will help you better recognize someone’s underlying motivations and actions.
- Small things make a big difference. A smile. An understanding gesture. Writing to your Congressman. Signing a petition. It’s these types of small things that can develop rapport with a challenging client to move a project forward, build a counseling relationship or even start a movement to right an injustice. Do all the little things you can, they add up.
- Things are not always what they appear to be. The world is unpredictable and situations are inevitably various shades of grey. And not just black or white, good or bad, right or wrong but a mixture of everything in between. The more comfortable you are with uncertainty the better.
- Take a risk and bend the rules. As a social worker, someone else’s well-being is often dependent upon you taking a risk or advocating on their behalf. This skill applies any type of career and bending the rules, if done ethically, has value. If you want to learn something new, don’t wait for someone to teach you. If you see an opportunity, take it. If someone needs help, do something to help them. It’s quite simple, social work, or any great career, has always been about getting your hands dirty, jumping in with both feet, doing something you feel passionate about, and just plain fighting for what you believe in.
These are skills social work has taught me and so far, they have served me well. I hope you thanked a social worker in the month of March for all the fantastic things they do.