Congratulations if you just graduated with a BSW or MSW. You have your diploma in hand and a party to celebrate but now what?
Now it is time to be a social worker! A few thoughts for new graduates to consider. (And a great reminder to us who have been around a bit!)
Don’t Rush into the first job you see.
You may be in a hurry to get a job so you can live your dream and get paid but it is OK to take some time to find a job that is a good fit for you. If you are uncomfortable and don’t like a place during the interview – chances are you won’t like to work there.
Practice interviewing and be prepared.
First – dress presentably. There are a lot of social work positions where jeans and dressing down are the norm. However, there is no need to look like you are spending a Saturday a home at your interview. Look as if you put a bit of effort into your appearance.
Second – know something about the agency with which you are interviewing. In the age of the internet, there is no reason not to have some knowledge about the company.
Third – Think about how you may answer some of the questions at the interview. You will likely be asked how you do you organize your work, how do you set priorities, how do you handle a conflict with a coworker and how do you connect with clients. Having practiced the answers – at least in your head – will be helpful in the interview.
Fourth – Don’t share too much random information. In social work, we want to talk about our personal stuff so we can show we understand and sometimes it is appropriate but really ask yourself if you need to share about a personal problem. One time someone I was interviewing started to answer my question by saying “I really don’t like to talk about it,” and the answer went downhill from there.
Stay True to Your Values
Make sure your personal values are not contrary to the values of the agency where you choose to work. It will be difficult to work in a place where you feel like your work is against your own beliefs.
Consider your continuing education plans
You may groan at the thought of going back to school. However, if you just graduated with a BSW, you may want to consider if you will want to earn an MSW in a few years. Many BSW students can get advanced standing in an MSW program so you want to make sure you don’t miss that opportunity. Depending on where you are you may also be considering licensing. There is also the option of specialization in an area of interest. There is no hurry but thinking about your basic education plan may be helpful.
You are always going to make mistakes
We all want to be good at what we do. The thing is that you will make mistakes. You will never stop making mistakes. It is an essential skill to not take making mistakes too personally. We learn best from our mistakes. Embrace your mistakes. Talk to your supervisor and more experienced social workers for feedback and keep on.
Keep on keeping on
It is easy to get discouraged when starting out (and even later on.) Give yourself some time to adjust to your new career or position. When you become overwhelmed make sure to take time for yourself. You will learn everything you need to know just hang in there. One of the cool things about social work is that if you struggle working with one population there is always another type of job for you. Just keep on keeping on. Social Work is an amazing career. Find your niche and save the world one person at a time.