Like many specialties within the healthcare industry, the need for social workers and other types of social services professionals continues to grow. In fact, current trends indicate that social work opportunities will grow by 16 percent through 2026. Before you start applying for new opportunities, however, ask yourself this: do you have all the tools you need to land your next social work job?
“Even though we’re continually seeing an increase in opportunities for social workers, many of them are coming into the field without the components they need to land a job,” says Alexandra MacDougall, a Staffing Manager at ES|Healthcare, a division of The Execu|Search Group. “Whether that’s not having the proper licensure or experience, social work professionals need to make sure they have all the tools they need to build a long, rewarding career.”
In order to successfully find your next social work job, be sure to address the following:
Know what area you want to specialize in
Social work is an extremely broad field, and the trap that many social workers fall into is not knowing which area to specialize in. According to Alexandra, knowing which groups you’re most passionate about early into your job search can make a big difference! “While it’s understandable to think that keeping your options open can help you find a social work job more easily, it can make your search even longer,” says Alexandra. “Knowing which area you want to specialize in can help you stay more focused during your job search, which will ultimately help you make it to the next level in your career.”
Make a serious effort to network
If you’re struggling to find opportunities through your own research efforts, you may want to consider how networking can help you find your next social work job. Going to networking events and joining industry-specific groups on LinkedIn can help you connect with people working in the areas you are interested in. Additionally, subscribing to newsletters can help you find networking events and meetups that can put you on the right career path.
Get your certifications and licensure now
If you haven’t already gotten your MSW, LMSW, or LCSW, you should start considering this path as an important career move. If you don’t, you run the risk of being passed over for social work job opportunities. “Even if you have several years of experience under your belt, not having relevant social work licensure and certifications can prevent you from getting a job,” she says. “Most employers will choose a licensed, inexperienced candidate over an experienced, non-licensed one in today’s job market.”
Dedicate time to volunteering
If you’re lacking experience and struggling to find paid opportunities, volunteering can help you fill critical gaps in your resume. “If you’re just beginning a career in social work, it can be very hard to get your foot in the door, despite a growing number of job opportunities,” explains Alexandra. “By using your time to volunteer, you can build on your experience and make yourself a more attractive candidate during the hiring process.”
With that being said, volunteering is something you should consider even if you have a couple years of experience under your belt. If you’re looking to build on your existing skillset beyond what your current role offers, volunteering can provide you with valuable professional development opportunities that will help you expand your knowledge as a social worker. It can also help you connect and build relationships with like-minded professionals in your field!