An online Master of Social Work degree can be a stepping stone to long-term career growth. The social work industry is growing quickly, with demand for new jobs rising fast, so an advanced degree can set you up to take on a leadership role. However, a degree isn’t a guarantee of a job. You’ll still need to do the work of applying, interviewing, and finding the right fit. At Regis College, our online MSW program can lay a foundation that positions you for more advanced roles, helping you take the next steps toward licensure and employment as a certified social worker or even as a counselor.
First steps in finding your social work job
Imagine you’ve just graduated or are on the cusp of completing your online MSW. What are the first steps you’ll need to take to position yourself for the ideal job? Here are a few actions to consider:
- Network with your industry contacts, particularly those from your MSW program. The online MSW from Regis College includes field practice under the supervision of licensed social workers. These contacts can be invaluable resources in helping connect you to potential job opportunities or giving you tips on things you can work on to position yourself for the type of job you are looking for.
- Make sure you are staying on top of licensing. In practice, licensure requirements vary greatly from state to state, so understanding exactly what you need to do to get your license and taking those steps in a timely fashion is critical. You don’t want to end up in a situation in which the right job is available, but you’re unable to apply because you’re still waiting to finalize licensure details.
- Check in with industry organizations, particularly the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and consider joining. These types of industry bodies provide access to a wide range of job resources, networking opportunities, and membership benefits designed to connect social workers with the Master of Social Work jobs they are looking for.
- Identify what career services are available from your institution. Many schools offer career counseling and similar opportunities to students, even those participating in online programs.
- Engage in critical reflection and take some time to evaluate your goals. Pursuing a degree is a busy, often somewhat frenetic process. This can be especially true for working professionals trying to balance their education with their personal and work priorities. Don’t neglect taking some time to reflect on what you’ve learned and consider adjusting your goals based on any new priorities.
These tips represent a starting point to help you kick off your job search process. They can help you get going by giving you a sense of focus and removing some of the barriers that can come between you and a job. Once you’ve gone through these steps, it’s time to start getting into the details of the job search.
Classic job-seeking methods as applied to social work
The social work industry is growing so quickly that identifying job openings isn’t the primary challenge. Instead, the issue is more a matter of finding the right job for your skills and goals as a professional. To do this, you’ll need to be prepared to compete with other professionals who have similar interests and consider how you can both differentiate yourself and make strong first impressions during interviews. With this in mind, here’s a look at some traditional job search best practices contextualized around the specific needs of social workers.
Resumes: Your resume must clearly tell the story of who you are, what you’re looking for in a job, and why you are qualified for that position. Many parts of your resume can be standardized, but you should still tweak it for each position you apply for. NASW provides some specific tips for how social workers can make their resumes stand out among employers in the sector, and also provides some sample options to browse.
Interviewing: NASW also provides a robust guide to what social workers can expect from interviews. In many ways, this guidance covers some of the same tips you’ll find for any job. Employers will ask you about your strengths and weaknesses. They’ll be looking for you to ask thoughtful questions during the interview. However, NASW also highlights a few specific questions that social workers can expect to answer, such as asking about their process for developing case plans or their specific areas of interest.
Continuing education: Don’t neglect how taking occasional courses and participating in workshops can help you stay ahead. Even after you have an MSW, pursuing continuing education can help you develop specialized skills, show an interest in growing, and help employers view you as somebody who is passionate about your profession.
Job-seeking practices to avoid
Many classic job-seeking methods, such as writing a solid cover letter and making your resume stand out, are still critical. However, some longstanding best practices are starting to slip away as trends around job searching change. For example, a report from the Forbes Coaches Council highlighted the idea that you shouldn’t apply unless you have all of the qualifications as a myth. Jenn Lofgren, a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and leadership development professional, explained that many job ads compile the skills of an entire team to describe a kind of super-employee who can do everything. Don’t worry if you can’t quite meet all of the qualifications, but do make sure you have the core skills needed for the type of work described.
Applying this kind of advice to social work can be tricky, as licensure and similar formal qualifications are common. Make sure you differentiate between must-have qualifications and skills that hiring professionals may be flexible on if you are strong in other areas.
Start working toward your ideal social work job
If you have a dream job in mind, pursuing an MSW may be the best place to start. The online MSW at Regis College provides flexible, accessible options to help students develop their skills and prepare for the future. Contact us today to learn more about the program.