Savvy social workers often seek out peer support, mentoring and networking opportunities. Who can you turn to for guidance and connections?
Social workers do their best to meet the needs of others – every day, year after year. While this can be highly rewarding, it also puts you at significant risk of burnout if you don’t feel supported by your colleagues and employers. This one reasons why networking in social work is so important.
This makes it vital for social workers to support one another through the ups and downs of their careers. It’s also important that they are able to access the industry groups, learning resources and networking opportunities that make this possible.
So, what resources are available to social workers who are in need of advice, mentoring or a new career direction?
The “compassion fatigue” experienced by many overstressed social workers should never be underestimated. There are various self-care activities that social workers can engage in to keep themselves mentally and physically healthy. These can include exercise, reading, finding a creative outlet and personal therapy. It’s important to note that low social support and low coworker support can be key causes of burnout.
A good way to connect with and support networking in social work is through a professional association. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW)has chapters in all 50 states, and offers a helpline for social workers and social service workers who seek answers to legal, ethical and practice questions. They can also assist with leadership and social work career development.
There are organizations catering to social workers who specialize in a particular field of practice, such as the Clinical Social Work Association and theNational Association of Perinatal Social Workers. Minority social workers can access networking opportunities, mentoring and guidance through such bodies as the Latino Social Workers Organization and the National Association of Black Social Workers.
An important part of becoming a more “social” social worker is to keep in mind that it’s a two-way street. When you go the extra mile to support your colleagues during difficult times, your generosity is likely to be returned at a later date.
Professional networking draws on many of the same skills social workers use to build relationships and trust with clients. Networking can help you expand your circle of friends and associates, keep up to date on industry trends and pursue new career opportunities. In addition to joining a professional association, you should also consider:
- Social media: Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Meetup and Facebook are great places to connect with employers, industry groups and other social workers. To get the most out of them, be active – ask questions, get professional recommendations and share useful information.
- Volunteering: Many social workers channel their passions into volunteer work as a way of achieving personal fulfillment, while also gaining valuable industry experience and new contacts.
- Continuing education: More than just places to learn, workshops and conferences can also be great places to share your knowledge and experiences with other social workers, and speak to industry experts.
These are just some of the ways in which social workers can support one another, personally and professionally. Find out more about the social work practice and community by exploring MSWCareers.