Social Workers Need to be Social Networkers!

Networking is probably the most important part of anyone’s career, and everyone, especially social workers and students, should be practicing proper networking habits. As social workers, we need to be leaders in our community and build successful relationships with various people, and it is important to connect with professionals in all sectors that can influence the social atmosphere.

imageofsuccessnetworkingcocktailpartyfundraiserNetworking can help build relationships with potential employers, potential clients, potential business partners, and potential personal relationships. Personal relationships drive the way our society operates because we are a social society made up of social human beings. People are more likely to give jobs to people they like or do business with people they know.

Social work students and younger professionals really need to be out there networking to ensure your career development is an easy transition from school and you career develops successfully. We are also the next generation of leaders, and it is good to connect with the current leaders now to understand how we can one day be in those positions.

A few tips you should know about networking:

  • Ask how their day is going before anything else. Don’t be that person that gets down to business right away. This is not a business meeting, and you will be known as that person in the community.
  • Never talk about yourself unless addressed. This is hard, but don’t make it about yourself. People sometimes think about how they can respond to some rather than actually listening. Focus on listening and asking more questions. You will get to a point where you can talk about yourself, but wait until it comes.
  • Always be respectful! Duh!
  • Be sincere. People can tell if you are just talking to them for business purposes. At least pretend to like talking to them.
  • Ask personal questions. Ask about their job, their responsibilities, and their lives. Unless, they are a spokesperson for their company, steer away from company or career specific questions.
  • Only give your contact information if they ask. Don’t just give it right away or stick your business card in their face. If they ask for your contact information, they actually want to stay in touch. Ask for their card if you plan to stay in touch.
  • If you attend the event with friends or coworkers, do not stick with them the whole night. You can meet more people and have more meaningful conversations if you do not have someone who knows you standing right next to you. They can be there for support, but also drag you down. Remember, one person is easier to approach the two or more.
  • Be prepared. Have a business card ready and be prepared to talk and engage.
  • If you plan to stay in touch, ask how. Email, phone, social media. Set up a plan.
  • Have goals for the event. Goals help you stay motivated and push you to talk to people. If you don’t have a goal, then you may just stand in the corner eating the free snacks. A simple goal is meet three people you never met before, or meet someone who can connect you with an agency who can provide you a job. Keep it simple, but have some goals in mind.
  • Never pull out your phone! It’s extremely rude, and should only be answered in emergencies. Everything else can wait.
  • Also, you should wait for them to share with you before sharing photos of your pets or families

One of my former supervisors taught me this method to approach people at a networking or social event. This has been really helpful personally with building relationships with people you may not expect right away would be helpful. The important thing about networking is no matter who you meet, there can always be a benefit of knowing a person. This method uses the acronym FORM and helps you realize potential opportunities to connect with the person in multiple areas than just business.

Family & Personal Life. Ask about the person about themselves before you ask anything else. You are talking to a person, not just an employee of a business. Talk about where they are from, their family, their education, and anything else personal first. Take note, new parents love talking about their children! Also, asking people about their family the next time you see them shows you actually care about the person. Pets are another great way to connect, as well as hometown or cultural traditions. Try to build a connection with someone rather than force it.

Sample Questions:
· Where are you originally from?
· When do you move to the area?
· What are some of your favorite things to do around here?
· Where do you go to school if you did?
· Do you have family here? If so, do you mind me asking about them?

Occupation & Business. After the personal life questions, transition to work. Some people love talking about their job, and some people do not. Our society identifies people based on their occupation. It’s important to know what career someone has, but always remember not to solely associate that person with their work.

Sample Questions:
· What do you for a living?
· Do you like your job?
· What are the best components of your job?
· How long have you been doing it?
· How did you get into that career field?
· What was the best part of your education?

Recreation & Hobbies. People do more than just work. Ask what they like to do for fun. See if they are involved in clubs or associations. People have many interests outside of working, and you could meet someone who likes similar things as you. Also, this is another area to talk about with someone and connect with them in different ways.

Sample Questions:
· What do you like to do outside of work?
· What do you do for fun?
· Do you volunteer for any organizations or causes?
· Do you know of special interest groups or organizations in the area?

Mission & Message. After speaking for some time with a person, this is where you identify what your goal is with that person. Share information about your agency or your career goals. Try to connect with them for professional development opportunities. Identify and plan a way to stay in touch. This is usually the part where us fundraisers talk about the great work our organizations does, and how the person’s support with be helpful or to be involved in the organization. This is a great time because you have demonstrated you actually care about the person more than doing your job.

Sample questions:
· Do you know anyone who could help me?
· Do you have any ideas/advice for me?
· Is there anyone here than you know that I can meet?
· Could we meet for coffee/drinks?
· I would love to stay in touch. Which way is best to contact you?

I have followed this method in the last few months, and met incredible people in the local community. It is truly amazing to hear more about a person beyond their current job, and their personal community service goals. You can figure out many opportunities that person can help you, and how you can help them! Remember social workers should be doing the best we can to ameliorate our communities. The more relationships you build, the bigger your impact can be on the community. Connecting professionals from various sectors can help unite the community in a way to really make a difference in the community. We sometimes underestimate the power of relationship building on a professional level, and it is certainly a priority of social work to advance social justice causes and change the community for good. The more people we know, the more our impact can have.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eventbrite

Ten Tips for Wrapping Up Your Internship!

Many college students are finally ending their academic years and semesters. Classes always seems so long, but at the same time, time flies! Since the semester is ending, internships are coming to a close as well. It can be a sad situation, as many students love their internships. On the other hand, it may be a nice relief for the students who did not care for their position. Regardless of interest, it is important for all students to make sure they end the internship in good standing. An internship can provide references and connections for students in their later career endeavors. A good student always makes sure that they have wrap up everything at their internship and maintain a great relationship.

career-opportunitiesHere are ten tips to help you interns finish your experiences:

1.Finish any projects/assignments. This is self-explanatory, but make sure you complete everything you were assigned. The completion of your hours is not an excuse for incomplete work. Your contribution to the agency may be really important, and you do want to be the intern who leaves incomplete work for the agency.

2.Set a final date with your supervisor. Another self-explanatory tip, but it is important. Some schools have hours requirements for credit, and some students think they can just peace out once their hours are completed. This is not true. Sit down with your supervisor and figure out an exact date that works for both of you, before you plan to leave.

3.Ask about other agency opportunities. If you are about to graduate, it would not hurt to ask about jobs with the agency, full-time, part-time, seasonal. You already have an understanding and connection to the agency, which may make the transition a lot easier. Also, internships can be long interviews! Many interns get hired after their position, so make sure you ask about sticking around to let them know you are interested!

4.Offer to train the new intern(s). For those of you at agencies where interns overlap, offer to help train the next intern. You obviously can give the new intern a great perspective and prepare them for a great internship experience. You have an insight your supervisor does not have, and you can maybe help them avoid any mistakes or ensure they do things a certain way. This always shows your supervisor that you care about the agency, and they may connect you to future opportunities.

5.Thank your supervisor and other colleagues. An internship is a great experience, and it takes work to plan and hire an intern. Make sure you thank your supervisor and anyone else you worked with before you leave. A nice thank you card is good way to show you a thankful for the opportunity they gave you.

6.Be sure to leave your contact information. You probably won’t be keeping the email address they made for you, so make sure you leave an updated email address they can contact you. Make sure it is professional obviously. Also, seniors and graduates, ensure that your email address is not your school one, because you may lose it once you graduate.

7.Connect with them on LinkedIn. If you haven’t already, add people in the agency on LinkedIn, while they remember you! You don’t want to wait a few months or years, and have them try to remember you. If you add them right away, then they can endorse your for some skills or write a recommendation for you while your performance is still fresh in their head.

8.Update your resume/LinkedIn. Before you leave, update your resume and professional profiles with everything you completed. Have your supervisor look at it, and help with the wording. You want to make sure you encompass your whole experience before you forget and move on to the next opportunity.

9.Sign up on the volunteer list. This applies mainly to my nonprofit folks. If you agency uses volunteers in any capacity, sign up to be one. Staying connected to the agency can only help you later on in life. I interned at an agency in the fall, stayed connected through the spring via volunteering, and was offered a job once I graduated. Do extra things to stay noticed and they will remember you.

10.Stay in touch. Again, staying in touch can only help you. Before you leave, ask if it is alright for you to stay in touch with them, and then ask what is the best way to contact them. This will prove that you plan to stay in touch. Remember connections could lead to many things!

Internships are the most important experiences for students to figure out their career development goals. Make sure you optimize your experience, and take advantage of the future opportunities that could come. Just because you end an internship, does not mean it cannot benefit you later down the road. Social work students should especially be doing this, since many of us spend a whole year as an intern. We receive quality experience, and our supervisors did a lot for us. Make sure you do as much for them, and put yourself in a situation for them to believe you are going to be a great social worker. Be a superstar intern, and make them remember you!

Successful Strategies to Help Students Prepare for Job Searching After Graduation

As graduation approaches, many students are contemplating about the next step.  Both graduates and undergraduates are on their way through the job process searching for various post-graduation opportunities. As many know, finding a job does not just instantly happen and finding a job you actually want can be a miracle. For us younger professionals, it may seem impossible to find a full-time position and we may feel discourage approaching the work force. Part of the reasons for this are societal factors that we cannot control, but students can decrease the stress that may arise from graduating and open multiple doors.

images (35)While we are preparing ourselves for the next step after college or graduate school, the weird thing is that many students just sit back and relax thinking everything is going to work out for them. It is very frustrating when students think that once they graduate, opportunities are going to come right to them. This is not reality. The real world is competitive but vast, and all you have to do is go out and look. You have to prove to your community and yourself that you are a professional and capable of the job you want to get.

Here are a few easy things to do that every student can do that make their professional development grow:

Challenge yourself at your internship. I am tired of hearing students saying they do nothing at their internship or it is too easy. You have the ability to do more opportunities. Evaluate your current responsibilities and speak with your supervisor about doing more things. Meet with other people in the agency and ask them for help. Helping out the agency in ways they need shows you are willing to work and contribute to the success of the agency, not just yourself. Internships are not only learning experiences, but crucial to professional development.

Network! Network! Network! The majority of jobs are found through networking! People hire people they like, and people connect people they like. The more people who like you, the more people who can help you. Meet as many people as you can at your internship. Just Go to events, meet people at programs, conduct informational interviews! Network! Many of the social workers I have met, have not been the greatest at networking. Starting to network as a current student is a great way to practice, develop professional skills, and build connections for future opportunities.

Find a Mentor! Having a mentor is probably the greatest thing you could ever do. I have a mentor right now, and he is awesome. We get to talk about our interested fields and connect with each other on a professional and personal level. Find a mentorship program to participate in, connect with alumni from your school, or reach out to people in the desired career industry. Having someone with experience who will then offer advice or advocate for you, is definitely a resource you want to have. You never know who they know or what they can do for you later on.

Join a Local Chapter of Professional Organization!  This is really surprising because many students do not realize the opportunities from joining a relevant professional organization. The main reason why you should join is: They want younger people involved! They are established professionals in your field who can give you advice, trainings, connections, and maybe even a job. I think it would be smart as a student to connect with people in your field who can connect you with a job after graduation. Reach out the a local chapter of a professional organization related to your career interests. You definitely should be involved!

Attend trainings! There are tons of trainings out there for professional development and opportunities to learn more than you can in school. There are two main benefits from attending them: you get information you can put on your resume or apply the material to a current position AND you get to meet people in your profession. It’s a win win! Go learn and network!

Volunteer for LOCAL organizations! Students sometimes get in that bubble of their college and do not branch out into the local community. Volunteer with local community members. Help out at a special event. It shows you care more than yourself. Many of you intern for nonprofit organizations, and volunteering for the fundraising department or any needed areas could put you in a great position with the agency.  A great position that could lead to a job. Plus, you meet more people and more opportunities arise! (Hint: if you didn’t get the points about meeting people, then I am telling you right now. It’s important!)

All these tips are good strategies social work students can be doing to build our career development. We students are going to be the leaders of the future, and we need to develop our professional profile. Even doing one of these tips, can give you an advantage to either get a job or obtain better opportunities. Even though a Master of Social Work degree is a professional degree, the education forgets about professional development. We need to prove right away that we are capable of performing the tasking jobs we are preparing to have.

Careers in the Various Types of Human Service Organizations

The human services field is a broad one, and it encompasses various organizations that meet the needs of individuals and families in our society using an interdisciplinary knowledge base. Human service organizations focus on both prevention and remediation of problems, and they advocate for policy changes that benefit at-risk groups in our communities. There are many different types of human services organizations, and each specializes in working with a different group of individuals.

Organizations for children

Social Worker with ChildHuman service organizations for children work with the youngest members of society to prevent abuse and neglect, advocate for policy change, work with families to build upon strengths and resolve weaknesses, and assist disadvantaged children in reuniting with their biological families or finding new home situations when appropriate.

Examples of human service careers working with children include:

  • Children’s protective service workers
  • Community social workers
  • School psychologists
  • Children’s mental health specialists
  • Child abuse workers
  • Probation officers and
  • Juvenile court liaisons

Professionals working in human service organizations for children often focus on building relationships with the families they serve, encouraging independent thinking and recognizing both strengths and weaknesses in the children and the family unit. These professionals are familiar with a wide range of community resources that assist children and families, and they make referrals to outside agencies as necessary.

Organizations for the elderly

At the other end of the spectrum are human service organizations that serve the geriatric population. According to aarp.org, approximately 90-percent of seniors have a stated desire to age in place. In order to do so safely, in home services are sometimes needed as the result of deteriorating physical or cognitive health and related safety concerns. Adult social service professionals often step in to assist with recognizing whether or not aging in place is a realistic goal, coordinating services and investigating protective service claims. When aging in place is no longer believed to be appropriate, many seniors enter assisted living facilities or nursing homes. In these facilities, professionals including licensed clinical social workers, nurse case managers, activities coordinators, social service assistants and mental health counselors provide assistance with the sometimes difficult transition from home to facility life and the day to day needs of the senior.

 Organization for disadvantaged populations 

Some human service professionals assist the most disadvantaged members of society rather than focusing on a particular age group. Substance abuse counselors, probation officers, halfway house counselors, public safety and disaster workers, migrant and immigrant case managers and mental health workers are but a few of the professionals who fall into this category of human service workers. These professionals use many of the same skill sets that other human service professionals use, but their focus is often on stabilizing individuals or safely and productively reintegrating them into society. Crisis management is a necessary skill for these professionals and many use it on a daily basis. Their focus is also on empowering clients, offering support and utilizing effective strategies to modify or reverse troublesome behaviors.

Organizations focused on advocacy

Finally, there are human service professionals who focus on advocacy, education or governing policies. While these individuals work less directly with individuals in our communities, their contributions to society as a whole should not be discounted. Human service careers focusing on policy and education include becoming a college level educator, working in the office of a local, state or federal politician, taking a leadership role in a non-profit organization, pursuing a career as a grant writer or advising schools, nursing homes, hospitals or other human service organizations. These positions are often more administrative, and they are well suited for the individual who enjoys public speaking, grant writing, research, creating policies and taking on a leadership position offering oversight to others within a human services organization. Many of these positions require advanced degrees.

The human service field offers vast career opportunities serving various at-need individuals in society. All of these opportunities have one thing in common, the need for trained, skilled human service professionals continues to grow, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a continued rise in employment opportunities within this field of up to 31-percent through 2022. With so many opportunities and the continued potential for future growth, there are many great reasons to consider a career in a human services organization.

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