19 Traits of Excellent Social Workers

The role of a social worker is to provide vulnerable people the help they need during tough times. They work with families and children dealing with life issues such as financial difficulties, substance abuse, and domestic violence. In a social work career, there are a number of fields to specialize in, depending on your skillset and education. With a human services degree, you can go on to start a career in childcare, criminal justice, schools, and many more.

The role isn’t one for just anyone – the job is extremely demanding and deals with many emotional situations. Due to the sensitive nature of this career, certain traits are necessary to succeed. If you are interested in becoming a social worker, then here are the 19 traits you’ll need to excel.

1. Brilliant Organization Skills

Many social workers tend to deal with a large number of patients throughout the day, which means high organization skills are crucial. When moving from patient to patient and from area to area, you will need to manage your time wisely and be able to prioritize tasks.

If you’re working towards becoming a social worker, you should practice your organization skills as soon as you start your human services degree. Show up on time to all classes, hand your work in on time, and check-in with your tutors often. Getting into good habits early on will help you keep them throughout your career.

2. Well-Educated

Education is necessary for all social workers, so make sure you excel when studying for your human services degree. You should build excellent relationships with your tutors and make friends with your peers, as they will help you on your journey.

Like with any degree, you must put a lot of effort in and be passionate about the subject you are learning. Choose a human services degree if you are dedicated to bettering people’s lives and helping communities improve.

3. Open-Minded

As a social worker, you will be dealing with a large variety of people and circumstances, so you must keep an open mind. There will be situations that seem black and white, but you must stay impartial. Be open-minded with every patient you deal with and avoid judging people. While judgment is a natural part of human nature, as a social worker, it is your job to keep it inside.

4. Empathetic

“Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” – Barack Obama.

Empathy is probably the most important trait of anyone who holds a human services degree. Your job each day is to bring people peace, and you can only do that if you can truly understand their perspective. Even if their lives are vastly different from your own, you should step into their shoes and understand their actions.

Being an empathetic person comes naturally to some, but that doesn’t mean you cannot learn it. Not only will it help you succeed in your human services degree and your social work career, but it will also better you as a person.

5. Trustworthy

With patients relying on you, you must be completely trustworthy and dependable. This means always showing up on time and keeping to your word. If you mess up time and time again, then your patients will no longer see you as a rock in their lives, and you won’t be able to help them.

Make yourself a person who can be trusted by all, both inside and outside of your career. Not only will it get you respect, but you will also find it easier to improve your patient’s lives.

6. Patient

As a social worker, the patients you work with will not always be easy to manage. You will be working with people who have mental health issues and abuse substances, which can be difficult at times. To manage during those situations, you must keep your emotions under control and show unwavering patience.

Patience is a trait some people have naturally, but if you lose your temper quickly, you should work on that while doing your human services degree, so you are prepared once you begin work.

7. Flexible

Not everything will go according to plan, and you might find some days completely shift around. Being flexible will help you deal with these situations.

Social work isn’t for someone who likes a rigid schedule and knowing exactly what the day will bring. With the variety of situations that you will come across, you can never predict what is going to happen, making social work a career for flexible people.

You should begin getting used to flexibility while studying for your human services degree. Be open to any changes that will occur during your studies, and learn how to adjust quickly.

8. Community-Driven

Social work is all about creating a better community for everyone by focusing on the areas in need. The best social workers are those who are passionate about lifting a community.

If you have a passion for bettering communities, then social work will allow you to do just that. You’ll be helping vulnerable individuals turn their lives around, improving not only their lives but also the lives of those around them.

9. Professional

While there will be times where you can joke around and have a laugh with your patients and co-workers, at the core, you must always keep a strong level of professionalism. Social work is a job with a lot of responsibility, and when dealing with such sensitive issues, it’s important to be confident, ethical, and competent. Remember, you are providing vulnerable people with a strong figure to rely on.

Strive to be as professional as you can from the moment you start your human services degree. Get used to taking the job seriously and acting in a professional, responsible manner at all times.

10. Caring

A social worker will not get far without a caring attitude. Even when dealing with situations you cannot understand, you must still be understanding and caring. This means more than just nodding your head and smiling – you should listen intently to your patient’s worries and come up with solutions that will actively help them get out of negative situations.

You might not show care even when you feel it, so work on your body language and speech to make your patients feel as comfortable as possible.

11. Passionate

The best social workers in the world are those that are truly passionate about the work they do. They get up in the morning with a drive to go to work and help the people of the community. When they do not feel their best, they have their unwavering passion to motivate them.

You will know whether or not you are passionate about social work as soon as you start your human services degree. If you hand your work in on time, attend every class, and feel genuine excitement to learn, then you are the kind of passionate person to make a brilliant social worker.

12. Able to Look After Themselves

Great social workers don’t just focus on others; they also make sure that their health is up to scratch. This means engaging in self-care, eating a healthy diet, and exercising often. If you are not healthy yourself, then you won’t be able to give others the proper care they need.

A proper diet and the correct amount of exercise is crucial for your overall health and energy levels. When you are dealing with such an intense job, it is important to have enough energy to get through the day and feel OK at the end of it.

Many people who work in social care feel burned out at one point or another, and a way to combat this is to perform self-care. Some ideas for this are:

  • Taking a bath
  • Having a few days off
  • Taking a trip
  • Meeting up with friends
  • Visiting family

Make a proper effort to look after your own body and mind from the moment you start your human services degree. Not only will it benefit yourself, but it will also benefit the patients you work with.

13. Great Communicators

Throughout the day, you will communicate with a number of individuals, so your communication skills must be high. Not only that, but you should be able to change your tone and speech depending on who you are speaking with. For example, if you are talking to a co-worker, then you will not use the same tone and language you would use when speaking with a vulnerable person.

Communication isn’t all about speaking; a large part of it is listening. A large part of your job will be listening to your patients, and you must listen with every ounce of your attention. They depend on you, so you must take in all the information they have in order to help them.

14. Experienced

No matter how many soft skills you have, to be an excellent social worker, you must have enough experience. You will most likely be offered work experience while studying for your human services degree, and you will build up your expertise once you get your first role. Each day will bring something new, and over time, you will become an expert at handling whatever people throw at you.

15. Objective

As a social worker, when dealing with personal situations, you must be able to remain
impartial. There is no room for taking sides when you are work, so it takes being objective to
thrive in social work. You will learn this while studying for your human services degree –
when working with individuals, you are not there to judge them, only assist.

16. Positive

Social workers work best when they remain positive. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it sounds, especially when dealing with sensitive situations like domestic violence.

Being positive does not mean skipping to work and smiling even when things are dark; it simply means being able to keep a positive outlook no matter what the day throws at you.

If dealing with a sad situation will make you feel unhappy for a number of days, then there is a chance that social work is not for you. Don’t worry – there are other roles you can go into to help others. Attaining a human services degree isn’t just for social work; there are plenty of other careers to pursue upon attainment.

17. Conscientious

Your work as a social worker must be careful, deliberate, and well-considered. Being a conscientious person makes doing that much easier. The time you spend working each day must be used efficiently so you can deliver as much help to vulnerable people as you can.

During your studies, make sure you show your conscientiousness by performing well and taking your time in each section. Rushing through is not adequate when it comes to a human services degree!

18. Strong-Willed

No one will tell you social work is easy. There will be days where you wish to be able to go home and hide away from all the hard-hitting issues you face, but what makes an excellent social worker is staying resilient in those times. By being strong-willed, you won’t only get through each working day, but you will also excel.

19. Understanding

Most of all, you must have at least a little understanding of what your patients are going through. If you are completely sectioned off from them, then your aid won’t be as helpful. This doesn’t mean you have to have literally walked in their shoes, but that you are able to see things from their point of view.

If you believe you have the necessary traits to become a social worker, you will need to attain a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and your license. There are a variety of specialties to go into, so keep in mind what stands out when pursuing your human services degree, whether that be mental health, medicine, or child welfare.

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