What qualities make a good social worker?
Social work is a career that requires you to have many different qualities. Not everyone has what it takes. It calls for a certain type of person to excel in the demanding, responsible position and manage its unique pressures.
So what qualities actually make a good social worker? Being a strong communicator, empathetic and flexible are all essential and within this blog, we explore these attributes and other important qualities to have and develop during a social work career.
Social work can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. You will work with society’s most vulnerable people, and encounter issues such as alcoholism, physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, poverty, deprivation, drug addiction and mental illness.
It’s important to be strong when faced with these challenging situations. It’s a quality that can help you manage the pressures of the role. At times, things may not go to plan, your workload may become stressful and particular cases may be very upsetting. The ability to adapt, keep going and remain positive in the face of these types of challenges is something all social workers need.
Fundamentally, social work is about caring for others. And, this care should always be accompanied by empathy.
Empathy is a quality that is important in social work. To the people you work with, your presence can be a sign that something in their lives has gone wrong, which can be very distressing. Being able to put yourself in a person’s shoes, and understand their hopes, fears and concerns, is crucial to good practice.
This quality helps social workers to better understand those that they work with, strengthening the relationships that they have and ensuring that the best methods, approaches and interventions are followed in order to meet the needs of service users.
Within social work, there will be lots of demands on your time, with your days including managing a caseload, attending meetings, completing paperwork and visiting service users. That’s not to mention the everyday risk of emergencies to attend to, which can impact your planned workload.
This is why being organised is an important quality to have as a social worker. Keeping on top of your duties while tackling other tasks can be a challenge, so it’s important to be prepared for how you’re going to manage your schedule.
The decisions you make can have major repercussions on other people’s lives. As a social worker, you’ll understand that it’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly, and can lead to situations where emotions run high for both you and the service users you work with.
A good quality for social workers to have is objectivity. This includes being able to make decisions that are measured and not based on emotions. Social work is a very involved profession, but finding the best course of action often necessitates taking a step back. While it isn’t always possible to be truly objective, a healthy degree of detachment will allow you to see the bigger picture.
Many service users may be reluctant to share their experiences with you or talk about their situation. Some may be instinctively mistrustful of social workers. This can make it difficult to build the level of trust needed for them to engage and speak openly with you.
You need to be able to meaningfully interact with service users and establish trusting, respectful relationships. Building this level of understanding is a slow process, so patience is a crucial quality for social workers to possess. It can take months, or even longer, and setbacks may well happen, but it’s important for you to be able to stay the course.
6. Strong communication
Social workers interact with people from all walks of life, so being a strong communicator is an essential quality to have. Your day could involve writing a report, taking part in a team meeting, calling another agency or conducting a visit to a service user. The ability to convey information to others, in varying circumstances, is extremely crucial.
You may also need to explore and develop other communication methods with service users. Some may have sensory impairments or learning disabilities, and may not be able to communicate in traditional ways. Being able to interact with people through an array of methods will help you build relationships in otherwise difficult circumstances.
A social worker requires a good deal of tact and diplomacy. This is because you need to be able to ask difficult questions, talk about sensitive topics, and communicate information and recommendations that might not always be well received.
Although your decisions may be made with the best intentions, it can be challenging to keep all parties happy. Delivering your message carefully and sensitively can help make it easier for a service user or their family to understand and accept what will happen next.
As a social worker, you will be making judgements on highly sensitive situations, often involving vulnerable adults who are dependent on you for their wellbeing. As such, being analytical is another crucial social worker quality to have.
With responsibilities such as examining service users’ living situations, health, relationships or personal lives, through to interpreting complex legal information that will impact the outcomes of your caseload, attention to detail and problem-solving are also highly important. These traits go hand-in-hand with having an analytical way of thinking.
As you juggle multiple priorities, you also have to be ready for changing timelines. In the situation that plans change, you need to be able to quickly pivot to more urgent tasks. This makes flexibility an important social worker quality.
Others in more senior positions may also need you to take on some of their duties at short notice, to meet the deadlines for support. You might have to work on-call at times too. Your work will rarely fit into neat boxes, so being able to adapt to a fast-moving environment is very important.
Discover social work opportunities with Liquid Personnel
At Liquid Personnel, we’re always looking to recruit great social workers into a variety of exciting temporary, contract and permanent roles.
We look for people who possess exceptional social worker qualities that bring positive change to the lives of their service users. Our fantastic social work job vacancies give you valuable opportunities to excel in your field and grow your career prospects.
Liquid Personnel are trusted by employers at over 150 organisations across the UK, to provide the best professionals in the sector for permanent and temporary opportunities.
Many of the roles we recruit for are exclusive to us, so you’ll be able to apply for a varied and diverse selection of jobs you won’t find anywhere else. We’ll assign you a dedicated consultant who’ll get to know your unique skillset and long-term goals so that we can match you with roles that fit your preferences. We’ll help you every step of the way in achieving professional success and enjoying a career you love, from mentoring you for interviews to providing ongoing guidance during your employment.
Get in touch or register your interest to discuss how we can help you take the next steps in your career journey.