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If you have a passion for helping people, you might be considering becoming a social worker. This can be a very rewarding career, but it does also come with some challenges. You will have more success as a social worker—and find the career more rewarding—if you are prepared for these challenges and more aware of social workers' roles from the get-go. Here are five things you may not know about being a social worker as you begin exploring social worker career opportunities.
1. School Is Just the Beginning
To be a social worker, you usually need at least a Bachelor's Degree in social work. In many areas, you need a Master's degree. But while school will teach you the facts and basic information you need to do your job, it is only the beginning of your training. When you first start working, you will quickly realize that you have a lot more to learn. These lessons are best learned on the job, so don't feel like you missed out on a lot in school or are behind if you feel like you're still learning for the first few years you are working.
2. It's Important To Connect With the People You Serve
Social work is all about serving the people, and the way that is best done will depend, in part, on the culture of the communities you are serving. A big part of your job will be getting to know these people and their communities. For instance, if you will be working in a community where Latin Americans make up the majority of the population, getting to know their typical family structure and culture will be helpful in understanding the situations that arise in their households and how you can best address them.
If there is a community of people with whom you feel most comfortable, you may wish to focus on that group in your career.
3. The Public Does Not Always Understand Your Job
When you tell people you are a social worker, people are going to assume you remove children from their homes and deal with domestic abuse situations all day long. You might get tired of explaining, time and time again, what you really do and why your job is important. It's helpful to create a sort-of elevator speech, which is a 1–2 minute summary of your job and what you do. When someone asks what you do, you can rattle off this speech rather than racking your brain for a response each time.
4. You Will Sometimes Feel Like You Failed
You are not super-human. Throughout your career, you will do many things to better people's lives, and even to save their lives. But you will have to come to accept that not every effort is successful. There will be times when you try, but your efforts don't have the intended impact. The first few times this happens, you may feel like a failure. However, you will soon learn that you can't win every battle. You will never quite feel okay with your "losses," but you will learn to focus on the positives.
5. Social Workers Have Their Own Culture
You will face challenges in your job that only other social workers can truly relate to and understand. Having other social workers to communicate with will make facing these challenges easier. You will soon find that social workers have close friendships with each other and come to lean on one another for support. Make sure you connect with others in your profession so you have these relationships to fall back on when you're the one who needs support.