Macro Social Work and Maximum Career Success in 2012

My students and I just finished our fall semester. For them, that means a few weeks without practicum or policy studies. I’m sure they’ll be glad to get online without seeing frequent posts from me about new policy developments or insightful new articles that I’m just SURE they’ll love (can you ever listen to too many Robert Greenstein podcasts? I think not.).

For me, the break between semesters means decorating Christmas cookies with the kids, trying to come up with gifts for the dozens of people who help us raise them throughout the year, and catching up on the stack of reading that has grown on my nightstand throughout the fall.

But I’ve also had several conversations with students in the past couple of weeks about their futures, and what the next year may hold, especially given that my Advanced Policy students will receive their MSWs in the spring, in a job market that honestly doesn’t look much better, at least in some sectors, than it has for the past three years or so (which is to say, not too good). Increasingly, my students are getting started early in researching organizations that might provide some career opportunities for them, which just might mean that they’re taking my career advice about seeking a good fit between you and the organizational culture, rather than searching for the perfect job description.

But I’ve been doing some investigation into other resources for young nonprofit professionals, most of which are good fits for social workers, too, especially those who see nonprofit administration as a promising career path. These macro social workers will need to understand how organizations work, and how they should work, what the context of social service delivery will look like, and how to chart a career progression for themselves that will position them for long-term success in an often volatile market.

In this thinking, I’ve benefitted greatly from the wisdom of former students, especially from the recent past, whose own job experiences provide inspiration and comfort to today’s graduates. I’d love to hear from more of my own former students as well as other new social work professionals, regarding these resources, others that you’d recommend, or the advice that you wish someone had shared with you at the inception of your macro social work career. I’m particularly interested in how to help students bridge the direct practice jobs that are somewhat more plentiful to the macro work they seek. It requires finding opportunities to build skills and relationships in one service context that you can leverage in another, and demonstrating leadership in direct service that can lead to opportunities to lead on a larger scale. I don’t mean the assumed “work your way up to management” role, but, rather, intentionally complementing one’s macro social work education with strategic direct practice experiences, in pursuit of an overall portfolio designed to deliver a chance to shape our field.

  • I’ve shared Rosetta Thurman’s blog on my blog roll before; I find her writing topics and style thought-provoking, refreshing, and genuinely additive to the conversation about young people in the nonprofit world. There’s a lot here to prompt all of our thinking (regardless of age) about the future of nonprofits and how to build impactful organizations by investing in people, but, especially for newer professionals, there’s also tangible advice about how to network, which conferences are worth your time and money, and how to build your personal brand. You should also check out her book, How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar. Sometimes we think that someone has to be speaking directly to social workers to have anything to say to us, but I never fail to find something in Rosetta’s thinking that resonates with me.
  • Another blogger with relevant advice for new nonprofit workers is Alison Jones, who blogs at Entry-Level Living. She comments on the state of the nonprofit world, too, but also has advice about how to jumpstart your nonprofit career with formal service programs, how to integrate into nonprofit culture as a new employee, and how to tell the story of your college education in order to win a nonprofit job. Especially in this job market, it’s also critically important not to feel alone, and the community that arises on these two sites can complement the “real-world” support network that job-seekers so need.
  • Some new online forums, mostly completely self-moderated, have popped up for those seeking social work jobs. While there may not be too many actionable tips for social work graduates looking for a specific setting or geography on these pretty broad sites, there is an opportunity for solidarity and a chance to gain a sort of high-level overview of the landscape of the social work job market. One is the Social Worker Jobs Forum and another is the Social Work Job Bank (this last one is affiliated with The New Social Worker Online, and does have a stronger community moderation component).

    Here’s to a very bright new year, indeed, for social work graduates.

  • One response to “Macro Social Work and Maximum Career Success in 2012

    1. Pingback: Anniversary Week: Your favorites! | Classroom to Capitol

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