Last updated December 1, 2014 
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Social Work Career Development

A Handbook for Job Hunting and Career Planning, Second Edition

Social Work Career Development, second edition, includes expanded sections on salary negotiation, interview questions, and outside-of-the-box career paths; and new résumé samples in addition to updated online services. The book remains a reference you can consult from time to time during your job search and throughout the course of your career. Looking for a job or thinking about a new career direction takes time, energy, and fortitude. It also takes information and ideas. When you need to expand your thinking about a search or career direction, revisit these pages.

The book is not meant to be read all at once. Skim the chapter headings and appendices, read the sections you need now, and mark pages for future reference. Take a look at the "Quick Tips" at the end of chapters 1–6. Use the contents as a springboard to get started or restarted, whether you are defining your next career step, looking for your first job, or seeking to expand your credentials. Note that throughout the book, BSW, MSW, and PhD are used to refer to all social work degrees at those levels.

Chapter 1: Setting a Direction for Your Search

The first chapter will help you make some decisions about your next career move, expand and warm up your vocabulary for a search, and prepare a concise message about your objective and qualifications. The chapter takes you through a series of self-assessment exercises to select the skills and knowledge areas in which you are most confident, identify your accomplishments, and consider what is important to you in your work. The exercises will enable you to write a résumé more quickly, focus the message of your correspondence and interviews more precisely, and evaluate an offer with greater confidence.

Chapter 2: Researching Market and Salary Information

You know it is difficult to solve a problem or assist someone else with a problem unless you first gather some information and assess the situation. The same is true of your search—this chapter helps you set the stage. How much you know about the big picture in your field of practice, particularly within your geographic boundaries, will affect what you look for, how long you look, and your ability to negotiate and make a decision on an offer. Think of researching the market as putting together your own resource and referral guide, database, or Rolodex. Instead of developing resource information for clients or constituents, you are preparing it for yourself. Chapter 2 discusses sources of information on potential employers, salary data, and network contacts. Appendices 1–4 provide detailed information on associations, employer directories, and questions you may want to ask about your field of practice.

Chapter 3: Preparing Résumés, Curricula Vitae, Portfolios, and References

Whether you are updating your résumé or curriculum vitae or starting from scratch with a new format, skim the information in this chapter and take a look at the samples in appendix 6. There are many possibilities for writing an eye-catching résumé. Select the style elements you like and create a résumé that best highlights your experience. If you are pursuing an academic career, review the discussion on the curriculum vitae and the sample in appendix 6. You will find the skills lists in appendix 10 helpful when writing or rewriting your résumé or curriculum vitae. Chapter 3 also discusses references and suggests how you can provide employers with samples of your work.

Chapter 4: Identifying Jobs and Pursuing Leads

You may believe that "who you know" is the best or only way to find a satisfying job. However, social workers have found satisfying jobs through other sources as well. When you need some additional ideas for sources of jobs, take a look at this chapter and at appendix 8. Chapter 4 suggests search strategies for those with a bachelor or master's degree in social work as well as those looking for an academic job, gives a detailed look at the job-search experience of some social workers, and discusses the value of several job sources for social workers. You will also find suggestions for following up on a job lead, including an outline for cover letters. Sample letters for several situations are in appendix 5.

Chapter 5: Interviewing Effectively

Chapter 5 recommends strategies for approaching the job interview as a two-way discussion between two or more people. When you are preparing to interview for jobs, review the suggestions for setting your agenda and packaging yourself, managing various interview formats, and fielding typical questions. You will find sample interview questions in appendix 7.

Chapter 6: Evaluating Job Offers

Deciding whether to accept a job offer can be difficult, especially when the employer wants a decision quickly. This chapter outlines a detailed process for evaluating and negotiating an offer. It may be helpful to skim this chapter early in your search so that you can anticipate the information you will need to make a satisfying decision.

Chapter 7: Career Management and Professional Development

Many insist that professional network is the key to a successful job search and career. Although "who you know" is an important element, keep in mind that "what you know" and "how you perform" are equally important in career management. Chapter 7 raises questions and gives examples for you to consider for managing a career change. You might read this section and the sample career paths once or twice a year to help brainstorm ways in which you might explore new options and expand your qualifications. The second part of the chapter details information on state licensures and certifications, professional certifications, postdegree training, and academic degree options. Appendix 9, which lists special opportunities, and appendix 11, which outlines recommendations for selecting graduate programs, complement chapter 7.