Social work is generally divided into two fields: direct service social work and clinical social work. Direct service social workers help people find the resources they need to meet their basic needs and cope with day-to-day problems. Clinical social workers work with clients to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues that negatively impact their lives. School social work is a hybrid position and involves working with teachers, students and families. These professionals deal with student pregnancy, misbehavior in class, poor grades and excessive absences, which involves direct service and clinical social worker responsibilities.
Listening skills are essential for social workers of all types, and especially school social workers. Social workers discuss the problems in their students' lives. An ability to listen well, empathize and understand their clients’ needs is critical for social workers. Students are much more likely to be responsive to social workers who show real empathy for their problems.
People skills are obviously related to listening skills, but refer more to the ability to comfortably interact with people from all ethnic, age and social backgrounds. It boils down to the fact that people liking you makes them want to cooperate, which makes it easier for you to do your job and do it better. Given the great cultural diversity found in many public schools, strong people skills are a big plus for school social workers.
Organizational and Time Management Skills
Organizational skills are very important for school social workers, especially given the increasing workloads most social workers face. Strong time management skills are also essential, as school social workers have to juggle many balls in dealing with clients, school administration, social services agencies, and often law enforcement or the legal system.
School social workers also need strong negotiating skills. Though you might not consider it at first blush, social workers not only have to be firm in setting and upholding standards with their students, but frequently have to negotiate to arrange support services from social service agencies or nonprofit providers.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images