By, Roxy Simons for SocialWorkGuide
Although working towards a degree in social work can be time consuming, making time for internships and volunteering is essential. Social work is a career that requires more than just an understanding of theories and principals; hands-on experience is an essential aspect of thriving in this field. After acquiring your degree, a resume filled with meaningful professional experiences will distinguish your application from your peers’.
More than likely, most of the internships for which you apply will be unpaid, but don’t let this dissuade you. At least one internship is often required in order to graduate with a degree in social work. An additional volunteer experience on your resume will prove your dedication to social work to your prospective employers. These experiences also allow you to grow your network. A larger network not only grants you access to future career opportunities, it also helps you acquire a list of trusted mentors – other than professors – who you can later use as references on job applications.
It’s important to distinguish between volunteering and interning. An internship is designed to provide actual educational and work experience within your respective field. Volunteer work can include any number of tasks, but is only done for humanitarian reasons and personal growth. Both experiences will prepare you for your later career while boosting your resume. The National Association of Social Workers website is a useful resource for finding the most suitable volunteering experience for you.
Be proactive in your search for an internship. Don’t solely rely on submitting online applications without any further follow up. Actively network with alumni and professors. Attend career festivals with your resume and a stack of business cards in hand, ready to distribute. Take the time to call, email, or visit organizations that interest you. Employers will rarely turn away free help, especially if you are looking for school credit. Visit your school’s advisor or career services center for advice.
If, after trying all these tactics, you are unable to find an internship in the social work field, be sure to obtain any work while you are a student, so that you have a number of professional references outside of your professors. A position in any field will also show employers that you are mature, responsible, and have a good work ethic.
Be sure to broaden your horizons as much as you can while you’re still a student. Many social workers change the specific field in which they work multiple times throughout their career. For example, if you’re completing an internship in military and veteran affairs, perhaps find a gerontological volunteer opportunity. If you’re adamant on working with elementary school-aged children, volunteer at a government agency. The wider your range of experience, the more likely you are to successfully find a job after graduation.