Dream Job word cloud on blackboard

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A spike in homelessness, suicide, substance misuse, and other complex social problems has coincided with a rise in the need for social workers.

Some states have reported shortages in social work staffing, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that social work will be one of the fastest growing professions over the next decade.

The National Association of Social Workers proclaims that “our nation needs social workers more than ever.” To celebrate National Social Work Month in March, NASW plans to highlight how the public can empower social workers to “meet the high demand for their vital work.”

We asked Cindy Snell, director of Career Services and Alumni Relations for the Boston College School of Social Work, to provide some tips for job-seekers looking to address some of the nation’s most challenging social issues.

First of all, what should job-seekers in the social work field do to prepare for an interview?

  • Anticipate areas of questioning based on the job description, then provide an example to demonstrate your skills, knowledge, and experience. For example, if you are asked about oral communication skills, you can talk about a presentation you made at a conference or workshop you offered through your field placement.
  • Research the organization so you are familiar with their mission, service catchment, and populations served.
  • Practice in the car, with a friend, or by using mock interviewing tools available online.
  • Present yourself professionally. Make sure to have a quiet space with good connectivity for a remote interview or know where you are going and how long it will take to get there if it’s in-person. Make a good impression with your appearance, punctuality, and preparation.

How, and when, should job-seekers in the helping profession follow up after an interview?

  • Follow up with a thank you to those who interviewed you within 36 hours. It’s an important part of the job search process, allowing you to demonstrate your job search etiquette, confirm your interest in the position, and reiterate why you are a good candidate. In talking to employers, I’ve found that sending a thank you can boost your chances of getting an offer.

Career Services helps students polish their resumes. What can BCSSW students do to make their resume stand out from other candidates?

  • Think in terms of the reader. The content and format of your resume should make it easy for the employer to understand how you are qualified for the position you are applying to. Refer to the job posting for guidance on what’s important.
  • Have a format that guides the readers to what’s important. Your MSW degree is the most important accomplishment right now, so you should put your education section first. Use bullet points and order them by priority to the reader. Make sure the most important stuff is one the first page if you have a two-page resume.
  • Have it reviewed for language and typos. Ask your field supervisor, Career Services, and someone outside of the field to review your resume.
A photo of Cindy Snell

Cindy Snell.

The primary goal of Career Services is to help students chart paths to professional success. What else can students do to take advantage of the resources that Career Services offers?

  • Sign up for a mock interview. Mock interviewing is offered this year to final year students April 3-5. Each student will be matched with an alumni volunteer to meet for 45 minutes remotely for a simulated interview. The student will submit a resume and job posting that the pair will use to conduct the interview. There will be time at the end of the session for the alum to provide feedback and answer questions. I try to match the pair along career interests, so this is a great opportunity to network as well as increase confidence and improve interviewing skills.
  • Attend a workshop. This semester, we have offered a macro career job search workshop; a workshop in collaboration with the Office of International Students focused on the job search for international students; and a workshop from the BC Career Center orienting students to the wonderful resources they can access from that office, including free headshots, interviewing rooms, and employer information sessions.
  • Check out our Canvas page. BCSSW Career Services has compiled a comprehensive page on our Canvas site accessible 24/7 to answer most career-related questions. There are quick links to set up appointments with me, access our jobs database, and learn about the licensure process. The page also walks students through the four steps of career decision making—assessment, exploration, application, and evaluation. In these modules, there are resources like practical self-assessment exercises, sample cover letters, videos on salary negotiation, and links to information about loan forgiveness. We add new resources regularly to keep up with the job market.
  • Connect with alumni and employers at two big upcoming events
    • Our annual networking event, to be held in 521 McGuinn Hall on February 29 from 6-7:30 p.m., is a can’t-miss opportunity for MSW students and alumni. There are so many ways to apply an MSW, and this event, co-sponsored by the BCSSW Alumni Board, allows students and alumni an opportunity to explore careers, understand career paths, gain hiring insight, and make connections. Holding this event in February this year enables students and hiring alumni to check each other out before job-seekers apply for a position. 
    • Our annual job fair is March 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Yawkey Center. This is a great opportunity to connect with employers in-person, which is so important in a people-focused field like social work. Students should register through Handshake, dress professionally, bring copies of their resume, and research the employers attending so they can use their time wisely. This is an event for those on the job market as well as those who might be seeking summer opportunities, exploring career options, or just wanting to check out the job fair before they’re in their final year.