Sell Your Skills With a Compelling Social Work Resume

Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, a best-selling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.

Whether you’re looking for your first social work job or you’re hoping to make a career shift, your resume will highlight your skills, experiences, and assets. Crafting a social work resume that makes prospective employers interested in meeting you is the first step in finding the right job.

Your resume should highlight the training and certifications you possess. For example, if you’re a clinical social worker with an extensive background in cognitive behavioral therapy, make sure your resume emphasizes your expertise. Employers want to see that you have the knowledge, experience, and training necessary to perform the job.

Prepare Your Resume

If you lack professional experience, volunteer work can show your dedication to the social work field. You can also strengthen your resume by joining social work organizations and attending conferences.

Researching employers before sending them your resume is a good first step. Customize your resume for the setting and position you are applying for by highlighting the specific classes, experiences, and skills that are relevant to the position. For example, if you’re applying to a social work position at a school, include experience and education on child development. If you’re applying to a position at a hospital, tailor your resume to highlight your knowledge of health care.

Key Components of a Social Work Resume

There are a few big-picture guidelines you will need to follow when composing your resume. It’s important to make each line count because lengthy paragraphs and blocks of text can be difficult to read. Pay attention to length by excluding details like every class you’ve ever taken or irrelevant hobbies. Hiring managers need to be able to identify your skills clearly and with ease — bulleted lists can be used here.

Specifically, components of a social work resume include:

Contact information. Place your name and contact information at the top of your resume. Make it easy for an employer to contact you.

Objective. Define the population you want to work with and the type of position you’d like to achieve. If you’re making a major shift in your career — like leaving a job at a school to work in an outpatient clinic — highlight how your experiences working with one population might transfer to other populations.

Education. Include the schools you attended and the degrees you received. If you have a master’s degree, include specific concentrations.

Work experience. While an entry-level social work resume may concentrate on the applicant’s educational experience, someone with a lengthier work history should highlight previous experience. Present work summaries, volunteer positions, and field placements with tangible results. Instead of saying, “I was a supervisor,” write, “Managed a group home with a budget of $2 million.”

Design Your Resume to Look Professional

Since most social work positions require a fair amount of paperwork, your resume is your first opportunity to show an employer your writing skills. Write in a clear, concise, and professional manner.

Use easy-to-read fonts, black ink, and normal margins with single-spaced lines. Carefully proofread your resume and cover letter. It’s always a good idea to ask a friend or family member to read it over as well. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can spot errors or potential problems.

General guidelines recommend that resumes be kept to a single page. But this rule doesn’t necessarily apply to social work. A social work resume may be two pages in length, especially if that much space is needed to highlight relevant work history.

In addition to your resume, include a cover letter. That’s your opportunity to give the employer a sense of who you are and how you think, and to explain how your values as a social worker match the agency’s mission and values. You can also explain any lapses in employment or education. Also, have references ready, but do not include them with your resume. Offer references only when asked to do so during the hiring process. When providing references, it is best to use professional and volunteer supervisors instead of professors.

The future looks bright for the social work profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates social work employment will grow by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, with many positions expected for health care, mental health, and substance abuse. A well-written resume is key to finding the right social work position in this expanding field.