If you’re familiar with the world of social workers, you know that this isn’t a career path for the faint of heart. It’s one where you are working closely with people who need the most help—with daily living, with poverty, with mental health, or with a variety of other life issues that need professional assistance. Being a social worker means you are someone who is tough but fair, committed to getting things done, and able to remain professional even with the most difficult or challenging situations. Whether you’re just starting out as a social worker or have been working in the trenches for years, you need a resume that will show off those skills to the fullest.
Let’s look at sample resumes from three different social workers: one just starting out, one clinical social worker, and a child and family social worker.
First up is Jason, who just graduated from school and is looking for his first full-time job as a social worker.
Jason is just out of school, so he wants to make sure that his educational qualifications are front and center. to do this, he amends the usual reverse-chronological resume format a bit, tweaking it so that his education and skills come before his related clinical experience. In listing his education, he also includes a relevant detail that isn’t necessary, but tells the reader more about his background: his thesis topic. This is directly related to his goal of being a school social worker in Washington, D.C., so it’s a good value-add to his resume. It shows he’s put work into this specialty and has a knowledge base already. It dovetails nicely with the experience he lists as a social work intern, creating a comprehensive picture of his qualifications for his next job as a school social worker.
When you’re writing your own resume, you want to make sure it’s telling a coherent story about who you are, what skills and experience you bring, and what you want to achieve in your next job.
Next up is Frieda, who is further along in her career as a medical social worker.
Frieda has a strong, experience-based history. For her, that means the traditional resume format works best: kind of an inverted v, with the experience top-loaded so that it’s the first thing that the reader sees. Frieda chooses to summarize her highlights with a “specialties” section (her skills), pulling together the most important points from her experience bullets. It’s important to emphasize the takeaways you want your reader to remember. For Frieda, that means playing up her skill and experience in working with patients. But it’s also important that the information isn’t just repeated verbatim—Frieda’s bullets for her experience and her skills are all different, so that the reader’s eyes don’t just glaze over the same text over and over.
And our last social worker is Brady, who specializes in “macro” (or general population) social work with children and families. Brady is experienced, but is looking to transition into more of an administrative role.
Brady has years of experience under his belt, but since he’s looking to move up to a slightly different career level, he wants to emphasize the skills he has that make him well-equipped to do that. So rather than jump right in with the experience, he uses a format that’s a combination of the standard reverse-chronological (experience-heavy) format and the functional (skills-heavy) format. instead of a one-liner objective or summary, he uses a brief bulleted section to set the stage. He then puts his skills next, starting off with a key word: leading.
Your resume is your chance to frame your skills and experience for the job you want—you’re not tied to a format just for the sake of it. Use each section to craft your narrative. In Brady’s case, that means showing how he’s stepped up and managed his clients throughout the years while also building leadership skills. he then makes sure to list this in his experience bullets whenever possible, mentioning when he was a leader or mentor for other social workers. Details like these help establish a pattern of leadership throughout the resume, without you having to say “I'm a leader.”
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