Searching for Jobs Outside the Traditional Social Work Setting
At Pan American Bank in East Los Angeles, two USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work students helped build a financial literacy program to teach the predominantly Latino community how to become more financially savvy through budgeting and saving.
“I didn’t imagine I would have a job at a bank after graduation,” USC alum Mirna Beltran said. “I’ve always wanted to work with high school-age youth promoting secondary education, pushing them to go to college. Even though I’m working in a different capacity, I’m still informing students of their options.”
Cox says it is all about finding the right way of framing how this engagement works in corporations. He points to the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which encourages businesses to engage in the community. Social workers can play an important role to make sure corporate social responsibility is in the footprint for that organization or business.
“How do you build bridges with the community so that your presence there actually enhances the value of the community and also serves the organization? Someone with social work skills can take on that task,” he said.
Finding a Social Work Job in a Nontraditional Setting
Selling Social Work Skills in Job Interviews
Social workers applying for a job in a nontraditional or business setting may find themselves in competition with candidates with more experience or education in a given field. If you are applying for a job in a nontraditional setting, highlight the following transferable skills to underscore the potential value you bring to a workplace:
the patience and vision to bring people together with opposing viewpoints, build connections, resolve conflict and foster healthy relationships.
the ability to find commonalities around goals and identify paths to achieve those goals among groups of people.
the skill to improve engagement among project stakeholders and enhance each employee’s connection to the overall mission and goals of the organization.
Marketing is critical for a social work graduate and persistence is key for an individual who wants to enter a business or nontraditional setting.
“There are not well-trodden pathways already in existence for this work,” Cox said. “Students who want to move in this space have to be persistent and be able to go into interviews where potential employers are talking to MBAs and answer the question: ‘Well, why are you here?’ ”
He noted many interviewers will likely see a social work graduate as a fish out of water, which interviewees have to be cognizant of and prepared to address.
“You have to sell yourself,” he said. “You have to sell your skills. You have to have tenacity and persistence. And don’t take ‘No’ for an answer.”
Like any graduate searching for work, social work grads need to cover all the bases for a job search with these topics in mind:
- Internship experience. Be able to articulate what you have learned or accomplished at an internship and why that is beneficial to an employer. Where you intern is important, but what you’re learning and what skills you have developed can be more powerful.
- Cover letters and resumes. Create and/or update your status and information on these important documents, emphasizing the experience and skills most applicable to a potential employer. The purpose of the resume is to inspire the employer to call you. The cover letter should not duplicate your resume but should expand on any details especially applicable to the job opening.
- Networking. During your school training and interactions with experts in your field of interest, make connections with professors, professionals, classmates and coworkers. They are resources for future employment.
- Informational interviews. Take the initiative to request informational interviews with people you can add to your network. These interviews can help you learn about the field, enabling you to confirm whether it is right for you. These are not job interviews but a conversation to learn more.
- Job openings. Job banks are a good place to start, including employment websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor and CareerBuilder. Use search phrases “corporate social worker,” “corporate social responsibility,” and “employee assistance program” to get started. Search job boards for professional organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers and the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration. For a more comprehensive list, see the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s Career Resource Links page.
Citation for this content: The DSW@USC, the online Doctor of Social Work program at the University of Southern California.