Message from the Executive Director
In difficult times such as we are living in, it is more important than ever that we be committed, informed, and energized professionals. Yet, it can be difficult to maintain a professional attitude when there are squeezes on resources. We are being asked to do more than ever, and the needs of clients may be beyond what can be offered. There are no easy solutions to this.
In thinking about self care and what social workers are facing, I am reminded of what colleagues at different stages in the field have shared about the value of networking. What I realize is that there are far more aspects to professional networking than any of us might think of on our own.
Here is a list of 12 outcomes of networking with other professionals who may be similar to yourself, or very different. You can judge for yourself what the value of anyone of these might be.
- Meeting people in similar circumstances, facing similar challenges, who appreciate your experience. Sharing what it means to be a professional social worker with others who get it.
- Re-connecting to a deeper place within yourself, outside of the work setting, about the value of being a social worker and why you became a social worker in the first place.
- Learning about job openings before they are announced.
- Meeting more senior professionals as colleagues who in other settings might be harder to approach, finding that a mentoring relationship can emerge.
- Discovering that the person who might hire you for a job is active in NASW and is impressed by your involvement.
- Finding opportunities for leadership development through meeting social workers who are recognized leaders, through participation on committees, or through running for elected office within the Chapter. (Many new professionals are now serving in elected positions within NASW-NYC, and professional leadership is becoming younger.)
- Having your voice heard and contributing to the direction of the profession and the professional organization.
- Gaining a broader perspective on the field and observing through others what a lifetime of professional work can lead to.
- Learning about other organizations, settings, and programs that could expand your understanding and contribute to networking on the job.
- Becoming familiar with social work advocacy in the context of government and politics, including working closely with the most seasoned advocates and attending meetings with political leaders.
- Realizing that professional ethics and standards are strongly valued, even in difficult times.
- Keeping up with changes in the field, including developments in licensing, from colleagues who are considered experts in their area of practice.
A leader in NASW recently said that you never know what will come out of participation in NASW. I know quite a few social workers who actually met their life partner at committee meetings. One social worker got a major promotion at the medical center based on her contacts in the community, originally made while volunteering at NASW. And social workers continually share that even though they do not have time to attend meetings, they are connected through the Chapter newsletter, the website, and share what they learn with their staff and colleagues at work.
Plugging into a collective larger than oneself can have a powerful effect. The most comprehensive collective for social workers is NASW-NYC: over 9,200 professional social workers just in the City alone. Networking is exactly what we are about.
Please share this blog posting with any of your colleagues who may need an extra boost at this time. We also welcome your feedback. Please leave a comment below.
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Currents.