Strategic career planning involves identifying opportunities in your current situation that will propel your career to the next level. Jennifer Luna, director of the DiNito Career Center, shares six strategies to ensure that your next career move will contribute to a clear and logical career trajectory when you put it on your résumé.
1. Explore certifications
Certifications go beyond CEUs; they are programs that demonstrate a specific competence on an advanced level (for example, Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT). Do your research before your next job interview or performance evaluation: identify what credential you would like to have, how it relates to your current job and career goals, how much it costs, and whether your employer can pay for it.
2. Recognize transferable skills.
Transferable skills are portable, make you unique and help you set a niche for yourself. Examples are communication (writing, presenting, clinical documentation), supervision (hiring, training, orienting, supervision), leadership (advocacy, project management, ability to inspire others), and social media (LinkedIn, Instagram, blog writing). It is important to identify the transferable skills you have and be able to articulate them for employers.
3. Use CE strategically
Continuing education is required of all social workers, but what is your plan? Use continuing education as an opportunity to add to your toolbox, and choose carefully according to your career goals. Take advantage of two-for-one opportunities—for example, if you are interested in trauma-informed care, you might choose a course on trauma-informed care and ethics. Think about who else may be participating in these trainings and what networking opportunities they offer.
4. Join the “corps” of specialized professionals
For virtually every area of social work, there is an organization or group to participate in. Begin with the National Association of Social Workers, which has practice sections for nearly all areas of our profession. Continue by searching for like-minded professionals through advocacy groups, LinkedIn groups or alumni networks. Once you find your community, volunteer to be a leader—take meeting notes, chair a committee, or run for office. All these steps will refine your expertise in the subject area and develop your leadership skills.
5. Convey your knowledge to others
A way to start sharing your expertise is by presenting at your favorite conference. Learn how to write abstracts and workshop proposals. To approach your first proposal, you may want to team up with someone in your field you trust and work together to co-present. After you have completed your proposal, always get writing feedback to assure your product is perfectly edited.
6. Contribute to the profession
The best way to contribute to the profession and gain skills at the same time is to narrow down the practice area or population that you want to focus on and others are inquiring about. You can share your expertise through workshops, guest lectures, panels, or publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Or you may want to become a field instructor or adjunct faculty. Or perhaps you are drawn to writing letters to the editor, leading advocacy efforts, or serving as a consultant. This is your time to shine and contribute to the profession and social work education. Always remember that collaborating with others is imperative to growing your network and sharing your knowledge.