Wondering if you have what it takes to be a community service worker (CSW)?
CSWs deliver front-line services that have a real impact on the lives of their fellow Canadians.
They assist people who are dealing with serious social and personal challenges, including addiction, unemployment, homelessness, domestic abuse, poor mental health, and more.
You need specific training and a special skillset to succeed in this role.
Are you a good fit?
In this post, we outline the top 10 community service worker skills and qualifications.
This is what you'll need to make a positive impact in people's lives and build a successful career in social services.
1. A PASSION FOR HELPING PEOPLE
One of the most basic community service work qualifications is a true passion for helping others.
You need a strong desire to ensure that everyone has access to the social supports and resources they need - especially vulnerable members of our population who often fall through the cracks.
This field is about lifting people up and helping them build healthier, happier, more empowered lives.
2. TOP-NOTCH COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Good communication skills are essential for community service workers.
You must be able to listen without judgment and build trusting relationships with clients from all walks of life.
Writing skills are important, too. CSWs have to write clear and professional intake reports and progress updates, and correspond with other social service professionals.
3. AN EMPATHETIC NATURE
Can you put yourself in someone else's shoes? Can you imagine what they're going through?
The ability to see things from other people's point of view is a key skill for community service workers.
Not everyone has a strong sense of empathy. But for CSWs, it's essential for understanding what motivates your clients, what they are struggling with, and how to offer support.
Without empathy, you simply cannot be effective in this role.
4. A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT
To understand where your clients are coming from, you need to know what lies behind their behaviours, habits, and choices.
In other words, you need a good understanding of human psychology and development. This includes concepts like personality theory, learning, memory, emotion and motivation, and social psychology.
You'll study the basics of psychology and sociology in community support worker training, but you'll need to keep expanding this knowledge throughout your CSW career.
5. A SOLID GRASP OF ADDICTION AND MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
As a CSW, you should be able to recognize the signs and understand the effects of substance abuse and common psychological conditions.
These include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction, and other mental health disorders.
Community service workers are trained to identify signs of mental illness so they can provide the proper support or refer the client to a health care specialist.
6. knowledge of available social services & programs
CSWs must be familiar with all the available social services and programs in their city.
This is key, because part of the job is connecting people with the right resources - such as emergency shelters, affordable housing, crisis intervention, employment counselling, financial aid, etc.
You may also create and deliver programs of your own! CSWs often lead support groups, recreational therapy programs, youth outreach, and other activities.
7. INTERVIEWING AND COUNSELLING SKILLS
Interviewing and counselling are some of the most important community service worker skills.
You must know how to collect background information, identify problems, assess risk, and develop a customized plan to help each person.
Herzing College instructor Bryan Coker says students in his CSW course get hands-on practice in these areas:
"They do role plays where they practice interviewing and counselling each other in class. The students also interview people outside of class, and they look at various scenarios and demonstrate what they would do to help that person."
8. stress management and self-care
Working in social services can take an emotional toll. To manage stress and avoid burnout, you need to take steps to preserve your own well-being.
You'll need to figure out which activities or routines can help you re-charge. It sounds simple enough, but some people find it challenging to unplug and relax.
Remember: You're not much use to your clients if you don't take care of yourself.
9. THE ABILITY TO SET BOUNDARIES
When you're focused on helping people improve their lives, it can be easy to get too involved on a personal level.
Community service workers have to build relationships with their clients, but those relationships must always remain professional. Translation: you need to establish and maintain clear boundaries.
That's part of the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, which you'll learn about in CSW training.
Setting boundaries also helps with stress management.
You cannot hold yourself responsible for another person's behaviours and decisions. CSWs offer guidance and support - but it's up to the client to make changes in their lives.
10. A CSW DIPLOMA
Most social services jobs require a CSW diploma. This is a baseline qualification to start a career in this field.
A CSW course offers training in assessment, mental health, counselling, interviewing, communication, and report writing.
A good program also includes an internship. This is key for getting real-world experience and kickstarting your CSW career.
EXPLORE COMMUNITY SERVICE WORKER TRAINING AT HERZING COLLEGE OTTAWA
Ready to become a skilled, fully qualified community service worker?
Check out the CSW program at Herzing College Ottawa. It's 12 months long and includes an 8-week internship at a local community organization.
Our graduates have landed jobs with organizations like Ottawa Freedom Centre, Immigrant Women Services, Partners in Parenting, Bairncroft Residential Services, and more.
Click below to get more details on the CSW program and chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We're here to help!