Job Search for a Macro Social Worker • SJS

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Job Search for a Macro Social Worker

Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW

by Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer

I decided to write this post after a member of one of the LinkdIn social work groups asked how a Social Worker can find a macro practice job. As a soon to be MSW graduate she was beginning her job hunt only to find that the vast number of advertised positions for Social Workers focused on direct practice.

Lets not sugar coat this, it is not essay out there for a macro level Social Worker. In this day and age the assumption (even among many in the profession) is that MSWs are only interested in and capable of being therapist. Obtaining an LCSW is the be all and end all. I can not recall how many surprised looks I ve gotten from peers when I tell them I have no plans of taking the Clinical Social Worker exam. Further more the National Association of Social Workers is focused primarily on serving the needs of clinicians. All the CEU classes are geared for micro/mezzo level practice and the majority of articles written for NASW News deals with micro work and starting a private practice.

Despite current trends towards clinical work, there is so much more an MSW can do besides direct practice, you just have to think outside the box. First off lets start by moving away from the term macro and instead use the term community practice. Next let us define Community Practice:

As opposed to direct practice wherein you provide services to individuals, families or groups, macro practice aka community practice encompasses community organizing, social planning, human service management, community development, policy analysis, policy advocacy, evaluation, mediation, electronic advocacy and other larger systems interventions.

Now here are a few tips for starting your job search:

  • When using job boards for your search don t enter the terms social work or Social Worker. Odds are if a position has the job title of Social Worker, it is going to be direct practice in nature. Try using terms like community organizer, coordinator, advocate, community educator, prevention specialist, public policy, etc.
  • Use job boards that are not solely for Social Workers or mental health professionals. Be aware that the majority of the advertisements on boards dedicated to social work will be for micro/mezzo focused jobs. I m going to make a list of job sites in a separate post).
  • Be prepared to justify why an MSW qualifies you for the job. You need to be aware that many times the person reading your application or interviewing you will most likely not be a Social Worker and therefor may not be aware of the scope of a social work education. You are going to be competing with applicants who hold a JD, MPA, MPP, or poli sci degree. You are going to have to show that you are capable of doing more then just counseling families and individuals.
  • Network with professionals who aren t Social Workers. Reiterating what I said before, The NASW is geared heavily towards clinical social work. As a result, if you are a macro/community practitioner you are not going to get a whole lot out of their networking events. Do some research and find out what other networking opportunities exist in your area for professionals involved in social justice or politics.

Stay tuned for my next post for a list of job sites related to Community Practice.

Very true- macro work and social work are parting ways in terms of professional education. You can get to macro level by working your way up state agencies I m about two promotions away from that, if I want it, or by working bull and oyster roasts for politcal appointments. Otherwise- job titles will not be social work on a macro level. Better degrees are in public administration, even economics and law. My alma mater has stopped requiring community org classes all together- it just something social workers at the MSW level rarely go into.

That is a sad state of affairs. This is basically what Harry Specht Mark E. Courtney predicted in their book Unfaithful Angles. If I recall Specht stated that if the profession stayed on the course it was on (the book was published in 1993) then in about 20 years it would be completely consumed by psychotherapy; thus completely severing itself from its community work roots..

Yep- for those that value community org, it is a sad truth. In large part driven by the need for this article- folks realize there are no social work jobs, at least labled as such, in community org. And who wants to take out loans for something without employment prospects? Not to say social workers can t get into it- but community development is a field run by multiple professions, with a heavy dose of politics, and often large amounts of volunteers. And trouble with paid work when staff is mostly unpaid value of labor is less, and those with the money rightly think, Why pay when I can get someone to do this for free?

Michelle Sicignano LMSW October 8, 2012

Great post Rachel, looking forward to the follow up. I would question if the school one attends makes a difference. Some are seen as more policy/macro and other are seen as more clinical. Also, the easy acceptance of NASW s supporting mainly those who are clinically focused goes against that bodies own code of ethics, no?

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