A social worker behind her computer, talking to a couple.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are personal traits that demonstrate you can interact effectively with those around you. These skills are not just important for a career in social work and to put on your social work resume, they are essential to almost any job that involves interacting and working with someone else. Even if you are sitting behind a desk, you will eventually have to work with others. Developing and maintaining social skills isn’t just beneficial for your career, it’ll make all the difference in your life, from interpersonal relationships to dealing with complete strangers. 


When it comes to the strengths of a social worker, great communication is key. Both verbal and nonverbal communication is the only way you can expect to get anything done as a social worker. From working with fellow social workers to helping clients reach their goals, this can only be done by communicating with one another. Regardless of age, gender, or race, a good social worker can communicate with all.  

Not the best communicator? Here are four steps to help improve communication skills:

Speak with Confidence

Try to speak slowly and clearly, rushing your words or stuttering will break up the flow of conversation. 

Listen, Listen, Listen

Take real consideration of what the other person is saying. This is a major skill of a social worker. The conversation is a two-way street, and make sure they understand you are trying your best to sympathize with their point of view.

Keep Friendly Body Language 

Don’t be distant or appear standoffish with your hands in your pockets. Instead, keep your focus on whomever you are talking to. 

Be Friendly 

Make sure they know you want to be there. A small act of kindness and consideration goes a long way to help others open up. 

Time Management 

A skill essential both in and out of social work, time management is the only way you can expect to get anything done one day at a time. A social worker’s competencies can only be seen if they are done on time. Having time management skills is what every potential employer is looking for. It’s a great skill to put down on your social work resume because it means you are organized and efficient. 

Life is difficult enough with us having a thousand different tasks every single day. Finding trouble keeping focused on it all? Try these tips on time management as a social worker:

Create a Schedule 

Turning time into a physical form with the help of a schedule is the best way to manage your time. Write down the hours you are planning to work, and what you want to get done (within reason) in those hours. 

Don’t Multitask

You might fall into a slump with a write-up, and want to skip it to go onto something else, promising yourself that you’ll get back to it. For your own sake, don’t do this. Multitasking is the best way to watch your schedule fall apart. One objective at a time. 

Learn to Say No

You’ll have the urge to stack your schedule full of things to do in a day, but it’s necessary to time management that you stay realistic. You only have a certain amount of bandwidth in a day. A skilled social worker knows what needs to be done in a day, and what can be pushed back to later in the week. 

Have Empathy  

The only way to be an effective social worker is to not only say you understand somebody but actually identify their issues. In the social work field, clients will have a multitude of deeply personal issues that you will have to conceptualize from their perspective. 

There are a few tips you can try to empathize with someone and develop your social work skills: 

Be Present 

This is the first step in making sure others know you have empathy for their condition, being present is crucial for any social worker who wants to succeed in their field working with others. It helps create bonds between you and your clients. This can be done by establishing eye contact (if they are comfortable with it), nodding your head, and making sure your body language is turned toward their direction. 

Acknowledge Their Pain 

Along with being present, make sure whomever you are working with knows you see and recognize their pain. Having emotions validated is a big step for many clients who work with social workers for the first time. It helps to recognize them as human beings, who have emotions that need to be taken care of. 

Don’t Immediately Offer Advice 

Social worker competencies require tact. Before offering advice, make sure your client is comfortable with you doing so. Even if you’re there to help, a client could feel sensitive after opening up about something so personal to them, so make sure they are okay with you stating your opinion, and are satisfied with what they have told you.  

Think Critically 

A soft skill needed on your social work resume (and any resume), critical thinking is how you gather information from listening and communicating effectively in order to make informed decisions on what should be done next. 

Critical thinking can get you a job in and out of social work, developing this skill is a great asset: 

Break it Down

Keeping things simple is the best way to handle problems in social work. Break down the problem, and look at each part of the problem. How do they relate to each other? How would you handle each problem? And how does your client view each part of the problem? Together, you can critically examine the issues and create solutions. 

Be Open

The strengths of a social worker can only go so far. Leave your ego at the door, and acknowledge that you don’t have the solution to every problem. Instead, have the willingness to learn and see the problem from a different perspective.

How to Develop Social Work Skills? 

A career in social work is about creating an environment that helps people to nurture and grow. At St. Augustine College, we have designed a curriculum surrounding social justice to better individuals, families, and the communities they live in. Curious about how you can make a change with social work skills? Enroll today and see why St. Augustine College’s personalized classrooms are built for you and your life.