Are you interested in a Macro Social Work position but are having a hard time finding one? This post will provide you with some guidance to both help you find a Macro Social Work job and move up the Macro Social Worker career ladder.
We are fortunate to have Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW, the founder/writer of The Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to community practice social work and politics, share some of her learnings and wisdom in the job search and career development arena.
Rachel has been working as both an advocacy and community outreach consultant and career coach to macro social workers since 2013. She is also one of the co-founders of the #MacroSW twitter chat, a member of the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration’s (ACOSA) communications team and was recently appointed to ACOSA’s board.
Thanks to Rachel, you will learn:
- The Top 7 Advocacy Tools/Resources
- The Key Professional Organizations/Associations to Join
- 3 Must Know Job Search Tips [see infographic for cheat sheet]
- 3 Best Macro Social Work Resources and more!
So without further ado, Rachel, what led you to become a Macro Social Worker?
Well, I always had an interest in civil rights and politics. My BA is in History with an emphasis on United States history. I took a lot of classes in US civil rights history and US government history. And I enjoyed that. But there isn’t much you can do with a history degree. Unless you want to teach elementary school social studies, there aren’t many options in terms of paying jobs.
I was drawn to social work because of the emphasis on advocating for oppressed groups. A few weeks into my first semester, I knew I wanted to focus on macro issues. I really wanted to work on LGBT issues. I did that for a bit. My second year field placement was with a local LGBT organization. They hired me for a community organizing position.
What are the top 7 advocacy tools and resources social workers have at their disposal?
- Social Media: Learn to use social media to organize, educate, and influence. A while back I read an article; I think it was in the Guardian, about blogs being the new pamphleteering. It’s not just blogs and twitter.
You also need to know about using other digital platforms like mass SMS text systems and GIS mapping and CRM (customer relationship management) software.
- SMS text messaging: These are platforms you can sign up for that enable you to send mass text messages to large groups of people. They have similar functionality to mass email platforms such as mail chimp. You can create and segment contact lists.
This is great if you need to get people to take immediate action such as donating to a campaign (ex: you need to raise X amount of money within 24 hours) or showing up to an event (ex: you having a rally or you need them to call an elected official regarding a pieces of legislation that is about to be brought to a floor vote).
It is a good way to reach people and get them to take action. They will probably notice a text message faster than they would an email. EzTexing.com is one such service you can sign-up for.
- GIS Mapping: GIS stands for Geographic Information System. Basically it’s software that enables you to map data onto a geographic area and analyze it. It is a great tool for examining what is going on in a community.
[It can show you where people with certain characteristics such as age, ethnicity, income and education are and where diseases or social conditions are likely to happen; helpful information that you’d need for assessment, planning, or evaluation purposes.]
There are certificate programs you can take to get training in this. The Community Tool box has info on GIS Mapping and its role in community engagement. In addition, I will be sharing a video about the use of GIS Mapping in social work in response to your last question about what are my favorite 3 macro social work resources.
Also check out my interviews with Dr. Thomas Felke and Dr. Dennis Kao on the Political Social Worker. They not only spoke about their use for social work, but they both use GIS Mapping in their work and teach it at their respective universities.
- Google Drive Google drive is great. You can download it to your mobile device, so you always have access to your files. You can also create forms with google forms, which is great when you need an inexpensive and easy way to get people to submit info.
- Bolder Advocacy This is a project of the Alliance for Justice. It features a number of tool kits and evaluation tools. It is a great place to find resources and evaluation tools for a regarding policy advocacy at nonprofits.
Bolder Advocacy’s mission is to support and encourage nonprofits to get involved in policy and advocacy work. Therefore, it is a good site to visit to learn about how your organization can legally influence change at the legislative level.
Examples of the available tool kits include:
- Establishing Your Organization – covers starting a nonprofit.
- Source Materials – covers laws governing political advocacy at nonprofits.
- Immigration advocacy – provides information for nonprofits working on immigration reform at the state and local level. It will help you with planning and accessing your campaign.
- California Advocacy Resources – is for nonprofits engaging in policy advocacy work in CA; it provides information on the California Political Reform Act.
- Ballot Measure Toolkit – provides officers information on how tax exempt nonprofits can support or oppose ballot measures.
- Stand for Your Mission – gives resources to help nonprofit leaders get their board to sign on to advocacy work.
Bolder Advocacy also offers evaluation tools that assess an organization’s capacity for advocacy and their effectiveness.
- GovTrack – I like using GovTrack to track federal legislation and committee hearings. They have a tool you can use to contact your congress member. It will locate their office number and connect you to them. It will also give you a sample script to use based on the issue you are contacting them about.
- The New Organizing Institute – This is a great educational resource. They archive all their webinars on their site and break them down into 10-15 minute videos. They cover topics ranging from online organizing, registering voters, and election administration, etc. Go to the Organizers tool box for the videos. They also organize Rootscamp every year.
Rootscamp is billed as an unconference. The conference is about progressive organizing, but the agenda is driven by the attendees. They do break-out sessions where attendees on the fly come up with workshops. The 2016 Rootscamp will take place on December 12th and 13th.
3 Recommended Webinars to Watch Are:
- & 7. Theory of Change & Logic Models Theory of change & logic models can be really useful. I recommend taking the time to learn how to do them.
They are similar and people often confuse the two. Which one you use depends on what you are looking to do.
Theory of change models tend to be more detailed and are causal. They can be used to evaluate, conceptualize and plan a new initiatives, or for reexamining goals or existing activities that an organization is carrying out.
For example let’s say several advocacy organizations are collaborating on an initiative. The campaign is not going well. As a member of the collaborative, you want to know why and how to fix it. A theory of change model could help with figuring that out.
Logic models are basic and are good at providing a simple visual. They look at inputs, outputs, and outcomes. They don’t explain why something happened or didn’t happen.
Which key professional organizations/associations do you recommend macro social workers join?
- The Association for Community Organizations and Social Administration (ACOSA). As mentioned above, they co-host the #MacroSW Twitter Chats. ACOSA is working to raise awareness of and advocate for macro social work practice. For example ACOSA established the Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice. Membership includes a subscription to the Journal for Community Practice.
- Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN). This is a good place to network with nonprofit professionals. They have chapters in most major cities. They offer traditional networking events as well as trainings.
Are there specific terms that you would suggest that macro social workers use when looking for a position?
For starters, if you’re using a job board, do not use terms like “social work,” “social worker,” “MSW,” or “BSW.” Doing that will severely limit your results. As a macro social worker, those terms will only bring up clinical and case management positions.
When searching a job board, you need to think about what it is you want to do and come up with related terms. For example, if you are interested in development or fundraising, use those terms or try “grant writer,” “development assistant,” etc.
I’d suggest macro social workers use this list of terms. I also go over this in the Job Search for a Macro Social Worker webinar.
Which are the best job boards for macro social workers to use?
I can’t state this enough. Do not rely on job boards. The vast majority of open positions are not advertised on them. Most job boards charge a weekly or monthly fee and it is cost prohibitive for the majority of nonprofits. Instead, do some research and create a mailing list of organizations you want to work at. Then send out (preferably by mail), a letter of inquiry along with your resume.
Having said that, idealist.org is a great site. You can also use them to find organizations. All organizations that post on Idealist have to create a profile. If you search by organization, you can enter key words and location. This will help you find organizations in your area that are working with the population/issue you want to work on.
If you are looking for a job in the political arena, those positions are more likely to be listed on the parties’ national and/or local websites or on the legislature website (such as the US congressional website or the state legislature’s website).
I have on occasion seen legislative aide positions posted on idealist.org, but that is rare. You can also find listings for cause and political campaigns on EMILY’s List. You need to sign up for their job announcement emails. To do that, you will need to create a profile and submit your resume.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has a job portal where you will find postings for positions at state legislatures.
Obtaining that first position in the field is typically the hardest. What are some unique strengths that you feel most macro social workers have/can say to prospective employers that would illustrate that they are the right candidate (particularly vs. a graduate in political science, public administration or law)?
The best thing any job seeker can do is network like your life depends on it. You want to seek out any kind of networking opportunity, including volunteer work. Make sure people already in your network know what type of work you are looking for. You never know who knows who.
When crafting your cover letter and resume (which needs to be done for each position), always try to look at it from the point of view of the hiring manager.
They are not going to take more than a minute or two to look over your application materials. So you have to be clear and concise. Odds are the person responsible for the candidate search is not a social worker. The general public has a very narrow view of social work education. They have no idea what macro social work is. They hear social work and they think child protective services or therapy. So spell it out for them.
My suggestion for job seekers is to put their education at the bottom of the resume and do not include MSW or LMSW (or whatever the initials for your license is in your state) next to your name.
You want to highlight the experience you have that is directly related to the job you are applying for.
You also have to consider that you may not have the appropriate experience to be taken seriously. It’s not feasible to get a paying job as a grant writer, if you never wrote a grant. Hands on experience always wins out over something you have only read about or been taught in a class room.
Most MPA, MPP, and political science programs are teaching students how to use various technologies such as GIS Mapping or CRM software. Most social work programs are not offering those learning opportunities. There is also a problem at many schools with a lack of macro field placements. So it is not just public perception that makes it hard for us to compete with those in other fields of study.
One rule of thumb to use is that if you meet at least 50% of the requirements/qualifications in the job posting then you should apply. But if it is less than that, you need to seriously consider continuing education and/or getting additional experience through volunteer work.
In 7 Career Tips for Macro Social Workers, one of the questions Laurel Hitchcock thought macro social workers should be prepared to answer was: “How would you develop an advocacy agenda for our agency?” How would you recommend responding to such a question?
If you are applying to a position that would require you to create an advocacy agenda, do your homework before walking in there.
Examine the mission statement and services offered (what population are they working with? What are their issues?), research what was done in the past by the organization (Does it appear to have successful?).
Go through their blog for any articles related to their existing advocacy work and also check their social networking accounts. You want to go in there aware about what other groups in the area are doing, as well as related legislation.
In terms of the how: community meetings and constituent surveys (online and offline).
You need to get an understanding of what matters to the community being served by the organization. Hopefully the organization has an advisory board/committee made up of constituents. If not, then suggest it being clear that one of the groups task will be providing input on the advocacy agenda. Of course, you want to get input from other stakeholders such as the staff and board.
Talking for a minute about the biweekly #MacroSW twitter chat, what impact do you feel it is having on the field and what led you to start it up?
The biweekly chats have given macro social workers a place to gather, network, share resources, and learn. I can see a difference from 3 or 4 years ago in terms of the information out there for macro social work. There were (and are) always tons of resources for micro/clinical work. However, there is still more that needs to be done for macro social work. There are very few social work accredited CEUs out there. This is something that both ACOSA and the #MacroSW collaborative have been talking about.
For example, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to locate approved CEs related to community practice in New York State, where I live, to fulfill the recent mandatory continuing education law for all licensed social workers. This means I’m going to have to take, and pay for, courses that have little bearing on my actual day-to-day work. And I know I’m not the only one with that issue. This is something that needs to be addressed.
#MacroSW started from my desire to host a regular chat for ACOSA to build up their Twitter following after I started managing their social networking accounts in 2013. I sought collaborators because running a regular chat is time consuming. If you count recruiting guest experts, writing up and distributing chat announcements, the chat itself, and archiving the chat, it takes at least 5 hours of work per chat. Collaborators also help by bringing their own network (email list, blog readers, social media followers, etc.) to the table.
Lastly, which three best resources ( books, podcasts or videos) would you recommend every macro social worker read, listen to, or watch?
- Foundation Center is a great resource to grant writers or anyone looking to receive trainings in writing grants.
This is the link to their YouTube page where they frequently post videos from their workshops and conferences. In the past they have posted videos on finding major gift donors and searching for grants.
- Mapping experiences and access to opportunity in cities: Amy Hillier at TEDxPhilly – is the video I mentioned above that discussing GIS Mapping.
Amy Hillier is a social worker. In this talk she discusses how place of birth and where you are raised affects the number of opportunities available to you.
- Haynes, Karen S., and James S. Mickelson. Affecting Change: Social Work in the Political Arena. Sixth ed. Boston: Pearson, 2006. Print.
The text book offers an overview of the social workers role in politics. It is a great starting point for anyone unsure of social work’s place in politics, or for anyone who is looking for information on jobs for social workers in the political arena.
Thanks so much, Rachel, for providing us with such helpful career advice!
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