Skills for Entrepreneurship: One thing I wish I’d learned in Social Work School

Last month, I served as an online  panelist at SocialWorkDegree.Org–A resource that shares information about how to start a fulfilling career in Social Work.

In this role, I had an opportunity to share  my thoughts  with prospective students about some things I wish I had learned while in school that would have been helpful to me in my career.

Important points that are very timely to me at this very moment in terms of what I wish  had learned in school are skills for entrepreneurship and other courses involving techniques in business and marketing.

I wish I had learned more about what it takes to build skills in this area because as I continue to grow as a professional, I find myself wanting to start my own projects with film and video, writing and book publishing, developing and facilitating diversity workshops, etc., and I think some training in the area of business would have been a great asset to where I’m finding myself right now.

Applying the words “social justice” and “business” together  does not necessarily have to equal a bad thing. Social justice and business can coexist, and when done effectively, can produce outcomes that serve to benefit society. Now, I’m taking in as much information as I can, but I think having opportunities to develop these skills prior to graduation would have helped out a lot.

You can read what my other fellow panelists had to say by visiting the full article here.

I think that it is extremely important for social workers and other helping professionals who have a desire to branch out in entrepreneurial ways to get some background as to how to start working toward your goals, how to spread your message, and all other things that go into creating projects that advance social justice.

Grace & Peace,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW



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Written by

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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13 Responses

  1. Yes, I agree with you. I think social work programs should offer more options for students to take courses related to business. There are so many SW interested in social enterprise but find themselves having trouble with the business side of launching such a project. Even if your aim to to be in private practice, that is still a business and to be successful requires more then just excellent clinical skills. The same can be said for starting a non for profit. You need to know how to budget and fund-raise and how to market your organization. These are subjects hardly touched upon even at the graduate level.

    • You are sooo right! Private practice, non-profit, consulting, and other ideas all require some kind of business sense. We need more guidance.

      It’s definitely something I wish I would have learned more about prior to now. If anyone who reads this has any resources you’re willing to share, please feel free.

  2. JaeRan says:

    Great post. I agree with you that these are important skills for social work professionals. I think a lot of non-profit organizations struggle with this balance especially in hiring executive directors…if someone is hired with a lot of business experience they may not have the experience in the social service sector and on the other hand if they have many years of practice experience they may not have the best business sense. Having both would be so important! I wish more people were talking about this.

    • Thanks JaeRan,

      I hear you, it takes a very delicate balance. Currently I’m more practice oriented, but I can also see how my experiences could be applied in business. I wish more people were talking about this too, and that’s one of the reasons why I started this conversation. Now I’m in the process of trying to learn as much as I can.

  3. Sandra says:

    Thanks for your insight Relando, I chose the field of social work late in life. Just finished my BSW and entering a masters in counseling program this fall. I am so confused as to what I wish to do with these degrees once Im finished. I wanted a Social Work Program but could not find one that met my needs. I do know that I’m meant to work with young people in who are transitioning out of foster care. I have thought of opening a home for transitional living. But for right now I have to work. Do you have any suggestions for me I’m from the D also.

    • Hey there Sandra,

      It’s good to connect with someone else from the D! So you’ll be starting a counseling program in the fall? Congratulations. I was once on the fence about deciding which way to go between counseling and social work for grad school. I ended up choosing social work myself, but I think having a BSW and then going into the counseling profession will be very helpful to you because although there is some overlap between professions, you’ll have a “foot in two different places”; being able to use what you’ve learned from both fields.

      I think opening a home for transitional living is a great way to serve. Do you know of anyone who’s operated a home in the past that you can talk to? I also think that it would be important to find out what the laws are in the area in terms of zoning, facility/saftey regulations, etc.

      If any other readers have experience with what Sandra needs help with, Please respond.

      Thanks for reading & commenting Sandra. I wish you the best in school, and I hope that you continue to visit Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian in the future!

    • Hey, Sandra.
      One of the great needs for programs that serve the transitioning population is practical and engaging training on life skills including college and “next step” life transitions. A lot of what I have seen are manuals and lecture training, but I envision a program that is more real-world oriented.

      I suggest this because many social entrepreneurs make the first mistake thinking that a building is the best first purchase. So, they take out a second mortgage or put off the good they would do because they are saving to buy a building. The first, best move is to develop your curriculum. Consider what life skills you would like to teach. List them. Consider the most real-life, practical way to teach and model the skills. Write out the plan for each skill. Next, write and compile the resources for the curriculum. Lastly, build out any technological supports like a website/network or reminder app, etc.

      With your curriculum, you can approach state authorities, juvenile justice facilities, and group homes that are already in existence. Charge them to implement your curriculum, train them to implement it, and/or license the curriculum to them. This will provide sustainable funding for your building…if you still want to do that :)

      • Sandra says:

        Thanks Michael, yu were right I was trying to get a building first instead of making up a business plan and a real life curriculum. Thanks so much Open to all ideas and suggestion at this point.

      • Thank you so much for responding Michael, and for sharing such useful information each time you post. I’m taking notes from your comment myself as I continue to plan on executing my own goals and initiatives.

  4. I really enjoyed this post. I attended graduate school at the Columbia University School of Social Work, and focused on a more generalist approach to social work. Most of the students were on the clinical track, but CUSSW does have a social enterprise administration focus. I took a few classes, though I wished I would have had the time to take more. As a supplement, I have been able take classes at The Foundation Center here in New York City on the NYC process of starting a nonprofit, fundraising, developing a budget, and more. I definitely feel social work schools should have students take at least 1-2 classes geared toward business. Also, Ive com across many people who are executive directors and business leaders who have MSWs. They’re all over.

    • Thanks for your comment Nicole! I couldn’t agree more. I’m learning more about it now on the back end, but I definitely wish I had more exposure to the elements of business when I was a student. Now as I learn, I’m doing all I can to encourage current students to seek out these courses, and faculty to find ways to provide students the content.

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