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I was having dinner last week with a workshop participant and his wife. As we were talking about some of the experiences we’ve had in our jobs over the years, his wife made the statement that I have heard many times about how it takes a special person to do the work we do and support the people we serve. The temptation in these situations is often to downplay this to the person, but there is truth in that statement. I know from personal experience that you don’t always feel like you’re doing anything all that special as you support the people you serve in your organization, but you are!

Here are just some of the things that make human services workers special:

Courage
Human services work often takes place in fast-paced and high-stress environments, and clients are often in exceedingly difficult situations. This means that, as a professional resource, you need to be somewhat fearless and a little brave so that you aren’t daunted by the day-to-day challenges of your job.

Empathy
Being able to understand and even identify with the clients that you work with is essential to human services work. To provide the best service possible, compassion is key.

Patience
Because you will be navigating social organizations and bureaucratic services, it is important to understand that change does not happen overnight. Sometimes providing clients with the services they need will take extended amounts of time. In addition, the individuals you serve will not always be cooperative, so patience is necessary.

Organization
There are large amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy involved in the work that human service workers do. Because you will be serving a wide variety of clients and dealing with many different types of cases, it is important to be organized and structured in your work.

Responsibility
Along with organization comes the keen sense of responsibility that is important for human services workers. Because you will serve such an important and personal role in the lives of your clients, it is important to practice due diligence and take your work seriously.

Open-mindedness
As a human services worker, you will work with individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life. Because of this, it is important to have a strong sense of tolerance and respect for diversity.

Flexibility
No matter what specific area of human services you work in, your responsibilities will not usually be straightforward. Your work with clients will often be nuanced and complex, and your hours will probably not be strictly 9-to-5. Being able to adapt to changes in situation is so important to human services work.

Ethicality
Human services work often requires you to deal with legal and ethical issues. This means that you must have a strong moral compass and understand the need for rules and regulations in the workplace.
(List borrowed from http://online.brescia.edu/human-services-news/human-services-takes/ )

In this holiday season, with the stress and joy that you may be experiencing in your job, remember that the work you do is important and it takes a special person to do it!

Happy Holidays,

Doug ZehrVogt – Mandt System Faculty

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