Beginning Your Career as an SLP

Speech Language Pathology was recently listed as a top career selection…that’s excellent news.  We have made it (finally) to career day, top 20 careers, and have the pleasure of being listed amongst engineers (my husband and father are both), physicians, and attorneys.  As a seasoned SLP and Executive Director, I am often asked for observation hours and we receive resumes for grads looking for jobs.  I have a love and passion for my profession, but I hesitate on the CF, yet I yield to the calling of paying it forward as some wonderful mentors opened doors for me.  But after reading some tweets and cover letters this evening, I decided to give some helpful tools that will hopefully shift the thinking or perspective of the new grad.

1. Shift the mindset of thinking about obtaining job for your CF year.  Instead, you are beginning your career as a speech-language pathologist and you happen to be in the CF year.  You have experience gained in graduate school, hopefully your program treated you in your last year as a professional versus a student who’s hand they held.

2. Your employment is a real beginning to your career. This means that you take work home to increase your learning curve.  Every professional brings work home so that they can hone their craft and be the best for their colleagues and the families they serve.

3. This type of career is one of servant.  You are meeting people in various stages of grief of failed expectations of their child’s development, knowledge of speech-language skills lost.  In short, this is not about you…it is about them.

4. Compatibility between the you and your colleagues are imperative.  I’m not talking about people you can hang out with on Friday, but people that you can learn from and you adding value to the culture of the organization.  I have been a CF supervisor for many and some relationships ended mid supervsion as it was not a compatible relationship.  While I am wiser in now knowing that some young professionals are so eager to begin their new life after school they see the CF as an extension of school.  I, however,  was taught in my Northwestern program that my CF was the beginning of my career and I had value and knowledge to add to an organization…so I graduated knowing how to write a stellar report (Mrs. Mulhern made sure) and my supervisors and professiors did not hold my hand during my externships.  As I interview CFs I candidly provide insight on my supervision style and expectations, some just want their hours …making the supervision year not about accumlulated learning but accumulated hours of loyalty unto themselves.  Again, being in this field is not about you, but about the people you serve.

5. Present your best draft when providing your first report.  Please do not provide the report along with verbal excuses of “I didn’t know this or that”.  Do your research.  I once had someone’s aunt email me about how wrong it was to expect her niece to research a disorder after hours and she not receive compensation for her research.

6. The world of social media has made some relationships that should be formal, informal.  Please understand that you should have an invitation to address a colleague by his or her first name.  And “Hey” is never ever ever appropriate.

7. Do not discuss your job or clients on Facebook or Twitter.  I have seen many young professionals who use company property and forget to sign out of personal accounts and truly violate HIPPA and company -organizational confidentiality policies.

8. I once sat a few staff members down and stated “If a parent looked up your name on a social media site, would they want you treating your child?”…If your answer is one of defense (“It’s my life) or hesitation, change your profile and adjust your life.  One of my old CFs, who just wanted hours and not knowledge, has a profile of fun where she indulges in alcoholic beverages from time to time.  While this is her page, I will say this.  Do parents and colleagues need to know this information about you?

9. Do not use the speech-language pathologists are highly desired as leverage nor a negotiating tool.  Instead use you.  Discuss your value, your experience, your knowledge, and what you can contribute beyond the year.

10. Be honest with yourself about what you want.  There is nothing wrong with wanting a CF mentor to feel like a big sister or to want to be super close with them.   There is something wrong when you expect that relationship to save you when you need to write excellent reports, chart notes, and communicate professionally-not socially with your families.

I had some and still have some very awesome mentors in the world of speech-language pathology.  More than supporting my clinical development, I learned how to communicate professionally, how to discuss evidence versus personal charm when communicating about a client, and how to confidently present myself.  They taught me the value of reading and acquiring clinical knowledge beyond the basic expectations.  I still have relationships with them as I was not looking for a CF but rather mentors in the field throughout my career.  Our relationships over time have evolved into friendships, by their invitation.  I am truly grateful for them.

It is my hope for you as you begin your career in this amazing field, that you look beyond the CF year and “Begin with the End in Mind”/

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