Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dear Future CF (2nd Year Grad. Student),

Dear graduate students,
        It is that time. The time when you see the light at the end of the graduate school tunnel. You have finally reached your externship (or in the case of out-of-field students, the semester before)! The world of speech as an actual full-time job is becoming clear and you are preparing to start the job hunting process.  Please, allow me to give you just a little advice based on my experiences and what I've been told by other people.

1. If you still have access to clinic materials, make a list of things that you have found to be extremely useful. This will help you figure out materials to purchase or request once you get into the "real world." You may also want to copy certain pages that you use considerably from materials that are no longer in print. I found that out the hard way after struggling for three years to find copies of items I liked.

2. When looking at job ads, do a little research on the facility before submitting your application. Does it have a good reputation with the public? It is a good idea to know how patients/parents perceive potential work places.

3. If you want a job with a school district, start looking in February or March (some places start going to job fairs as early as January). School districts may not be able to offer you a position immediately due to budgeting. Be patient because states take a long time to announce their budget allotment for schools. I interviewed over my spring break, but was not officially offered my position until the middle of June.

4. Make a list of questions to ask on interviews. It is very important to have questions for potential employers as it shows that you have a vested interest in them as well as your own future. You need to know what they can offer you.

5. As a CF, it is crucial that you ask about supervision at your interviews. (That's why it earns its own spot.) You need to know if they have someone who has provided supervision before or if they will have to outsource your supervisor. In some places, you may even have the opportunity to request someone specifically. Why are supervisors so important and different from your clinical educators? They are the ones who help you navigate through the realities of your setting and help you with difficult cases. You are not going to come out of graduate school knowing everything. The majority of CFs feel overwhelmed and stressed out no matter how well they did in their clinical placements. You need to have someone there who is on your side. I've read waaaayyyyyy too many horror stories about horrible supervisors and how miserable people are in their jobs. (I went with the very school district that I attended as a child.)

P.S. Most experienced SLPs that I've interacted with have said that it took them several years to be truly comfortable in their jobs. I can definitely agree with that statement. It took me two years to feel comfortable with the paperwork expectations and general work. I still have moments where I feel inadequate. It takes tons of patience, practice, and research.

6. Don't discount a setting because it isn't your first choice. I've heard 1,000 times over how graduate students do not want to work in the schools. Every setting has it's good and bad points. Yes, schools are cursed with mounds of paperwork but you can see a variety of delays/disorders. It is also a great place to perfect time management and organization skills. Plus, children really do say the craziest things. (And, you can look for PRN work at a SNF or a hospital to maintain those clinical skills.)

7. No job is perfect. You will find faults in any place that you decide to work at. That's just life. You have to make the best of what you are given or find a way to encourage change. I took on the task of developing a handbook for our RtI process because I didn't like the way things were. I didn't get extra pay for all the work that went into it, but it is helping my district have a consistent system in place for speech referrals across the system. I'm also helping out with a presentation to raise awareness about our role in the schools even though public speaking makes me nervous. Change takes time and nurturing.

However, there are some places and people that cannot be changed. You may find yourself in a terrible placement and be torn between sticking it out or walking away. This situation appears quite frequently on the livejournal community. I hate it. I wish everyone could have the same type of wonderful experience I had as a CF (and still have now). There is no easy answer when you find yourself in this scenario. Ultimately, you have to do what is best for you and your health/happiness.

8. You will be mad when you see how much money gets taken out of your first pay check for taxes.

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