Winning the Job Lottery
“What would you do if you won a million dollars?”
A few years ago I was working with an entertaining group of fifth grade students who were practicing producing their speech sounds at the sentence and conversational level. We were taking turns answering social questions from a deck of cards. We turned over the card with the question, “What would you do if you won a million dollars?”
Each of the students shared their fantastical ideas about what they would do if they won the money, then one of the students turned to me and asked me what I would do. I suddenly realized that I wasn’t sure what I would do. Another one of the students smiled and announced to the group, “Well, she certainly wouldn’t be here with us!” and we all laughed.
I’ve often wondered about the student’s comment that I wouldn’t be working as a clinician if I received sudden riches. It’s common for people to daydream about a life without worry that appears to be promised with independent wealth. Waking up everyday and spending long hours balancing client contact, documentation and compliance paperwork, staff interactions, and organization/institutional practices, isn’t easy. Sometimes we see work as mainly burdensome and taxing, instead of seeing the beneficial reciprocal relationships that exist, as we are enriched through clinical interactions.
There are two ways to consider the idea of imaginary, newly found wealth that may provide insight into one’s own clinical values and career identity. Therapeutic services are often within the guidelines of a predetermined system, which is rarely as fully funded as it could be. In times of perceived scarcity, it may become easier to focus on limitations than on possibilities.
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Thinking about your work without any limitations may open up freedom of thought.
• What would you want to change about your job if you had the resources to make many more things possible?
• In what ways might you change your professional life?
• How could you improve your daily practice if you had unlimited resources?
Releasing ourselves from superimposed boundaries may help stimulate creativity and identify what we value. Our work includes aspects of altruism (public service), self-improvement (professional development), creativity (materials generation and intervention), interpersonal skills (client rapport), and much more. When we brainstorm about what we would do and what we would change if we had access to financial resources, we might learn where we want to put more of our clinical energies.
Another way of examining the question of what you would do if you won a million dollars is “How would you feel if you could never work as a clinician again?” Having the identity of a practitioner carries meaning. It may even be a source of pride. Our work is often difficult, but it is meaningful and important work. We believe in what we do. Even if we don’t win the million dollars, perhaps we have all already won the “Job Lottery” because speech language pathology is a fulfilling and stimulating career.