Advice to New Grads
Many recent graduates are starting their first jobs over the summer, or will begin their professional careers in the fall. When I see graduation announcements and hear of graduates starting new jobs, I cannot help but think of everything I wish I had known about working in the "real world" before I started. Here is my advice to new graduates:
● Be flexible and open-minded. You will have to learn to follow new routines and work under conditions that you may not have experienced up to this point. You will meet and work closely with physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, CNAs, dietary managers, and other professionals. Listen to and learn from them.
● Be confident. As a student clinician, your clinical supervisor most likely was seen as the person in charge. Now, you are the expert. Explain what you know, and never forget that you have years of training. Act like a professional, and expect to be treated like one.
● Expect to be overwhelmed. You will most likely have to learn a billing and documentation system, company protocols for screening, evaluating and treatment, specific building rules and regulations, and state and federal regulations. You will learn all in time. Do not hesitate to ask for help; a good employer will expect a new graduate to have questions.
● Ask a lot of questions! Do not assume or guess for fear that you are bothering someone or that co-workers will not respect you as much.
● Take your breaks and your lunch breaks. Arrive on time and leave at a reasonable time. Do not fall into the trap of overworking yourself.
● Use your CFY supervisor whenever you need help. She is there to guide you.
● Keep a change of scrubs or clothes in your car. Trust me, you will almost certainly thank me one day for this advice.
● Remain focused on the quality of care that you provide, despite pressure to be productive on the job. Yes, you can do both.
● Keep learning! Stay up to date with research and treatment options. Avoid getting into the habit of relying solely on what you learned in school. I cringe when I hear professionals say things like "That's not what we learned in school!" or "In nursing school, we were told to always reorient confused patients." And when was that? Twenty years ago? Do not become that person.
● Keep up your hobbies and interests outside of work. A happy therapist is a good therapist!
● Have a sense of humor! Humor, compassion, knowledge, and a love for your work are your greatest tools. Caffeine also helps.
Indeed, the world of speech-language pathology and healthcare has changed so much since I began that now I take so much of what I have learned for granted. All of us were new clinicians once. Good luck out there!