“Pomp and Circumstance”
“I would like to congratulate the graduating class of 2016!”
A phrase heard across the globe, marking one of the most exciting moments in a person’s life. A milestone that most graduates work quite hard to reach, and in that moment, a new journey commences (likely why it is called commencement)!
Oh! I wish I could go back and do it all again. I would be able to tackle all the “unknowns” that made me lose sleep and I would be able to do so with a much greater sense of ease and understanding. All the hurdles along the way to my destination would seem so simple because I would be aware that what I was experiencing was normal. But since I can’t go back in time, I can at least help those who are facing the newness of post-graduate life right now.
Suggestion #1: It is normal! Your feelings are normal! I swear!
Being a new graduate, well, let’s be honest, is kinda scary! That wonderful feeling of anticipation and fear wrapped into one is something you just gotta love…or hate! But please stop and understand that those feelings you are dealing with are quite normal. The agenda you have in front of you is filled with a whole new list of fairly unfamiliar items, and in many ways, are all tasks that may not have been explicitly taught to you; deciding where to live, balancing money, knowing how to conquer interviews, what to write on a resume, how to manage your time, perhaps how to cook for yourself, and so on and so forth. All of these new transitions, especially experienced all at once, are so very challenging! Dr. Seuss made it sound so easy, but picking a direction is rather tough!
The best advice I can give is to go with the moment and know that it is OKAY that you feel chock full’o emotions about this new journey ahead. I can remember after graduation feeling like nobody else could possibly be going through all the emotional change that I was going through…now I can say that is absolute nonsense! Of course they were. These feelings are normal and expected. But how does it really affect you? The body experiences stress as stress, whether it is good stress, like excitement, or negative stress, like worry. The body only organizes these feelings into one category…stress. So, be mindful of this and be sure that you are taking care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep (which is so much easier said than done, trust me, I know), eat well and keep hydrated, or even get a pedicure or a massage. Keeping tabs on your emotional and physical well being will also help to keep you focused while finding your first job, and once you have secured a position, it will help you bring your “A” Game” to work during your first months when you need to be cognizant of making good impressions on your colleagues and supervisors. (Fun fact: Did you know it only takes 2-5 seconds to make a first impression!? Crazy, right?). So, please keep the words of my mom (and many other moms out there I am sure) in the forefront of your mind, “this too shall pass.” She was right! You will figure it out! Some things take time.
Suggestion #2: Networking…it’s kinda a BIG deal.
While interviewing a group of recent grads, all in the process of seeking their first professional work experience, I noted that one of the most common remarks was that they wished they had considered what type of specialty (pediatrics, adult, school based, private practice) they would be working in so they could network more during their clinical rotations and placements. To me, this is a big deal. This is how I stumbled across my first job…and my second, my fourth, and my fifth! For my very first job, I had a position at UPMC Passavant Hospital in an Aphasia Center, a place where I indeed, was once a graduate clinician during my Master’s training. I came to realize how much I LOVED working with this population during my clinical practicum. So, I kept in touch after my clinical rotation was complete, out of interest as I wanted to keep up with the happenings of the Center. Maybe this helped to secure my first job. I really didn’t realize what I was doing was actually networking. My one professor at Pitt STRESSED the importance of networking. Making connections with other professionals is also quite rewarding and is a key to success. Sharing knowledge and making yourself known is essentially a part of our job. So, raise your hand and make remarks when you attend those professional development courses. Be connected with professional groups on Facebook. It is never too late to start growing your network if you feel you have not done much thus far.
Some ways to network:
1. Email places you wish to work who may not have a posting for a job opening, but just to introduce yourself and present a resume that may be remembered later when a position does open up. To quote an old NY Lotto slogan…”You’ve gotta be in it to win it!”
2. Do your homework (and you thought you were done homework…nope!). Be aware of all your options: working directly for a district (sign up for email alerts for job postings, usually from the Recruit & Hire websites), doing independent contracting (make a list of all contracting companies that service your area. Invo Healthcare & Progressus Therapy are certainly where I would suggest starting), working for regional hospitals, or rehabilitation centers. Keep an eye on Indeed.com, Monster Jobs, CareerBuilder.com, LinkedIn, ASHA, AOTA, APTA, National Association of Special Education Teachers, PAREAP or even look directly on your state’s Department of Education website. Know your resources. And just keep searching, just keep searching, what do we do? We search…search…search!
3. Get involved with a position that may not be your exact title, but will bring you closer by getting your foot in the door. I have a few friends who instead of working as a classroom teacher, substituted for a few years as a long-term sub and got their name out there. I have other friends who became educational assistants to get their foot in the door. Often times, how easy you can get a job depends upon where you reside. For example, in Pittsburgh, it was quite difficult to get a job as a Speech Path as the field was saturated with SLPS. However, when I moved to NJ, I was flooded with options. Maybe consider relocating to get the experience you want. Travel jobs are great too! Do it while you can!!!! The only places I get to travel as a mom of two boys is the grocery store and the pediatrician! Bottom line is…be patient, keep getting your name out there and be persistent. The current job market is a tough one. Sometimes it takes many months to secure the job you are looking for.
Join some interest groups on FB (Note: I am not endorsing any of these specifically, just expressing they exist):
MACUL-Special Interest Group for Special Education
School-Based Speech and Language Therapy
OT4OT or ET4OT- Occupational Therapy Groups
Occupational Therapy 2016 Graduates
Physical Therapy: Practice Education and Networking
Keep looking and keep getting your resume out there. Like I said previously, it takes time.
Suggestion #3: Someone please tell Ben F. about paperwork…just like taxes and death, paperwork is certain.
Sorry…paperwork will never end. And there will likely always be a lot of it. I have been a therapist for 16 years, and I still have trouble keeping up with the paperwork. And it does not seem to matter what type of place I work in (rehab, hospital, school), paperwork always gets the best of me! It is one of the most time consuming aspects of the job. While interviewing recent graduates, it was a common concern/complaint. They all reported that it takes many hours to complete the mandated amount of paperwork; 13-hour days with 8 hours devoted to direct therapy and the rest to paperwork and preparing. That is an equation for burnout for sure!!! Some of this is indeed just getting used to a new job and it will get easier. I used to take FOREVER to write a note during my CFY. I would consider everything I possibly could as far as word choice. Now, I don’t second guess my word choice. Time is of the essence… The Rolling Stones were not exactly correct! Time is NOT on your side! Know it is going to get easier with experience. This is a promise!
So I leave you with a little to ponder over and mull around. I share one more glimpse of what drives me. Enjoy the ride! It is one you will remember forever!
Stay tuned for part two: Resumes and Interviews!
Many Thanks for Reading!
Meghan Dreyfus, MA CCC-SLP
Invo HealthCare Associates Therapeutic Consultant