You’ve finished your internships, your courses, and successfully snagged a clinical fellowship! Congratulations, you are now one step closer to becoming a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist! Though these 36 weeks can be daunting and exciting, here are some tips to help you navigate this exciting phase of your journey!
Get to Know Your Colleagues
You never know who might be that lifeline when you’re in a pickle! Introduce yourself and try to learn the names and roles of your colleagues. Though our supervisors will often be at hand for questions or sticky situations (e.g., when you accidentally lock yourself out of your room or when you’re looking for that right person in the right department to refer your student to), your colleagues often have the answer or solution when your supervisors aren’t with you. I can’t even count the number of times that I have received help from custodians, office staff, support staff, teachers, librarians, clinicians, and more during my CF and my career! Your colleagues are your teammates and often have tips and tricks of the trade that they are more than willing to share! So remember to introduce yourself, try to socialize with them, and to reach out!
Find Time to Be Organized!
Life can get pretty hectic during your CF experience. You may be working in a new environment with new colleagues and with, potentially, a much larger caseload than you’re used to. Before you start your CF experience, find some time to organize your materials. If the materials are digital, organize your materials into different folders (e.g., by populations, type of disorder, etc.). If you own physical materials, it would be a good idea to have labeled folders to categorize your materials. Creating a physical schedule has helped me keep track of my needs and my students’ needs (e.g., meeting treatment hours!) so that I can create better work-life balance. Your life will be so much easier if you take time out of your week or day to organize your schedule, your workspace, and your materials!
Do Invest in Materials, but Don’t Forget About Free resources!
Start with the basics and then slowly add to your library of materials as you learn more about the population you work with and consider your budget because materials can be very expensive! In grad school, we learn how to creatively problem solve, and now it’s important to use those skills to adapt the same materials for different goals! There are also so many great free ideas online, on Instagram, and so many you can get from your colleagues. There are also many groups on Facebook (e.g., Speech Therapy Materials Group SLP) that sell materials at discounted prices. Do not feel pressured to buy every material under the sun!
Don’t be Scared to Be Open Minded
You’re a few months into your CF and you realize that this is not the setting for you! What do you do? It’s important to remember that though we may not enjoy every experience, every experience can teach us new skills. Try to be open-minded during your CF experience and also understand that skills from one setting are transferable to another setting. Our CF setting does not dictate the direction of our future and it is pretty common for SLPs to switch to another setting!
Don’t be Scared to Ask Questions and Ask for Help!
No question is a dumb question. If you’re thinking of a question, it’s likely been asked before. Whether it’s questions about treatment methods, assessment methods, or your mentor or colleague’s experiences in his/her career, any question can help you gain knowledge or even help you pinpoint if this setting is the setting you can see yourself in in the future. We were all once CFs and your mentor will understand when you ask questions!
Starting off your career can be nerve wracking and scary. We’re often told that our CF will make or break our futures. We’re often told that our CF setting will determine the setting we will work in the future. We’re often told to invest in our “clinical libraries” from higher-ups that may be in more economically stable positions. Sometimes, we might even feel lost during our experiences. However, it’s important to remember that our field is broad and vast. It’s also important to remember to slow-down, organize, and assess what materials are most important for the population we are working with and what we can afford to add to our collection of materials. And most importantly, remember that our mentors were once in our shoes and are open to questions, can offer great tips, and may even be able to refer us to colleagues with experiences in other fields that we are interested in! So, remember to find time to relax, breathe, and be open-minded to the new challenges and opportunities that may arise during your CF experience.
Author: Andrea Chang, MS, CCC-SLP, R.SLP