It’s graduation season! As I walked through Washington Square Park the other evening on NYU’s campus, I saw the purple caps and gowns and the familiar dance of awkward photos with proud parents and I remembered THAT feeling. A mixture of relief, anxiousness and excitement with a sprinkle of disbelief—hard to fully capture but definitely memorable. Many new Speech Pathology graduates have been in school for their entire life and have no idea what it means to actually work full time—so the landscape of what lies ahead is unknown. This can be terrifying. Also—for new SLP grads the path to licensure requires completion of the Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) which typically lasts 9 months in a full-time position. The CFY (in an ideal situation) is a well supervised, supportive environment and although most new graduates are quite frankly tired of being supervised—I always encourage my students and supervisees to view this as the last experience with this type of support and to get the most out of it.
Here are my tips to the new SLP Grad:
#1 Once you have accepted your CF position—
Reach out to your favorite professors and supervisors and let them know! I am always so excited when I hear from my students—even if they are “old” students and I encourage them to keep in touch with me—and I sincerely mean this. It is nice to have a network of people that you can rely on—especially in our field. You may have a clinical question in a few months that you know your old professor could help with—or maybe a professional issue has cropped up that your old supervisor could offer support with. Over the years, I have needed recommendation letters and having my mentors just an email away as proved to be beneficial. I have also recommended countless old students of mine into new positions—you just never know.
#2 Remember to view your CF year as the last time you will have this level of support.
This is important, because there will undoubtedly come a time during the experience when you are so over someone critiquing your work—but it is during this moment that you must reframe your thoughts. Your CF will be over so quickly, I promise you there will come a time where you will want to have a second set of eyes on a report or another opinion about a therapeutic protocol.
#3 Be prepared to feel overwhelmed.
The idea behind the training in our profession is that we give you a taste of what it is like to work in various settings through discussion, observation and your clinical placements. But this is just not the same as working. Initially there will be so many things you will have a learning curve with—therapeutic protocol, schedule, notes, coworkers, billing paperwork, etc. that you will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed. This is normal and will pass. Once you begin working, lean on your supervisor and the other therapists for support. Remember, we all have to start somewhere. This leads me to my next point….
#4 Do not be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS!!!
I have been repeating this a lot lately. Somewhere along the line, students have begun to feel like asking questions is a sign of incompetence. We want you to ask questions!!! We cannot assume what you know and what you do not know and we want to support you as best as we can—if you are unsure of anything—ASK!
#5 Lastly—take advantage of all of the online short courses when you have a client or a diagnosis that you would like to know more about.
There are so many out there…I highly recommend speechpathology.com. Graduate school cannot prepare you for everything—but what it does do is prepare you to think clinically and research approrpriately. Once you graduate, you will begin to really lean in to what your area of specialty may be—some of you may have this calling right away and others may not—it really does not matter. There is always more to be learned.