Monday, June 1, 2015

Welcome to the Real World! 10 Tips for New Grads

June is a very busy time of year for so many. Which category do you belong to?

A.  Last day of school is right around the corner- yay!
B.  Last day of school is right around the corner- oh my gosh, what now?
C. Graduation- moving on!
D. Summer school- keep going!
E.  Looking for a job- wish me luck!

It was about 21 years ago this month that I had a shiny new diploma from Texas Christian University: a Master of Science in Bilingual Speech Language Pathology. I was on top of the world!


My dad, the greatest father ever, informed me, "Melissa, effective July 1st, you are officially off the Lawson family payroll."


That's right, the gravy train was leaving the station and in the next 30 days and I was expected to be on my own.  

Knowing that you can never let 'em see you sweat, I took a moment then shot back, "No problem, Dad!"

Long story short, I got to work, found a job, moved from Fort Worth to Houston, and by July 5th, was gainfully employed. Whew!

Over the years, I have learned a variety of very important lessons and I thought I would take a few minutes to share a top ten list of things every new graduate should know. Here goes...

Top 10 Things Every New Graduate Should Know

1.  You will look dumb:  You will learn more in the first 6 months on the job than you did in all 6 years of school. No questions, hands down, there is nothing better than OJT (on the job training). When you finally show up to take the real world by storm, be prepared, you will look dumb. It's happened to all of us. Just keep your chin up, keep on smiling and carry on. Eventually, you will get the hang of things. 

2.  You will never stop learning: The State Board of Examiners and ASHA will make sure of that you spend at least 10 hours each and every year learning something new. It is critical that you broaden your horizons to learn new concepts, diseases, disorders, techniques, equipment and/or interventions. You may not want to read another journal article for the next 100 years, but you must keep learning.

3. Become a specialist:  I recommend you consider a specialty and learn all that you can about one area. I chose dysphagia in the beginning as a means for pure survival. Then, I took every course possible on  documentation. Finally,  dementia was the name of my game. Along the way, I received special certification in accent reduction and neuromuscular electrical stimulation with Vital Stim. Currently, I thinking of a new certification in orofacial myology...sounds like fun, right? Whatever you decide:  focus, focus, focus.

4.  Use your resources:  Take your books to work and reference them without being ashamed. In addition to grad school texts on neurology, voice and swallow, I always have Mosby's Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary handy. I could not have survived in the hospital without my Medical Abbreviations Dictionary, and, over the years, I also found it helpful to have a thesaurus, a copy of The Pill Book and The Speech-Language Pathology Desk Reference. People will come to you with questions, and this way, you are sure to have the answers. 

5.  Get LinkedIn:  When you're first getting started, you will have a CFY supervisor to hold your hand. But, after that, I suggest you work to develop professional contacts. You can literally create a LinkedIn profile to commiserate with other SLPs, or you can join an ASHA Special Interest Group (SIG) and participate in some great forum discussions. What ever you choose, stay connected with other professionals.

6.  Join a professional organization:  While completely optional, and usually kind of pricey, it is a good idea to join a local, state and/or national professional organization. Membership does have its privileges, including: newsletters, journals, access to job postings, discounts on conference registration, etc. Besides the wonderful perks, it looks good on a resume. And speaking of resumes, 

7.  Keep your resume current:  You just never know what the future brings, so be prepared and have an up-to-date resume ready to go. There are tons of online resources to help you perfect the paper version of who you are. Once you have captured the essence of who you are and what you can do, be sure to make updates each year. 

8.  It's a small world after all:  It's not just the best ever ride at Disney World, it is very true...the (medical) community is much smaller than you realize. That said, be careful: don't burn any bridges. That annoying co-worker may someday be your boss- you never know. Take the high road each and every'll be glad you did!

9.  Get it together: Success in the real world is heavily dependent upon a few important skills, namely organization and time management. Get organized and make the most of your time at work. Productivity is the name of the game, so strive to be the most efficient version of yourself possible. Have a plan, know the plan and work the plan!

10.  Build an arsenal:  Begin building a therapy tool box.  Include flashcards, workbooks, handouts, diagrams, etc. If you are technologically advanced purchase apps for your smart phone or iPad. A variety of treatment materials will benefit your patients from keep you from getting bored at work. 

If you have any other pieces of sage advice, let me know...I would love to hear from you! In the meantime, feel free to share these tips with anyone you may know who is moving on, moving up, or, as was the case with me, moving out.

Thanks for reading...have a great week!