Thank you so much for my letter. It could not have come at a better time. Because of your thoughtful and encouraging letter, I thought it only fair that I return the favor. You see, I know what it’s like to be in your shoes because I was (literally, and those are some awesome kicks!). You’ve accepted and started your first “big kid” job after grad school and it’s, honestly, absolutely terrifying. It’s sort of supposed to be. In our field, our awesome field, of speech-language pathology, people take years upon YEARS to become experts in their particular corner of the field. Even then, they continue to ask questions and learn. There’s just way too much information about communication, cognition, feeding, etc. to know it after 6 or so years in school. Sure, you graduated, passed the praxis, and got a job… but you aren’t finished learning yet. This year is the first year of many for you in this job so get cozy…
When I think back on my CFY, I think about how overwhelming it all was. What I want to tell you is to take a breath, relax, and know that you will be so much more confident in a year! Although grad school does a lot to prepare your brain for this job, I would urge you to put that on the back burner and be open to learning on the job. You know more than you think you do and you don’t need a book to do it. Sure, consult a book here and there for answers that you need but don’t rely solely on them.
Then there is the actual therapy session… don’t let it scare you! Quit spending every “free” moment you have scripting out your day so thoroughly. No matter how much you plan, your client will probably throw off your plan in the first five minutes of your session. Calm down a little and accept that not everything will go perfectly. Sometimes a general plan with a few therapy ideas will work out better than a step-by-step roadmap of a session. Be creative in therapy and in your preparation. You don’t have to buy fancy new materials to be successful in therapy. Creating custom materials and using the things that are already around you can be some of the most beneficial and rich sessions that you will have. Plus, you’ll learn more from your students than they will learn from you. Soak it in!
There is also so much to learn from your coworkers and the trials and successes that come with the non-therapy portion of your job. We should just get one thing out of the way: You should know that no matter which setting you work in, you will not only be an SLP. You will also be a teacher, counselor, behaviorist, paperwork specialist, team member, and so much more. Also, please don’t be afraid to ask questions. However, you should write down every question you ask and every answer you get because you don’t want to ask the same thing twice. Ask a mentor, a coworker, an administrator… just make sure you ask! Oh, I should also probably mention that your “mentor” doesn’t have to be the person assigned to you. Just make sure you have one that is knowledgable, accessible, caring, and AWESOME! There will be so many changes during your career. Be flexible and ready to embrace change. (There’s no avoiding it!) You will change too. Never rule out a certain population or setting because you will probably end up there at some point… and you’ll probably love it!
This “job” will be so much more than that. It will be a challenge and a huge success. It will push you to continue learning and to strive for more every day. It will rock your world. You will be overwhelmed and then on top of the world. You’ll be crushed and then you’ll be celebrating. You’ll have absolutely no idea and then you’ll be an expert. You’ll turn down jobs and accept others. You will be the CF and then you’ll be supervising CFs! It will be such a ride!
Get excited and hold on tight. This year may be tough and you may be overwhelmed now but before you know it you’ll be doing incredible things… we’ve done incredible things!
Your Future SLP Self