I’m going to start by assuming… assuming we’ve all had a conversation similar to this:
“What do you do?”
“I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist”
“Oh, like a speech therapist?”
“Oh, I had speech for my R when I was in school”
“Yeah, I work in a school.”
“Wow, that must be so rewarding! Do you love it?”
And this is where I want to stop you. You probably said “yes”. I did – too many times to count. But here’s the secret… I typically didn’t mean it. *Insert gasps galore* Don’t give up here, I promise that there is a point to this post.
The Truth: I didn’t love being an SLP
Aside from photography and softball, becoming an SLP was the thing that I had worked the hardest to earn. I found that I could mesh my love of technology with giving children the ability to communicate through AAC. However, in every position I took, I found myself looking for more – looking for something that I loved waking up for each morning. And, the truth is, I wasn’t finding it. I worked in preschools, elementary schools, programs for children with Autism, early intervention, and middle schools from 3 different states and different districts/companies. Every job was “fine” and I worked extremely hard in each job, giving it my all, but when I looked around me I saw SLPs who appeared to genuinely love what they did while I felt like it was just “work”. This made me feel that I was missing something. I went between believing that I didn’t need to “love” my job (does anybody ask a car salesperson, a mail carrier, or a chef if they “love their job”?) and wondering if I was in the wrong profession. Plus, I had started this blog in my 2nd year of my career and felt pressure to maintain a peppy SLP persona.
The Choices: What do you do when you don’t love what you do?
I want to preface this by saying I’m not an expert here. I’m just sharing some options that you could consider. (So please don’t sue me if you try one of these things and it doesn’t work out so well – because let’s remember, “You do you”)
- Quit – I thought I’d start with the obvious. If you are truly miserable, quitting may be the best option for you and for your clients. The stress of being unhappy at your job does not translate well into quality therapy. I’m not saying you have to quit being an SLP, but this might be a good time to look for another position. You are a hot commodity – don’t live unhappy!
- Change it up – Looking for a new setting/population to work with may be an option. It’s okay to admit that you don’t like working with kids. Head to a SNF or rehab and try it out. Try private practice or home health. Try something. Even if you aren’t sure you will love it… life is surprising!
- More school? – Within our degree area there are a few things you can look for. If you are thinking that research or working at a university is where you would feel fulfilled – check out PhD programs. Clinical Doctorates are a great way to further explore areas of therapy provision that you would like to become an expert in. This is a great route if you are looking to obtain a particular position and want to be a better-qualified professional. Or… maybe it’s time to think about exploring other degrees (if we’re being honest).
- Leadership – When we were in school, the major areas of leadership that were discussed were owning a private practice and ASHA. However, I have discovered a few other great ways to move into leadership. You can serve on your state organization and impact the speech/hearing services in your state. There are also available positions working with college students as a clinic supervisor or mentor. Many districts have lead SLP roles. These vary greatly from place to place but they typically involve communicating, coaching, developing PD, hiring, advocating, training, etc.
- Extra Curricular Activities – Sometimes the key to finding happiness in your job is finding happiness outside of your job. For many people, this is their family and friends. Finding something that helps to fulfill your creative needs, geeky needs, sports needs, etc. can help you to feel more fulfilled throughout your life.
My Decision/Results: Most of the Above
“Yes, those choices are all well and good but what did you do?” I am finally finding my balance and happiness in my job. This year I have been so fortunate to serve as lead SLP in my district. I have really loved working in this capacity. It has allowed me to advocate for our team of SLPs/SLPAs/OTs/PTs, create professional development, train new employees, and coach related service providers to help increase our efficacy as therapists. I am really enjoying leadership! Because of this, I have started to explore additional options such as a Doctorate of Educational Leadership and moving toward more district-wide administration roles. We’ll see! Also, this semester I enrolled in a ceramics course at my local community college. This class has allowed me to work in the area of art and to learn something new. It allows me to disconnect, take a night off of IEPs/evals, and meet new people. These changes have made a huge impact on my enjoyment of my job.
Sure, I’m not doing exactly what I thought I would when I was in grad school. I’m not sure how many of us are. The truth is that our job may be just a job… or it may be a calling. Whatever it is, work to make yourself happy in how you spend so much of your life… your job.