As with most aspects of life, what you get out of a Speech Language Pathology (SLP) program is what you put into it. In other words, if you make the most out of your time in a SLP program, you will have a better chance of standing out in the sea of job applicants once you have graduated. Whether you are planning on attending or are currently enrolled in an online or traditional university, you can use these tips to help you succeed both in your degree program and in getting your career started.
Before you can begin to plan for your career after graduation, you must develop a strategy that will help you in the classroom, online or otherwise. You can be a model student and well on your way to planning your career by following these tips.
- Find A Study Buddy: You and your study buddy can learn from and hold each other accountable throughout your graduate studies. Especially if you are taking online classes, you can message or email another classmate to help prevent either of you from procrastinating on an assignment or studying for a test.
- Improve Your Writing: Being able to write well is a valuable skill to have in this field, and there is no better time to practice than when you are still in school. Ask your professor for more feedback on your written assignments. If they are too busy, the take advantage of online editors or your university’s writing tutors.
- Embrace Research: It sounds cheesy, but it’s true – knowledge is power. It’s okay to not always know the answer, or how to handle a particular patient. Your peers, supervisors, and/or professors can help point you in the right direction in your research when you get stumped.
- Save Your Course Materials: You may think you will only use the handouts that are attached to your online classes (or physically handed to you) specifically for that course, yet you may want to hang on to them in case you would like to refer back to them. Remember, these classes are not the “gen eds” of your undergrad, they directly apply to your career. Be sure to not take these resources that your professors give to you for granted, as they may be useful later with other classes or future patients.
- Stay Organized: It is extremely important that both your overall schedule, and the work you do and receive for specific classes are organized. Make sure your calendar is some place that you check often. If you are able to see your calendar on a regular basis, you are less likely to procrastinate or forget an assignment. With online classwork, it is easy to keep all of the material organized by creating a separate folder for each class on your computer. You could even save it to Google Drive (or a similar cloud-type platform), that way you can access the work from your phone or tablet should you need to.
Career Preparation Success
You will reach a point in graduate school where most of your studies happen primarily outside of the classroom (your practicum, internship, clinical, etc., depending on your program’s structure). By utilizing these tips, you can add more substance to your curriculum vitae (CV), and stand out above other job candidates after graduation.
- Help With Other’s Research: A great way to connect with your professors when you are attending an online university is to ask them if they are involved in any research projects. If they are, they will love to have your help (let’s be honest, no one likes to do research) and it will show them that you have a strong work ethic. Your professors are already well-established in the SLP field, and are a career asset that any graduate student should strive to have.
- Shadow a Professional: There are several different branches of SLP to explore and, even if you DO know which area you want to pursue professionally, you should ask professionals who work in those unique sectors of SLP. You might surprise yourself by liking a field of SLP you would have never of guessed you would, or it would confirm what you already know you like. Either way, it will provide reassurance and give you the opportunity to connect with SLP professionals.
- Be Pleasant: Attitude is a huge part of enhancing your academic and professional career. Having a positive attitude will help you feel less overwhelmed in your studies, and will make more people want to vouch on your behalf professionally when you ask them for a reference/letter of recommendation.
- Volunteer: The goal is to get as much experience under your belt as possible before you graduate. Since you will not be certified by this point, you can really only get experience through the practicums and internships that your program will likely require. However, you can also volunteer at an organization who deals with the type of client that you would like to work with once you graduate. Going beyond what your SLP program requires by volunteering at a school (if you want to work with children in your career), your CV/resume will show future employers that you are passionate and that you know how to take the initiative. Even if you are not doing anything super SLP-related at your volunteer site, the exposure that you will have received with that specific audience will be impressive and beneficial.
- Network: Really, we made this point earlier, and we are making it again because it is that crucial to your professional career. There is a reason the saying, “don’t burn bridges” exists. You simply never know who can help you down the line. Within reason (sleep, eat, and take care of yourself first), say yes to opportunities to help out your peers, professors, supervisors, or any other SLP-related professionals that you may meet. Your kindness, hard work, and positive attitude can go along way, and people are unlikely to have forgotten your efforts if you have really given it your all.
Your graduate years are a valuable and formative time in your life. With these tips as a guideline, you can be excited that you have the power to make the most out of your career, starting with your education.