You’ve graduated and you’ve passed your Board exam – first of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!! This is a major accomplishment in your life as a healthcare professional, so before you start stressing about job searching, take a few days to celebrate YOU! When you come down off of the emotional high and decide to navigate the world of job searching, the process can become extremely overwhelming. I’m here to help you through it and let you know that all of the nervousness and uncertainty you are feeling is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL!
After reflecting on my transition from student to new grad clinician, I wanted to put my thoughts into words and put my words out there in hopes that they would help other new graduates who feel lost, alone, overwhelmed, and afraid. I hear you- I was there too. You are not alone, and I hope these words help you through any fears and uncertainties you currently have.
Explore your many options as a new grad, because as much as it seems like your options are limited, they’re really only as limited as you make them out to be. The right fit for you is out there, but it might not be available right away, so please please please don’t stress out if you don’t have a job the week after passing boards.
Don’t think that just because it seems like everyone from your program is getting their dream job right away that’s actually the reality; because it very well might not be the case. Social media shows the highlight reel and you have no way of knowing if your peers are just jumping at their first job offer because they want to be employed ASAP – whether or not it’s what they really want to be doing. Just focus on you and be patient; the right job for you will come at the right time, but only if you put in the work to apply and if you are patient enough to wait for it.
You are in charge of your career now, not school, not your clinical instructors, YOU. So you want that dream job everyone keeps telling you isn’t possible? Apply anyway! You want to work in a setting that people keep telling you isn’t a good fit for new grads? Do it anyway. You never know what you are capable of until you try. Follow your passion and let it lead you into your dream career. If I had listened to everyone telling me not to treat in the home as a new grad, I would not have the incredible job that I now have with FOX Rehabilitation.
Also, if I had listened to everyone telling me it was impossible to get a job working in pediatrics, I would not have had the guts to pursue a part-time peds position that has provided me with a fantastic mentor who is passionate about developing my skill set early on in my career. As an OT, I am fortunate enough to have two entirely different careers at the same time (pediatrics and older adults are my favorite populations) – but I wouldn’t have either of them if I had just settled “where the jobs are.”
I didn’t want to work in a hospital and I turned down a position at a school because it didn’t feel right; so I followed my gut instinct and pursued the positions I was passionate about, because I knew that being passionate about my work was going to make me a better therapist for my clients, and that’s what really matters. So fight for your interests and passions, listen to your own heart, and do what you believe is best for you, not what anyone else thinks.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Both before and after becoming employed, my advice to you is to do some research to really ensure that you are embarking upon the career that is the best fit for you. Weigh the pros and cons of every job posting and job offer HONESTLY. Be real with yourself and don’t be blindsided by how a company markets themselves to you. Most of the time, your initial reaction to the facility and its employees is a tell-tale sign of how you will feel there long-term. If the cons outweigh the pros, it probably isn’t a good fit, so just be honest with yourself.
My main takeaway from this process as a new grad is to prioritize the jobs that will give you mentorship because you are going to need it to build your confidence and skill-set; if you don’t feel as though you will get it, cross that job off your list. Once you find that job that you love and accept your offer, continue to do your homework. Work hard every day to learn how you can be the best clinician possible in that setting and with the specific population you are working with. Read articles, talk to and shadow other clinicians whenever possible, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
These simple little bits of extra effort will show your coworkers that you care and will make a world of difference than if you just sit back and do the least amount of work to get by.
JOURNAL ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE
The emotional roller coaster doesn’t end after you pass boards. You hop right onto a new roller coaster when you start the job search. If I am being entirely honest, this roller coaster was more stressful because of the weight of your future that it carries with it. You’re probably wondering how to keep your head afloat through it all, and I’m here to tell you that the best thing you can do in order to organize all of your emotions is to journal.
Write it out.
Yes, I know it may sound cliché, but it truly is the most transparent way for you to process the experience. Don’t feel like your journal entries need to be formal, just get your thoughts down on paper and out of your head. Journal about your job search experience to help you choose the right position. Journal about your experience in your first days and weeks of your new job to tease out the confusion of what is working well vs. what you still need guidance with. Journal on the hard days and the easy days, and be entirely transparent with all of the emotions you are feeling. It is the best way that you are going to feel as though you have this process under control.
COMBATING IMPOSTER SYNDROME
Yes, it’s a real feeling, but no, you are not an imposter; you have worked your tail off to get where you are so give yourself more credit. For those who haven’t heard of imposter syndrome before, it is the idea that you feel as though your successes haven’t come about because of your talent, skills, or qualifications; the feeling that you have ‘lucked into’ where you are. To my understanding, if you aren’t able to internalize your successes, you will at some point feel like an imposter. I would venture to guess that anyone who works in healthcare has felt this at some point in their career.
As a new grad, you may fall victim to these thoughts even more (i.e. “How can this person trust me with their care? I’m just a new grad”) but, never discredit your knowledge, skill, or intervention ideas. Just because you are a new grad, doesn’t not mean you don’t have any worthwhile clinical judgment! Yes, your clinical judgment is not as experienced as some of your coworkers, but you have a solid education behind you, so trust that when you are treating your patients/clients.
They trust you (most of the time!), so TRUST YOURSELF!!! Although there will be times where you feel like you have all the answers, there will also be times where you will feel totally lost and have no idea how to treat a certain condition. So, embrace the uncertainty when you feel it, but do not feel like being uncertain means that you don’t belong. You do belong in this career, and you have worked too dang hard to get to the place you are at to not celebrate your accomplishments.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that you are doing your best to make a difference in people’s lives. That is what you went to school to do and you are finally doing just that! So enjoy every bit of it – on the hard days, on the easy days, on the days that make you question why you chose this path, and on the days that make you feel like you couldn’t see yourself doing anything else. Practice gratitude every day for what you have and are able to do for work. Healthcare is complicated and it’s frustrating, but it’s also empowering, humbling, and I’d argue that it’s the most rewarding career in our country.
Think about it- people are trusting you with their lives to heal them, to make them stronger, to give them strategies to live as independently as possible. It is our duty as healthcare professionals to truly listen to our patients’/clients’ concerns and struggles and join them on their journey. Be the person that listens, works hard, and advocates for their clients and their profession every single day.
Enjoy the journey and all the highs and lows that come with it that you are blessed to experience.
Enjoy this season of life you are in that is allowing you to do what you have always wanted, and be excited for the career you have ahead of you!
If my advice has touched or helped you in any way, I would love to hear from you. If you are a seasoned professional that has any other advice to offer to myself and other new grads, I would love to hear from you as well.
Thank you for reading, now go out and change the world!
Allyson Farren, MS, OTR/L is a Joy Energy Time contributor that resides in MA. You can read her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about her here.