Undergraduate and graduate students often reach out to SpeechWorks asking for internship, clinical fellowship, or employment opportunities and to seek advice regarding their graduate or post-graduate career.
While we do not have any opportunities at this time, I decided to write this blog post to give undergraduate and graduate students my thoughts about things they can do if they are interested in getting into the field of speech-language pathology.
ASHA STEP Mentoring Program
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) provides undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to participate in the ASHA Student to Empowered Professional (STEP) Mentoring Program. This free program provides 1:1 mentoring between students (graduate and undergraduates) and professionals (both speech-language pathologists and audiologists) with at least three years of work experience.
The program is open to all students however, priority will be given to students who are members of a racial/ethnic minority group, including American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and/or Hispanic/Latino.
The mentees and mentors cultivate their mentoring relationship via email, phone, video conference, and/or in person over a nine-month period. The program tries to match students and mentors based on their areas of interest – so a student interested in working in a hospital is often matched with a professional who works in a hospital. The mentoring program provides students with the opportunity to learn from those in the field. The mentors are usually outside of the student’s academic program and provide students with a different perspective about the profession.
I’ve served as a STEP mentor in the past. The program has changed since I served as a STEP mentor, but it was a wonderful chance to learn more about why young people continue to be inspired to enter the field, the concerns they may have, and to share professional experiences.
Exploring your interests
Part of anyone’s educational experience is learning what you like and what you don’t like. Maybe you’re interested in working with a particular age group or population. Maybe you’ve never had experience working with a particular age group and are not sure if you would like it.
If you are interested in the field of speech-language pathology, regardless of your interest to work with children or adults, you will work with both groups during your hands-on clinical training.
Want to work with children?
Volunteer and paid opportunities abound when it comes to children. Afterschool program assistants, summer day camp leaders, youth sports coaches, and youth group leaders are just some ways you can gain experience with children. These opportunities will expose you to group sizes and ages of children.
Want to work with special populations?
Community organizations may have opportunities for you to volunteer or work with those with autism, cerebral palsy, or Down’s Syndrome.
Families may often be looking to assistance or caregivers. You’ll begin to see how things like autism, dementia, or strokes affect individuals and families.
Want to work in a hospital or medical environment?
See if you your local hospital has transport or greeter positions available. These roles will help you develop your people skills when they’re not feeling 100%, learn how to ‘drive’ a wheelchair one handed, understand the layouts of hospitals, and understand a hospital experience through the eyes of a patient and their family.
Want to work with senior citizens?
Share your talents and skills with an assisted living and or nursing home by volunteering or seek out employment in the dining room. Some older adults may have difficulty chewing or swallowing their food, so you can see the different diet and liquid levels available, how the food/liquids look different, and how these items are prepared differently.
While you wouldn’t be doing therapy in these environments, you would be exposed to different environments, individuals, and professionals who can support your interests.
Hone your writing skills
Whether you are writing the Analytical Writing portion of your GRE, a letter of intent to enter graduate school, an essay for a scholarship application, or SOAP notes as a graduate student, writing skills matter. In our world of 140 characters and spell check, those who can convey themselves effectively with correct spelling and proper grammar stand out.