Happy Better Speech and Hearing month everyone! I cannot believe that it is already May. The second year speechies are out in the world finishing placements and getting closer and closer to the awaited day of trading in the title of “Student” for “Speech Language Pathologist”! With the change in title, however, comes a great big new step: finding a job! I can’t believe that soon we will all be getting paid to continue to practise and learn in this field.
The task of finding a job is a daunting one, and, having no experience myself in getting a real life speech pathologist job, I sought out the expert opinions of those who do. Erane McManus, manager of the Communication Disorders Department at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, and Karyn Forst, an SLP team leader with Alberta Health Services were kind enough to give me some advice to share about what employers are looking for and how to make yourself stand out to land your dream SLP job!
1. What is one of the first things you look for when you are interviewing someone for a position?
Erane: Someone who has prepared – if you don’t know much about the organization to which you are applying, find out. Even a casual search of the internet will yield key information about the purpose, philosophy and activities of most organizations. If you know someone who works there, or a classmate had a placement there, call her. Employers understand that people need jobs, but we want to know that you have an interest in the work over and above a paycheque.
Karyn: Be confident and articulate when sharing your answers. Dress the part and ensure you look professional. Don’t be worried if there are a few people in the room. They will do their best to make you comfortable. They will do lots of writing. Just keep answering the questions!
2. Besides putting together a resume and coverletter detailing all prior work experience, what else can an applicant do to make themselves stand out above the rest?
Erane: At some point in an interview, you will be asked why you want to work at that particular organization – have an answer ready. You may also be asked what special qualities, skills or attributes you will bring to the organization, so think about what is unique about you. Chances are, many of your classmates have also applied for the same job, so the knowledge and skills you learned at school will be about the same among you. Identify an experience you’ve had that has informed your world view in positive, relevant ways, or a unique skill or characteristic that will make your contributions special. Finally, be able to articulate what you are passionate about – why did you become an SLP?
Karyn: Share experiences that make you unique. Talk about projects and experiences that you are proud of and learned from. Think about qualities that make your personality great. Try to think of specific stories that reflect those qualities. Document your stories so that you can share real life experiences that you have had. Think of the stories that you are proud of and why you think you handled the situation well. In addition, think about times that a situation did not go well. Write down what happened and how you handled it. Think about what you did well to handle the situation and what you would do differently in the future. Try to find out as much as you can about the organization that you are applying to. Many organizations have values that guide the work that they do. If you know the values of an organization you can see if it is a place that you would like to work. You can also share your experiences that align with the values that the organization follows.
3. What are some things that would really impress you during an interview?
Erane: A confident, friendly, approachable manner that indicates you are open to new experiences. Practice your handshake and your eye contact. Be willing to show your personality, so the interviewers get a sense of who you are as a person. We typically assume you have a basic level of content knowledge based on your successful completion of the degree. Show us how you approach your work – are you organized and systematic? Then show us that in your responses to questions. Are you empathetic and sensitive to your patients’ and their families’ experiences? Then be sure to include that.
In addition, thoughtful questions for me are always impressive. Generic questions like, “can you tell me what a typical day is like?” might be informative for you, and that’s fine, but they don’t tell me that you’ve been thinking. More specific questions like, “I understand that this organization has undergone some significant change in the past year – can you tell me more about how the transition has been going, and what you expect in the coming months?”, indicate that you’ve done your homework.
4. What sorts of things did you do when you were looking for and applying for jobs?
Erane: I was lucky – my first two jobs were consecutive maternity leaves at a hospital where I had my final placement. My advice is to treat your placements like an extended job interview. Even if you don’t see yourself working at that location or even with that population, you may need to ask your supervisor for a reference. And, even if you don’t, the person interviewing you might know your supervisor – it’s a small world!
Karyn: Talk to your supervisors about possible jobs, as well as other students. Look on the CASLPA and other job search websites. Take the opportunity to try something different. Don’t be scared to take a temporary position just to try it out. Don’t say that you are only going to work with a certain population. All experience is great experience. Think about opportunities to work in rural locations, or try the inner city, work in a classroom setting. Everything you try can be taken into another job!
5. Do you have any advice for new grads starting the job hunt?
Be persistent and be patient. Many SLPs start in positions that are temporary or part time, or in locations that aren’t their first choice. For example, if you want to work with adults, but your position is with children, learn all you can from that experience. Look for opportunities to acquire transferable skills and knowledge – there are many. And if you still want to make a move, prepare yourself by continuing to develop skills and knowledge in your preferred area, even if it’s on your own time and at your own expense.
Karyn: You are on an interview with every interaction you have while in a practicum. This is your opportunity to impress an experienced SLP. If they enjoy working with you they will want to be your colleague and they will help you find the position that you are looking for! Find a mentor. If you have a supervisor that you really enjoyed working with ask to stay in contact with them. Or when you have your first job try to find a more experienced SLP to bounce ideas off of! If you had a good placement with a supervisor ask them if you can use them for a reference before you leave the placement. Make sure you let them know when you are using them as a reference so that they can expect a call.
What great advice from two individuals who have definitely been in our shoes and behind the hiring desk as well! I also sought out the advice of a recent graduate, Sarah Anderson, to get her take on searching for a job:
“Keep an eye on the websites of the specific areas you want to work in. I wanted to work for a school district so I would look at the online postings for school districts in the area. Apply early to the jobs you find! Jobs go quick and make sure you apply to them all even if they aren’t ones you really want because it is very competitive.
Besides the searching, resume building and interviewing, new grads also need to look into the province/state specific regulations in the areas they hope to work. Each province may have different requirement, for example, supervision hours or additional paperwork that needs to be filled out. Make sure to look into this and start the process early, it would be terrible to find your dream job only to be turned down because you hadn’t done your research!
While this post may not be a complete guide to getting your first job, hopefully there is something you can take away! For those readers who have been through the process, what tips and advice would you give to brand new SLP’s stepping out into the world of a professional career? Leave a comment below!
- Adele Courchesne
Having survived the CASLPA exam and living another day to write another post for the blog, I thought about the fact that we are almost all the way through April! I then thought about where I was last year at this time and realized there are speechies at the U of A in the same position I was, madly studying for final exams and wondering what their first clinical placement might be like. I remember the excitement of finishing exams and getting assigned to my clinic groups. (I also remember thinking that the U of A was crazy in thinking I was ready to have my first real clients, because despite all the studying and knowledge I had gained over the past sememster, I did not feel confident in my ability to put it all together into clinical, real life situations!)
Fortunately, I survived, and it turned out that all the knowledge I needed was hidden in my brain, and I am sure that all the U of A speechies felt the same way. However, to help with pre-clinical
stress preparation I asked a couple of my classmates what advice they would have given themselves if they could go back and talk to their first year selves:
- Be okay with feeling like you don’t know everything you think you will need to know. Placements are about learning, and the U of A does a great job in supporting you and helping you to find the answers you need. You will come across things that you do not know, but as the whole point is to learn the things you couldn’t learn in the classroom, this is good!
- Trust yourself! The professors at the U of A have done a great job of preparing you and you do know more than you give yourself credit for!
- Clinic and spring/summer courses are a lot of work, so it is important to maintain work-life balance. Treat clinic like a job and reward yourself with rest once you get home. It is definitely a challenge, but try to keep work at work as much as possible.
- ASK QUESTIONS! This is probably the simplest, and most important advice. You will be working with very experienced clinicians, mine them for them for information on everything you can, that is what they are there for, to help guide you to the clinical answers you need to develop your expertise.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff, remember to enjoy the experience. Being organized, creative and flexible are definitely good traits to have, but winging it sometimes is okay too!
- Use your classmates! You are assigned a partner and a consulting group, use them! Divide the work up, making sure you are getting a well rounded experience doing each of the different tasks involved in therapy. Help each other out when you are stuck, ask about treatment ideas, proofread each others work! I still like to bounce ideas off of my classmates and get their input on my treatment and assessment ideas!
- Take advantage of the materials room. Shelley (the lovely lady who works in the materials room) might have been everyone’s favorite person by the time clinic rolled around. Use materials that you can find rather than spending hours and hours reinventing the wheel and painstakingly making your own.
- Dropbox (and other file sharing services) are your BEST FRIEND. Use them to split the workload and share materials. My class had a classwide shared dropbox that we are still using to share resources we’ve collected throughout our various placements.
- Remember that parents and loved ones are great resources to explore as well, they are the expert on your client and can give you many great insights.
- Stop and think about how far you’ve come. You are about to start on your clinical journey to become a real SLP! Be proud of yourself and get ready for all the new experiences and knowledge that you are about to encounter!
Do you have any other pieces of advice to give new student clinicians? Leave a comment below!
Watching the above video, I couldn’t help but think about how many areas of this field were involved in Roger Ebert’s life. He lost his ability to speak after undergoing treatments for cancer in his thyroid, salivary glands, and jaw. He later had multiple, life threatening strokes in his carotid artery that prevented him from being able to speak or eat, and was put on a feeding tube. Ebert also faced a change in communication modalities, switching from relying on his own voice to relying on “Alex”, the computerized voice he adopted as an alternative and augmentative communication device.
In the video, Ebert eloquently explains how we use our respiratory system, larynx, and articulators (jaw, tongue, lips, palate) to create the speech we use everyday. He explains the frustration involved in using a computer as his voice, and how happy he was to get simple things such as intonation back with his discovery of the “Alex” voice.
More importantly though, he goes into detail about what it means to have your own voice, and how much of your self and your personality is tied to being able to speak and communicate using your own voice, with its own patterns and timings. He talks about the connections we form with other people through communicating with our own voices, and the disconnect he feels while using a computerized voice.
Using incredible technology, a company in Scotland, CereProc took samples from Ebert’s voice, which had been recorded on his show for the past 30 some years. Though not perfect, Ebert was given a chance to “speak” using his real voice again.
As you watch the video, and later talk to your friends and family about your day, think about how different your interactions might be if you had to communicate via somebody else’s voice. What would change? Would you still feel like the same person? Our voice, with its unique frequency, intonational contours, and sound is something we take for granted, until we are reminded about how important it is to us, and our sense of self!
It always amazes me just how much there is to the field of speech pathology and audiology. During my acute placement, I learned about how big a role respiration can play in swallowing disorders, and this week at my preschool/school age placement, I learned about another area that I had no idea a speech pathologist would work in; tongue thrust!
Tongue thrust , also known as an orofacial myofunctional disorder is when “the tongue moves forward in an exaggerated way during speech and/or swallowing. The tongue may lie too far forward during rest or may protrude between the upper and lower teeth during speech and swallowing, and at rest” (1)
At birth, everyone has a tongue thrust, and moves their tongue forward rather than backward when swallowing. Over time, as the structures of the face and throat develop, the swallow matures, and children learn to keep their lips closed and move their tongue backward during swallowing. However, sometimes the swallow doesn’t mature the right way, leaving a child with a tongue thrust, which can affect dentition and speech!
Some of the signs of an immature swallow/tongue thrust include:
- mouth breathing
- an open bite (a space between the top and bottom teeth when the mouth is closed)
- messy eating
- tongue visible at rest
- dentalizing sounds that are usually made behind the teeth (e.g. the /s/ sound might be pronounced as the “th” sound)
Treating clients with tongue thrust is within the scope of practise for speech pathologists, although special training in orofacial myology is available for those who wish to specialize in this field. A speech pathologist trained in this area might work on a team with a dentist or orthodontist, and a physician or ENT! Multidisciplinary teamwork for the win again!
Are there any other areas that you didn’t know were included in the field of speech pathology? Leave a comment below!
While watching the news today, a particular news story piqued my speechie interest. I’ve written before about the work we do with clients who may have Alzheimers, including focusing on communication strategies, memory, and behavioural management. However, a barrier that can often times stand in the way of successful therapy with clients with Alzheimers, and impact their relationships with their loved ones, is the apathetic behaviour that can manifest as a part of the disease.
The particular news story was focused on a study that sought to treat apathy, using a drug commonly used to treat ADHD; Ritalin. The causes of apathy in individuals with Alzheimers is not fully understood, but a current theory lies with the neurotransmitter Dopamine.
A study funded by the National Institute of Aging investigated the effects of Ritalin on apathy in Alzheimers patients. A control group taking a placebo for 6 weeks was compared to a control group taking Ritalin. The study found that the experimental group had significant improvements in measures of apathy.
The researchers were quick to point out that while the Ritalin was successful in reducing apathetic behaviours, the drug is not a cure for Alzheimers. However, the impact is still important. By reducing apathy, not only can caregivers maintain a relationship with their loved ones, but therapists like us can also benefit from the increased motivation and engagement that results from Alzheimers clients treated with Ritalin! Imagine how much more benefit a client could receive from communication therapy.
What other client populations might benefit from a drug that reduces behaviours that might get in the way of effective therapy? Leave a comment below!
- Adele Courchesne
Read the following sentence: The small boy looked up into the sky and watched the fireworks light up the night.
Now think about what you did while reading that sentence. Did you simply look at each word and recognize it, and then move on to the next word, until you had read and understood the whole sentence? Did you imagine anything in your mind as you read it? What did the little boy look like? Where was he standing? Why were there fireworks?
While this exercise may seem silly, visualization is actually a very powerful tool that we use as a strategy to help school age children with a variety of areas, such as direction following, story writing and memory!
I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by two SLP’s working with the school age population earlier this week. In the presentation, they taught the participants about the benefits of visualizing. Some children really struggle to create pictures in their heads while they are reading or being spoken to, which can lead to difficulties in other areas such as critical thinking, written and auditory language comprehension, direction following, cause and effect, and attention and focus!
Whole language programs have been created around increasing visualization skills in school aged children. Nanci Bell, M.A Ed, and Pat Lindamood, SLP created a program called “Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking” that is being used in many schools. The program includes prompts to encourage visualization of words, sentences and paragraphs, to help the children really understand what they have read and heard.
One really great take away message that I got from the presentation about visualizing was about the question we ask kids in school. The SLP’s stressed the importance of asking “What do you see?” instead of “What do you think?”, a common question that we pose to the kids when working with them on stories or on answering questions. By asking kids to imagine what they are reading and being told, and then asking them what they see, they are able to verbalize what it is they are visualizing, which can open the door to further discussion and assessment of what they actually know but might have a hard time getting out!
For any student clinicians or school based SLP’s that haven’t heard of this program, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Click here to go to Nanci Bell and Pat Lindamood’s website, and click here to check out a video about applying this technique to children with learning delays!
Have you used this program before in your practise? How did it work for you? Leave a comment below!
Take a minute and think about some of the things that you pretty much do everyday. Your list might include things like getting out of bed, breathing, eating, drinking, checking your text messages and email….but an important item you may not have considered is the simple use of your voice!
While we have many modes of communication available to us, the most typical (and unappreciated) form of communication is conversation; using your voice to speak to the people in your life (or maybe even to yourself when you think no one is watching.) The saying goes “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, and this is definitely true of our voices, especially for individuals who make a career out of using their voices.
So what happens if you lose your voice or wake up one day with a tight, strained voice that gets in the way of your everyday life? Researchers at the University of Alberta are currently exploring a new method of voice treatment using an unlikely tool to get back a lost voice and unlock a voice’s true potential!
David Ley, professor in the Drama Department at the U of A, along with Dr. Melanie Campbell, and students Angie Musca and Stephanie Peddle from the Speech Pathology Department teamed up to explore how a small handheld vibrator could be used as a way to relax tight laryngeal muscles and treat vocal fatigue. To get more information on this project, I contacted Angie, one of the SLP students who selected this topic for her SPA 900 project:
Why were you interested in this project?
Angie: “I was interested in this project because I have always had an interest in learning more about the voice and how to treat problems associated with it. I liked the idea of a project that was interdisciplinary, pairing science with the arts. It gives the research a real life application. This project is also on the cutting edge of research on a technique like this, so it’s cool that we get to be a part of something that could potentially be huge!”
What exactly is the purpose of this project?
Angie: “The goal of this project is to test the efficacy and safety and transferability of using an external vibratory source as a method to relax the laryngeal muscles and treat vocal fatigue in singers, teachers, and anyone else who overuses or misuses their voice. This is a huge undertaking, so our particular project is actually to set up the pathway for research in this area, including a lit review and rough protocol to follow. No formal “results” have been obtained, but you can definitely hear a change in the quality of a voice after using the device, the person reports feeling a difference (less tension, more “free”), and you can see an acoustic difference when the voice is recorded and analyzed. So something is definitely happening, but it will be the job of future researchers to find out what!
This research is definitely an area to keep an eye on, especially for those speechies who hope to work with clients with voice problems in the future! What do you think of this research and the unconventional use of the “tools” involved? Leave a comment below!