So I was sitting at home (which at the time was an RV my that my brilliant husband built from a mobile kidney lithotripsy office, see photo below), looking through the online job listings before I embarked on another emotionally and physically exhausting day of waitressing at a corporate/chain family restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent exercise and a good way to lose weight if you don’t eat their food, but it’s hard to keep giving your best when the customer base clearly doesn’t appreciate the effort, financially or otherwise.
Anyway, I was doing my daily search through the online job sites (I prefer Indeed.com, but ended up finding a job through the local employment security commission) and I decided to widen my search WAY OUT to see what kinds of job were in high demand. At this point I was truly desparate and looking for ideas. I kept seeing the usual “work at home” spam, insurance company ads (definitely not for me), temp. agencies, traveling nurses, Avon, real estate agent recruitment and something called an SLP. I thought, “What the heck’s an SLP ?”, and with very little effort was transported to a number of websites describing the work involved in Speech-Language Pathology.
“Speech Therapist?”, I said to myself, “I could do that.” I delved into the pages and began to learn more, eventually making myself late for my daily dose of food service agony. While I was serving the thankless masses, my mind drifted back to a discussion I’d had with a regular customer in the gentleman’s club where I used to cocktail waitress. He was always spending money on the girls and tipped well, so I asked him what he did for a living. His family owns a chain of hearing aid stores in the area. As he described the business and how it worked, the word “audiologist” came up. I had seen that on the ASHA website with information about the SLPs. Note to self: read more on this when I get home.
I was far too tired to do anything when I got home from work, but the next day I dug right in. Once I was comfortable with the general idea of what an SLPs job entailed, I called some local practices to see if they’d give me some first-hand insight. I met with one practice owner/SLP who was kind enough to show me around, introduce me to her practicioners and answer my battery of questions. You may find some of these questions useful when you start grilling a professional in your industry-of -interest:
- Is there a lot of demand for your services? Do you see it growing?
- What kind of people are your clients? How do they find you?
- What obstacles and difficulties do you run into in the industry?
- Who pays for your services? Individuals? Government? Insurance? Medicaid?
- Why did you become an SLP? Business owner?
- What was your journey like from college to clinic owner?
- What is the most frustrating part of an SLPs job?
- Where do you see the future of the industry heading?
- If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
She was wonderfully patient and informative, offering to have me come back and sit in on a session or two to experience the work in process. THAT was one of the best things I did. Watching the therapist work, I KNEW I could do that and enjoy it and maybe even be really good at it. I highly recommend you get as much exposure to your future job as possible before you make the personal and financial commitment to pursue it. You want your eyes wide open to the pros and cons of your future endeavour before you head full force down that long and expensive path.
This is where that little voice in my head can hear someone whining, “But what if I don’t know and I just want to TRY it. Why does everything have to be full force with you, Jen?” I definitely don’t think you should spend the kind of time and money it will take to get a degree until you reach a level of certainty that will carry you through the process. But I can tell you the I’m still not 100% sure. I still have fears. I’m occasionally nagged by worries and uncertainties. This isn’t “death or taxes”, so it’s not absolutely certain and guaranteed to be what I want it to be or go the way I want it to go. (It might be better!)
That’s just life, gentle reader. All I can venture to guess is that the more you know and the more you experience of your proposed career path before you start working towards it, the more confident you will be in your decision to spend the time and money. Volunteer or intern if possible. Those will look great on your school application, as well as provide you concrete experience and peace of mind. Above all, be honest with yourself.