Planning a Successful SLP Career Path

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When starting your career journey, it is essential to have a plan that addresses all your personal and professional milestones—not just your preferred work setting. Developing a robust plan allows you to grow based on the impact you want to make. This can be achieved by having a clear understanding of your priorities and goals and having the support to help you tackle your milestones.

We spoke with Jill Glessner, MS, CCC-SLP, Regional Director, and ASHA Continuing Education Administrator from EBS Healthcare, who offers the following tips to help you develop your career plan.

Establish Your Professional Goals

Many factors go into planning your career, and you should have ways to maintain your personal/professional balance. Identify your career priorities by taking time to reflect, and ask, “Where am I in my career, where am I going, and what matters to me most?” Include anything important to you even if it doesn’t seem “career-relevant.”

Your priorities may include:

  • Community Involvement
  • Family
  • Health
  • Leadership
  • Mentoring and Supervision
  • Personal Growth
  • Professional Development
  • Research
  • Travel
  • Volunteer Opportunities

Next, develop three to five career goals, and revisit them regularly. As you start in your career, your goals may be straightforward; however, over time, they will change. Glessner explains:

My career with EBS started 17 years ago as my first job following my Clinical Fellowship. I wanted to relocate from the Midwest to Boston and work in schools. I placed my resume on ASHA’s job board and was contacted by EBS. At the time, I had no idea of the possibilities that were available to me. EBS offered me the opportunity to move without the heavy lift of “going it alone.” I was able to avoid the stress that comes with moving because I was able to tap into EBS’s resources to make the move easy. There was support for everything from licensure to finding places to live. Years later, when I had to move closer to family, I received the same support while still growing in my career.

Your goals should reflect your priorities. They should be specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant—and, they should be time-bound or SMART goals. Having SMART goals allows you to focus your time and energy. According to Glessner, “Be mindful and have clear outcomes for the things you pursue. Be honest about the time and effort needed for each task so you can order your steps and avoid burnout. Also, be sure that you have support in achieving your goals.”

Find a Mentor

Mentorship is required as you begin your career as a Clinical Fellow, but it also plays an integral part in helping you grow throughout your career. Having consistent support and someone to turn to when you have questions or challenges is the key to thriving. Glessner states:

It is important to be able to grow and take on new challenges. I have had the ability to be a thought leader, publishing journal articles for ASHA’s Special Interest Groups, and participate on an ASHA committee, just 6 years into my career, far sooner than I imagined. I would not have been [able] to do any of these things if it had not been for having the right mentor who encouraged me.

Mentorship can be informal or can be arranged through a formal program such as through an ASHA mentoring program, like the Leadership Mentoring Program. Many employers also offer training and various mentorship programs within the organization based on the employee’s career goals (e.g., EBS’s Mentoring/Training Program).

Seek mentoring from multiple sources—including from peers, allied health colleagues, co-workers, and professors—to make sure that you have someone to turn to who can help with your various goals. Glessner elaborates:

Find a mentor who is a connector. Someone who helps you develop creative solutions to challenges, build your network, and find resources. As a mentor, I want to help people achieve better outcomes and make the impacts that they are seeking, even if that means introducing them to another contact. I have been able to help a mentee interested in learning a language and working abroad by connecting them to a colleague from EBS United’s Bilingual Immersion Program.

The key to a successful mentoring relationship, no matter your career stage, is to have a mutual goal and open communication. Mentors should be accessible and approachable, and mentees should ask questions and be collaborative. Together, the mentor and mentee should plan ways to engage and should develop a strategy to achieve their agreed-upon goals.

Advance Your Professional Development

Growing in your career requires continuously learning. This is especially true when transitioning settings, areas of expertise, or populations treated. Have a plan for obtaining professional development. It can mean committing to learning for 1 hour a week or exploring a new interest at a conference or seminar. The goal is to commit to learning.

However, obtaining professional development can be costly. There are ways to save on professional development, but employer support can be transformative in your journey for growth.

You will have the opportunity to take your career on many diverse and remarkable paths. Whether your passion is direct service, training, research, or specializing in a specific area, having a clear plan and support will help you reach all your goals.