Going through the CSD education process can feel daunting—whether you’re an undergrad, grad, or clinical fellow. But going through that process is so much easier when you have a mentor to guide you.
Last Spring, I was completing my last semester of speech-language pathology prerequisites through Florida State University—all while grad school application season was approaching, the pandemic was in full-swing, and GRE exam stress was looming over me. Since I was a first-generation college graduate, it was difficult to obtain advice from family who simply didn’t have prior experience applying to graduate programs.
So, I sought out a mentor through ASHA’s Student to Empowered Professional Mentoring Program (S.T.E.P.). I knew it would give me the opportunity to connect with a mentor who could not only share their personal experiences with me, but also assist me throughout the grad application process. As an online student, S.T.E.P.’s virtual community format was ideal.
S.T.E.P. Is What You Make of It
While experiences will change from person to person, I’m grateful I took the leap and enrolled in S.T.E.P. My mentor guided me through the grad school application process, gave me valuable insight into the field, and honed my leadership skills.
Insight Into the CSD Professions
When you volunteer in a CSD-related opportunity, you may get a good idea of what setting you’d like to work in but may not have always had the opportunity to ask the SLP or audiologist in-depth questions. I was matched with a mentor who had experience in multiple settings. She shared with me the differences between each setting and her experiences working there! This helped me narrow down the settings I’m interested in working in.
Guidance Throughout the Grad Application Process
My mentor provided feedback on my portfolio and resume, and even gave me tips on how to prepare for the GRE, including how to organize a study schedule. If you’re already in graduate school or your Clinical Fellowship, mentorship may look much different to you! The beauty is that you can adjust your goals for whatever stage of education you’re in.
Honing My Leadership Skills
Since you’re responsible for contacting your mentor, setting up meeting dates, and working collaboratively to set goals, you own your time in the program. It’ll be whatever you make of it!
Tips For S.T.E.P Success
Though 2020 has taught us how to be skilled in the virtual world, it can still be tough to navigate an online mentoring program and feel like you’re making a genuine connection. However, I have some tips tips to help you be successful:
- Set your expectations. What do you want to get from this experience? Where are you in your CSD journey? It can feel overwhelming to pick a specific goal to work on with a mentor over an extended period of time. So, first, list out your most pressing issues, concerns, or needs, and start from there! Your mentor will be an amazing resource to sort through this list with you and help you come up with a game plan!
- Create a schedule. Work with your mentor to set a recurring time to meet weekly or biweekly via your preferred method of communication. That way, you and your mentor will have a clear idea of what your time commitments are.
- Take initiative. When communicating with your mentor, make sure to ask questions and show enthusiasm in their work. You’ll get what you put into your connection, so make sure to be as in-depth as possible in your correspondence.
- Accountability matters. When enrolling in S.T.E.P., you’re agreeing to having regular correspondence with a mentor over an extended period of time. A common issue in the program is “ghosting.” If you don’t have time to respond, make sure to communicate that with your mentor. You should also feel empowered to check in with them if you haven’t heard back for an extended amount of time.
- Continue to expand your network. While you may only have one S.T.E.P. mentor, you’re still able to expand your network by communicating with other mentors and mentees through an online community! These interactions allow you to broaden your network, which may in-turn expand your research and career opportunities.
Being a student, grad school applicant, or Clinical Fellow can be a stressful, especially if you have a limited network to guide you over hurdles along the way. ASHA’s S.T.E.P. Mentoring Program is an incredible resource to connect with mentors and other mentees to expand your professional network and accomplish your goals. While your experience is what you make of it, the opportunities in the program are extensive and could lead to opportunities far.
Student enrollment for S.T.E.P. is now open (closes February 28)! I’m planning on enrolling again for the next session … and hope you will too!