Clinical Fellowships and Externships: Put Your Best Foot Forward

Every spring, audiology and speech-language pathology students gear up to make the jump from graduate student to professional through either their externship or clinical fellowship experience. Last month, NSSLHA members gathered to hear from recent graduates and well-established professionals about everything related to the externship and clinical fellowship experience during National NSSLHA’s Clinical Fellowships and Externships: Put Your Best Foot Forward virtual event. Speakers took questions from the audience on a variety of topics and offered tips and tricks to conquer the application season with ease!

As a second-year grad student, I can relate to the feelings of stress that accompany the clinical fellowship application process. My weekends are consumed with searching job boards, researching average salaries, and calculating the cost of living in different cities. More than anything, National NSSLHA’s event helped put my mind at ease. The speakers encouraged everyone to showcase our unique personalities and skill sets, instead of stressing out about crafting the application package of the “ideal” audiologist or SLP.

If you weren’t able to attend (or did attend, but can’t remember everything that was discussed), I wanted to share some tips I found especially helpful . . .

Tips About Finding Placements

Any advice for students who didn’t receive experience in specific placements due to COVID-19, but still want to apply for a job in that area?

  • Use CEU courses as a way to show you’re interested in a specialty and are actively seeking knowledge to assist you in a future job. – Marlene Puente, CF-SLP
  • The clinical fellowship year is meant to be a learning experience, so don’t let a lack of experience stop you from applying for a specific job. Just show that you’re flexible, adaptable, and eager to learn. – Erika Baldwin, CF-SLP
  • Instead of focusing on how COVID made it difficult to gain experience in a particular area, emphasize the steps you took to overcome those setbacks. Everyone will have barriers at some point during their careers. The most important thing is how you handle those moments. – JJ Whicker, AuD, CCC-A

How far out from graduation should you start applying for clinical fellowships and fourth-year audiology placements?

  • For audiology students, the application window for fourth year placements is usually open between August and October of your third year. This can differ from site to site, so make sure you keep track of deadlines. – JJ Whicker, AuD, CCC-A
  • If you’re planning on moving to a new place where you don’t have any existing connections, start applying early. It’s never too early to start! – Erika Baldwin, CF-SLP
  • If you’re completing comprehensive exams and the Praxis first, applying for jobs in February or March still leaves plenty of time to secure a position with a late summer/fall start time. – Marlene Puente, CF-SLP

Where are the best places to look for job openings?

  • The ASHA Career Portal has a lot of openings and is update frequently. – Erika, Baldwin, CF-SLP
  • The Medical SLP Collective has openings listed for people interested in medical settings. Make sure to check out specific facilities where you’d be interested in working as well; sometimes good jobs are never posted to websites like Indeed. – Marlene Puente, CF-SLP
  • For audiology students, it’s fairly common for your fourth-year placement to roll into full-time employment. Try picking an externship based on where you’d like to eventually work. If you’re looking for a position that has an academic component to it, try looking at the CAPCSD website. – JJ Whicker, AuD, CCC-A

What’s your advice for moving to a new state?

  • One of the biggest hurdles is the licensure process; it can be difficult to find all of the information you need in one spot. SLP Facebook groups for specific states can occasionally be helpful. – Erika Baldwin, CF-SLP

Tips About Standing Out from the Crowd

  • When drafting a resume, seek out traits that are specific to that job. Consider matching the responsibilities listed on a job posting to the order that you place items in your resume. Keep your resume under two pages—hiring teams often don’t have a lot of time to read through your materials. – Alexis Redmond, JD, MA, CAE
  • Emphasize relevant work experience that you held during your undergraduate and graduate career—juggling a job and schoolwork shows time management and organization skills. – Erika Baldwin, CF-SLP
  • A lot of people volunteer and participate in extracurriculars in undergrad but tend not continue with them during graduate school. If you maintain activities like part-time jobs, research, or volunteering, it can show that you’re good at managing your time. – Marlene Puente, CF-SLP
  • Bilingualism, pediatric experience, and specific capstone experiences can also add to a resume. – Maryrose McInerney, PhD, CCC-A

Tips About Interviewing

  • Be prepared to talk about your long-term goals, how you handle conflict, and/or your experiences with specific client populations and assessment materials. Consider bringing a portfolio with writing samples to showcase your skills. It can also show preparedness by anticipating what interviewers may ask for. – Jennifer Lopez, CCC-SLP
  • Be prepared to speak about your past experiences in clinic, how your handled them, what the results were. – Alexis Redmond, JD, MA, CAE
  • If you are interviewing for a bilingual position, expect for questions to be asked in both languages. – Doanne Ward-Williams, CCC-SLP
  • Be prepared to ask your own questions that will give you a better idea of your daily workload. It’s helpful to know things like documentation requirements and who makes the schedule before accepting a position. – Erika Baldwin, CF-SLP
  • Ask about the environment you’ll be working in. It’s important to get information about things like supervision and caseloads, so you know more about the job you’re walking into. – Marlene Puente, CF-SLP

Tips About Salary

  • A lot of factors go into salary—location, cost of living, etc. Take a look at the information compiled from ASHA surveys for more information. – Alexis Redmond, JD, MA, CAE
  • Look at the whole compensation package, not just the salary. Consider the benefits package, funds provided for ASHA dues and CEUs, etc. – Anna Davis, CCC-SLP
  • In audiology, compensation for the fourth-year placement can very. Some students may receive a stipend, while others receive no funds. – Maryrose Mcinerney, PhD, CCC-A
  • When negotiating salary, be confident in the skills you have, especially those that set you apart from others—like being bilingual. Prepare ahead of time to negotiate by looking at compensation standards in your region and setting. – Doanne Ward-Williams, CCC-SLP
  • In the schools setting, salary scales are public. Check ahead of time to see what’s offered, but understand schools tend to have less “wiggle-room” than other settings. Ask potential employers what you can do to put yourself in a position for future promotions, raises, and negotiations. Advocate for yourself! – Jennifer Lopez, CCC-SLP

Keep Watching . . .

Be sure to watch the full recording of this virtual event to hear more tips about the externship and clinical fellowship experience!

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