One of the biggest questions we get as children is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always had an answer for the adults who asked me, but I never truly knew. I used to say “veterinarian,” but it never stuck.
When I went to high school, I found I had a passion for TV production. I decided I wanted to work in the industry—which I did as a student during high school and professionally for a couple of years. I had many memorable experiences, made lifelong friends, and loved what I did. But there was always something in the back of my mind telling me I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Changing Career Paths In the Middle of a Pandemic
When COVID-19 hit, I had a lot of time to think and reflect on where I wanted to go with my career. I always knew the profession of speech-language pathology existed. And whenever someone talked about the work of an SLP, I’d get excited. My first thought was always, “I should have listened to my mom.” She’s a pre-K special education teacher and works closely with SLPs in her classroom. Growing up, she always told me that I should find out more about the profession and consider it as a career path I might want to pursue. I didn’t take her advice. I didn’t investigate. I didn’t speak to my mom or her SLP friends about it—until last year.
Of course, I had reservations about going back to school. The prospect was daunting. I was nervous and apprehensive. Questions swirled around my brain . . .
- How would I tell my family and friends about the switch? I’d have to constantly explain the answer to everyone’s first question . . . “Why?”
- How would I be perceived by fellow students and future professionals and colleagues?
- How would I fare, starting from scratch and launching myself into a new career as a slightly older and “nontraditional” student?
- How would classmates, professors, and professionals view an “outsider?”
That’s how I saw myself—an outsider, a person with a degree who’s been working in a field that has absolutely nothing to do with CSD.
Becoming a Student—Again
But I pushed through my insecurities and applied to CSD graduate certificate programs. My plan was to gain my certificate, then apply for master’s degree programs to become a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA). The first step of my dream came true—I was accepted into the graduate certificate program at Florida International University (FIU)!
When I began classes, I decided that I should try to get involved as much as I could. I joined the FIU NSSLHA chapter, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this organization. My peers gave me sound advice whenever I had questions. They were an inviting and welcoming community—calming all those fears I had previously! The chapter provided information about various opportunities with professors on campus (e.g., research opportunities.), as well as mentioning off-campus volunteer opportunities with organizations like Integrated Children’s Therapy (ICT), a speech and occupational therapy private practice.
I really wanted to gain some experience in the field, so I reached out to ICT about current volunteer opportunities. I sent them my résumé, which included my past education and work experience in TV production. I wasn’t sure if I’d be bypassed or welcomed because of it. But they responded enthusiastically! ICT’s director and assistant director were intrigued about my past education and experiences and were more than willing to allow me to join their team so I could learn from them.
As a volunteer, I’ve assisted in their social groups and observed many speech and occupational therapy sessions. I’ve also assisted in their summer camp where I built relationships with ICT’s clients . . . and put into practice the theory I’m learning in class. The SLPs who supervise me are so kind and encouraging—they’re always inviting me to learn more. I now feel so much more confident in my abilities as a future SLP.
When applications for our NSSLHA chapter’s e-board opened in Spring 2021, I knew I wanted to be a more integral part of the team that helped me feel so welcomed when I first started school. I applied and was elected to the event coordinator position! This semester, we’ve hosted guest speakers, social events, and meetings to help prepare our chapter members for future success in school and in the field. We have some exciting ideas brewing for our members this spring semester—I’m really looking forward to it!
A Little Advice
Reflecting upon all the good that’s come from my first year back in school, I know I made the right choice to switch careers. I have no regrets. I only wish I’d made the decision sooner.
If you’re in the same boat as me and have just started a career change into CSD, I offer you these tips:
- Don’t worry too much about what other people may think of you or your career change. You’re doing this for you—and your future clients.
- Make friends with your classmates. It helps to have friends to study with or talk to—especially those who are in the same major as you.
- Join your local NSSLHA chapter. Gain experience by getting as involved as you can within your school and your peers.
- Consider getting involved with National NSSLHA as well—expand your network nationally.
- Proactively search for volunteer opportunities—from working with professors to volunteering in various audiology or speech-language pathology settings. Build up that résumé! Avoid sitting back and assuming that opportunities will come to you—they may not. Take initiative—and go out and find them before someone else does.
- Don’t be afraid of the jump. Dive in headfirst—you’ve got this!