I don’t know how you feel or felt when you first came out of school, but I remember it as clearly as yesterday.
Post-School Expectations and Reality
I graduated in 2000, and in my mind, I was set to start my career as an Occupational Therapist. We tend to think that school prepares us as occupational therapists, and that was all we needed to get started and keep going! When coming out of school, I thought it was going to be “easy to land the job” because the idea was that everyone “needed” occupational therapy.
But it was difficult because it was hard to get a job when you say you don’t know what you are doing or don’t have tons of proof that you know what to do.
Like every profession, we as occupational therapists need to develop ourselves in terms of our skills, regardless of our degree.
A degree is only ONE aspect of that initial investment that we make into ourselves and the career we want.
Navigating Career Choices: Finding Your Path
I don’t know about you…but I had a lot of volunteer experiences in peds OT and hands OT before getting into OT school. So I looked and explored every semester and asked myself WHAT DO I WANT TO DO FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE??
Whoo – I don’t know about you, but that was a major decision and it was so tricky because I didn’t know what I was GOOD at!
I just knew what I was NOT GOOD at. I didn’t enjoy math. I didn’t want to sit all day. I was not good with high-level science – hell, I can barely pronounce half the words that I needed to know even today!
I enjoyed being creative. I liked talking to people – especially kids (little did I know!). I thought I wanted healthcare because “everyone” said it would be a great stable job that you can always find a job in.
I can tell you – when I was doing my internships, and I was helping people with their toileting needs….dealing with bodily fluids….really sick people….it was NOT what I was expecting. And I was thinking – holy crap!! I effed up! I spent 6 years getting my master’s degree in a field that I didn’t even KNOW if I would like – much less spend the rest of my life doing this.
Yup. That was me in my first year out as an OT…and then my second year…and in my third year…I needed to make a decision. After a while, I did see the VALUE in helping people in the skilled nursing facility and in the hospital. They really do need us to help them recover and get closer to getting their lives back.
But I just was not satisfied.
I needed to invest in myself again. I needed to get great at something within occupational therapy. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else or going back to school – for what? I just finished. (Funny enough, I did toy with the idea of going back for a business degree).
The Power of Self-Investment
I can tell you I didn’t think of it with those words at the time. But I knew there were a lot of things I was NOT good at and I could either stay “getting by”…OR spend some money and with time, become an expert.
Your initial investment in yourself is your degree – the one that allows you to practice as an occupational therapist.
All the subsequent investments in yourself are in your professional development.
- Courses – Continuing Education Courses (CEUs)
- Mentorship or coaching.
- Major specialties or certifications – like becoming a Certified Hand Therapist
- Surrounding yourself with positive, like-minded people
These investments you make in yourself are what moves the needle in your career. You can go as fast or as slow as you want.
Every time I see comments about how crappy a career in OT is…or in those FB groups where some poor soul decided to ask a general question about OT and what they should do. I want to scream at the top of my lungs “You are asking the wrong question!” Or that “you are listening to the wrong answer!”
Maybe it’s just me, but I get so annoyed because there are so many negative comments. Before Facebook and social media – you asked a few people. Now, you ask thousands of people. And get so many mixed answers it’s no wonder people are confused.
What if those people don’t know you and what you want?
What if those people didn’t invest in themselves and that’s what they are recommending for you?
Don’t get me wrong – I love social media for so many reasons and there’s a great way to use social media. When it comes to your career though – think about who you are asking for advice because it’s very hard to “un-hear” the dialogue. Keep hearing negative things about OT and soon enough, you will believe it.
Taking Charge of Your Career: Future Possibilities
So – if you do NOT want to be one of those unhappy, negative people, who hate being an OT – I know that’s not you because you are in here in our community…
….what can you do to change that around?
Continue to invest in YOURSELF.
Invest in you.
What do you want to do with your career?
Most people tell me…”Hoang, I want to get a job in hand therapy.” Perfect…I love hand therapy and I think you can get a job in hand therapy. So my second question to you will be what do you think you need to do to get started? How do you increase your chances of getting into hand therapy?
Other people who are working in hand therapy tell me…”Hoang, I’ve got this job in hand therapy but man…it’s really really hard and I’m struggling…” Great! I’m so glad that you are admitting that out loud because that is the first step – AWARENESS. Now you are free to LOOK for the right kind of help!
Experienced OT’s who are ready to become the expert in their area tell me….”Hoang, I’m so ready to become a CHT….and here’s all my challenges…” Man….you are so awesome! You have no idea huh? Well….let me count the ways….let’s keep you going.
That’s why I invested in myself early on in my career and I wanted to double down on a degree that I had invested in. There were some aspects of my career that I really did like and I just needed to develop certain skills so that I can enjoy it more.
I wanted to be happy. I wanted to feel content.
I believe in myself. And I believe that I am capable of becoming great at what I do. I surrounded myself with people who I thought would be able to support me and ultimately help me achieve my goals.
I believe in you. I think you have the same capacity.
So, you already did the hardest thing – to become an Occupational Therapist. Now continue to invest in yourself and that will pay dividends in your career and life.
Check out our Hand Therapy Mentorship program. Join today for $1 for the first month, this risk-free offer ends next week, so consider joining us before this amazing offer goes away.