Nurturing Your Career
I feel very fortunate to have come of age as an occupational therapist in the 1980s. Granted, the fashions and hairstyles were questionable (what were we thinking?), but it was just before the corporatization of health care, and community mental health care was robust. Because of the lucky timing I was able to work with interesting clients in a range of settings. Without the pressures of today’s demands for “productivity” I had time and opportunities to actually converse with and observe my colleagues during and between sessions. We had team meetings several times each week, and in most places I reguarly had scheduled supervision time with an advanced practitioner who gave me feedback and counsel regarding my work.
As I’ve matured, I recognize that these gifts of time and teaching were essential to my development as a therapist and educator. I can still recall interactions that were pivotal learning moments. I carry within me the words and examples of many people whom I admire. They strengthened my skills, kept me humble, and gave me the confidence to think independently.
I am sad for occupational therapists who have not had the opportunities that I did for mentorship, teamwork, and role modeling. I know that nowadays sometimes even fieldwork doesn’t provide much individualized supervision for students. Today’s OT practice can be a lonely situation.
Your career as an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant is something that you probably worked hard and made sacrifices to achieve. If you feel that you need the support and guidance of OT colleagues or a mentor, I strongly encourage you to create that opportunity. You will most likely find that your daily work is more exciting and satisfying if you do. Your creativity will reawaken, and you’ll feel less isolated and drained. You’ll also probably recognize how very important your work is, once you reflect on it with someone who “gets it”.
If you don’t have someone in mind to connect with, you might start by joining your state OT association. Continuing education events are not just for gathering CEUs! They are rich opportunities for meeting up with people who have compatible interests. After the session, exchange contact information and continue your new friendships via coffee dates, Skype, or online.
If you’re looking for a deeper professional relationship, I suggest hiring a consultant. Throughout my career I have done so with great benefit. In my first mental health OT role I was hired into an agency where all of the OTs were new grads. The agency paid a wonderful, experienced OT practitioner to provide us with 2 hours of supervision every other week. This person remains my dear friend and mentor, and I am grateful for all that she has done for me. Two years after starting Bright Futures I hired a consultant in Australia who specializes in private practice development. Her advice, information and support were instrumental in moving us to the next level of growing our business, and I prize her friendship to this day.
Locating a professional consultant who fits your needs and style may be a challenge; it’s kind of like finding a good therapist. I am available for hire as a consultant or to help you locate someone who fits your specific needs. I have a client-centered approach in which my consultees determine the purpose, frequency and duration of our meetings.
If the idea of paying someone to serve in this role is off-putting, let me explain why it works.
6 reasons to hire a professional career consultant:
1) Professionals with advanced skills make the best mentors/consultants. They are busy people, and their time is limited and valuable. By having a formalized, business-based arrangement you are assured of their full and regular attention and expertise.
2) Your career is precious. You worked hard to attain it, and you spend a lot of hours each week doing it. Don’t you deserve to be fulfilled by it? Isn’t that worth some investment of your time and money?
3) What will be the most deeply and sustainably satisfying use of your limited funds and time? Something that provides quick relief from the boredom and stress of a career that is draining, or something that can improve your actual workday and potentially transform your entire career path?
4) Authentic occupational therapy is complex and nuanced, and its mastery can be a lifelong process. The nature of today’s work culture has deprived many OT’s of their right to receive quality mentorship and mutual support during the formative first years of practice. It’s never too late to gain from having that kind of relationship.
5) Over time our personal and career needs and desires change. Sometimes new opportunities just present themselves effortlessly, but we can’t always count on it. Consultation can help you to identify next steps and avenues to plan and attain a new and interesting career trajectory.
6) You may have a desire and ideas for developing a unique, niche-based private practice that fills unmet needs in your community. You probably had some basics about developing a practice in your OT curriculum, but you were pretty focused on getting to fieldwork and it was mainly introductory. Now you are ready, and a good consultant can provide the information and resources you need to make it happen.
Are you ready to obtain the support you need in order to make the career you always hoped for? Or at least ready to explore the idea? Let’s talk! You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 636-399-8910.