The air is crisp, the chlorophyll in the leaves is breaking down, and the semester is in full swing.
I hope we are off to a successful and enjoyable semester! Today, I am going to talk about something very scary: SHADOWING. Hopefully, by the end of my post, you will see that shadowing is not scary at all, and it can help you gain a lot of useful professional experience 🙂
In the last blog post, I detailed the myriad of places that speech and hearing sciences can take you. If you’re interested in learning more, you are in the right place. Shadowing, i.e. working alongside a seasoned member of the field, is a great way to get your feet wet in any field.
Here is a fool-proof guide to getting shadowing experience:
Step 0: Start early! This is the absolute first step!
Several facilities may require background checks, interviews, drug tests, and appropriate vaccinations. It is never too early to start contacting offices to work in. Every location will require something different, and this paperwork will take some time to process through the varying departments.
Every health facility will require you to uphold a confidentiality agreement. This is, in my opinion, the most crucial thing to remember when you are shadowing. You are not a licensed speech-pathologist, yet. However, you still must conduct yourself as such.
Step 1: Do a little research.
Decide where you would like to shadow, and with whom. In this area, there are plenty of practices, rehab facilities, and hospitals. This area is brimming with learning experiences.
However, it is also important to decide why you want to shadow. You may choose to shadow at a facility that is more centered on children, since you prefer working with children. You may prefer a hospital setting, where patients come in for a variety of reasons. Decide what you want, and it will make your life easier. Often times, a location may ask why you’re interested in shadowing. You want to make sure the facility can meet the goals you have set for yourself.
Step 2: Contact the places you are interested in.
Without a doubt, this is the hardest step.
There are also a few steps involved here.
a. Have a résumé ready.
This is not completely necessary, however, it definitely does not hurt
your chances of getting a callback. This will show the facility that you are a professional, and you have had previous experience in professional settings prior. It is also just a good tip to have a résumé prepared, in case.
There are several ways to write a résumé. For help with this, I recommend attending our résumé building meeting on November 1 :).
You can also attend drop-in résumé critiquing hours, offered by career services. Someone will sit with you, one-on-one, and discuss your résumé. They offer critiques on every campus, at varying days and times. Check out the link below for more information.
b. Be professional in your emails.
You do not need to write a novel persuading them to take you on. However, you should tell them a little about yourself (such as major, year at Rutgers, and why you are interested in the facility). You should probably do this in a paragraph or less. As you can imagine, these people lead very busy lives.
In the email body, include your contact information, so they can reach out to you.
Attach your résumé, and, if they want confirmation that you are a student, your transcript.
Note: In some cases, you may have to call facilities and ask if they allow undergraduates to shadow. When you call the facility, tell them you are an undergraduate at Rutgers. Explain why you are interested in shadowing, and see what they say! Calling is usually a faster option, instead of emailing back and forth.
Be patient, and wait for replies from facilities. This is also not easy.
If you absolutely must, follow up with them after about a week or so. In my experience, calling guarantees a follow-up, either from the clinician or the facility’s secretaries. Sometimes emails are overlooked, but typically calls to the main desk are somewhat more persuasive.
A facility may ask you to come in for a sort of interview, to discuss shadowing. Again, be immensely professional. Treat this like you would a job.
Step 3: Complete the paperwork.
Follow the paperwork provided by the facility, dotting every i and crossing every t. If you have any questions, you should absolutely reach out to the facility for clarification. Paperwork can be the longest step, so make sure you do it correctly.
Step 4: Begin shadowing!
You are excited! You are nervous! What will you learn?
With regards to beginning your shadowing experience, the utmost important thing is to remain professional. This means several things: dressing appropriately, carrying yourself correctly, and allowing the speech pathologist/audiologist to still conduct his/her work. You can ask your mentor about how he/she handles students shadowing. Your mentor may prefer that you just observe, and ask questions later. Your mentor may involve you in the clinical work, in some capacities. Every experience will be different.
If you are at a private practice, it is possible that the speech path/audiologist may ask you to help them with some clerical aspects of the work (paperwork, answering the phone, etc).
This is a wonderful learning experience, and a fantastic opportunity, so be sure to express gratitude to your mentor at the end with a thank-you note.
If you and your mentor really work well together, they are always a good person to turn to for advice about courses and graduate school, a letter of recommendation, and maybe even job recommendations down the line. Maintain this professional relationship; you will not regret it.
As a final note, be sure to have your mentor sign off on your shadowing hours. Graduate schools typically require a minimum of 20 hours. To keep track of this, you can use our observation log. Our observation log can be found under “Resources” on the club blog.
When we have speaker meetings, typically our speakers are very well-connected in the field. It is possible that a speaker may know offices that are seeking undergraduates. These meetings help build your professional network.
Questions? Comments? Want to add your own testimonials or tips from your shadowing experience(s)? We would love to hear from you! Email ruspeechandhearingsite[at]gmail.com!
I hope to see you at our next meeting 🙂