Sunday, June 2, 2019

I Applied to 84 Jobs Before Landing My CFY

I keep seeing in facebook groups and on Instagram, people who are newly graduated from masters programs in speech-language pathology programs, discussing their fear of not having gotten a CFY yet.  I remember being that new graduate.  Although I was scheduled to graduate in the month of June, I started applying to job openings in February of that year.  I lived on Long Island, a notoriously difficult place to find an SLP job.  Being in the tri-state area, we are drowning in colleges that are offering masters programs in speech-language pathology to large classes of students (sometimes upwards of 50 people per class)!  There just aren’t enough jobs in the area to meet the graduating classes each year.

Even though I had graduated from a school in the borough of Queens, my ultimate dream goal was to land a job in a school or clinic on Long Island.  So, I began searching months before my impending graduation date.  I applied to every job listing I could find.  Long Island.  Queens.  Brooklyn.  Manhattan.  Staten Island.  Westchester.  As the months ticked by with no potential prospects, I gazed further out.  My brother lived in Boston.  Maybe I could get a job up there, I thought, live with him (unbeknownst to him), then move back home after the completion of my CFY.  I asked him which towns were safe and easily travelled to via the T (their metro) and applied.  As the weeks continued on, I began applying not only to schools and clinics but also to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, agencies, and even to jobs listings that were so vague, I didn’t even know where/what the job consisted of.  I became so desperate that I started applying to positions that were not full-time.  I applied to jobs that were part-time, permanent substitutes, and even maternity leaves. 

I wouldn't describe myself as a Type A person, but I became one during this job hunt.  I kept track of all of the jobs I was applying to, the date that I applied, and the when I followed up.  I noted when I received a rejection from the application (very rare- usually I just never heard back at all), all of the interviews I was called for, the date I went on these interviews, and if I heard back.

I did get some interviews.  I remember one in particular.  It was a phone interview for a skilled nursing facility that would have just one SLP, and they would be responsible for all 250 people housed there.  In hindsight, I can now see that this would have been a TERRIBLE setting for a brand new CFY.  There was minimum support, working in a skilled nursing facility was not a passion of mine or something I felt I would be particularly good at, and I would have no other SLPs working with me for collaboration.  I also had no time to prepare for the interview.  They emailed me and asked if they could call me in 20 minutes for the interview, which of course I agreed to.  I panicked during these 20 minutes, grabbed all of my aphasia/dementia/dysphagia notebooks, spread them all over the bed, and prayed that I would have enough time to find the answer to any medical questions they asked me, quickly enough that there wasn’t an awkward lull on the phone.  Spoiler alert: major fail.  I didn’t know the answer to their questions, I made clear mistakes, and if I couldn’t convince myself that I’d be able to manage 250 adults, I definitely couldn’t convince this man on the other side of the phone.  Also, phone interviews just suck to begin with.  You can’t see any kind of facial expression and sometimes the reception is poor and there is a delay, resulting in it seeming like you’re talking over the interviewer.

I did not get that job offer.

There was another interview that I went on that seemed very promising.  It was for a clinic in a great neighborhood, and the owner of the clinic was an alumni of the same college as me.  We bonded over knowing the same professors.  At the end of the interview, however, she told me there was no current opening and that she was just lining up potential SLPs for the future in the event that the clinic grew in size of clients.  Another disappointment.

I felt lost.  I had gone to arguably the most competitive graduate school in the area.  They only accept 16 students each year.  I had graduated with a 3.9 GPA and was bilingual.  I thought that all of these resume builders would mean I would be a shoe-in for open positions in the area.  I learned to put my ego away.

Then, I received an interview for a clinic in Queens.  I was excited.  I decided traveling to Queens wouldn’t be so hard, especially for the opportunity to work with young children in one location as opposed to being a traveling therapist.  I aced the interview and left feeling confident that I would hear back.  I did! However, when offered the job, the owner of the clinic told me that the job offer was not actually for the clinic in Queens.  It turned out that they literally dropped their CFYs off in the morning at varying schools in the Bronx, and then picked them up again in the afternoon, driving them back to Queens.  I felt deceived and crushed.  Why wasn’t this told to me when I interviewed?  Why had they given me a tour of their beautiful facility?  However, this was my ONLY job offer at this point, and it was now May.  Would I be a fool for not taking it? I talked it over with my boyfriend (now husband), with my family, with my friends, and with myself.  Then, I turned the job down.  I felt in my heart that something else was waiting for me.  I was desperate, but not so much so that I would take a job with a deceptive employer.  I wondered, if they were deceiving me this early in the process, what else was in store for me after working for them for a few months?

The very next day, my supervisor from my Fall externship called me up.  The externship had been at a hospital, I had built a strong rapport with my supervisor, and I had proved myself to be a hard-worker.  She asked how the job hunt was going and if I was excited to be graduating soon.  I broke down in tears and told her about my fruitless efforts and the difficult choice that I had had to make the day before.  She couldn’t believe it.  She said that she was going to call her boyfriend’s father, who was the CEO of a school for the Deaf in Queens to see if there were any openings. 

There was only a maternity leave one-month position open, but I went on the interview just to gain more experience interviewing.  I fell in love with the school.  Everyone was signing around me, and I had no problem jumping right into the conversations.  The interview went great, but the interviewer told me that she didn’t feel like she could possibly, in good conscience, give me the position since it was only for one month.  I didn’t know it, but this school was impressed enough with me to personally reach out to the other schools for the Deaf in the area.  They sent out my cover letter, resume, and a strong note on how well I had interviewed- they just didn’t have a position for me. 

This lead to me receiving an interview and then a job offer for a part-time extended year position at a school for the Deaf out east on Long Island.  I was thrilled, accepted the job, and just worked my butt off hoping that it could possibly lead to a full-time position there for the school year.  I knew there weren’t any openings, but that didn’t stop me from making relationships and making it known how much I would love to work there past the summer. 


The universe heard me, the stars aligned, and one of the SLPs at the school announced that she was going to be moving to Hawaii. 

The second, I mean the second that I heard this news, I swiveled my chair to face my computer, revamped my resume and cover letter quickly to include how much I had already felt like I was becoming a member of the family at this school, printed it, and walked it directly to the school’s superintendent.  I wasn’t the only one. There were two other speech therapists that summer who had also been hired for the 6 week summer program.  Effort, luck, and prayer got me the job offer. 

I had landed my clinical fellowship year, in my dream school, in my dream location.  

Before that though,

I had applied to: 84 job openings
I had interviewed at: 14 different locations
I had tried for:  6 months

What can you take away from this?

  1. It’s okay to not have a job lined up by the time you graduate
  2. Start applying earlier than you think you need to – it’s always better to get a head start.  Some employers may file your application and pull it out months later when an opening occurs
  3. Document where you’ve applied so that you don’t re-apply to the same job by accident
  4. Build up relationships with everyone in the field – Sometimes it really is all about who you know.  Don’t burn any bridges and build and maintain relationships with other SLPs, professors, and clinic supervisors. 
  5. Be flexible – even if you have always dreamt of working in a hospital, don’t limit your applications to this setting.  A CFY is not forever.  Get your CCCs, and then you can look again for a job in the setting you feel is perfect for you.
  6. Be proactive.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Don’t be overly confident.
  7. Don’t have an ego – job employers might not care where you went to graduate school
  8. It’s okay to reach out and ask for support from people you know
  9. Don’t give up hope – you WILL find a job 
  10. Don’t settle – if a job offer sounds sketchy, has a crazy contract, or has red flags, don’t feel obligated to accept. 

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