Moving On Up

Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

The coming month of May connects to many yearly happenings: the beauty of Spring, celebrations of Mother's Day, the ending of the school year, and college graduation. For many individuals, May will mark the beginning of the next chapter in their lives: moving out of the school arena into the working field. As an occupational therapist who began this journey over 15 years ago, I remember how I anxiously awaited this next step, anticipating where I would live and work, and what type of facility I would be treating in. Would it be what I really wanted or just a job to gain some experience? Would I be working in pediatrics or with some sort of adult population? At that time, online search engines such as were just becoming popular. So, my search involved a lot of the 'old-fashioned' approaches of using the newspaper, randomly sending out resumes to any facility offering OT services, and using my connections made during fieldwork.

Today, technology has changed the face of how we do so many things, including job search. It is typically used in at least some part of the process. New graduates today are using sites such as Facebook, and LinkedIn to begin their job searches. In addition, resources such as their state's organization and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) websites can be helpful for reviewing job postings.

However, technology cannot replace people. Using your personal network can always be beneficial. Working with your fieldwork sites and even your school's career center may help you be successful at landing your first job.  

New graduates need to remember that employers are aware that they lack hands-on experience. Therefore, it is important they demonstrate confidence in the knowledge base they received while in the classroom. At the root of OT skills is the ability to analyze, plan and execute for problem solving. And these skills can be used in any realm of OT work, and should be skills that are highlighted in the interviewing process. Employers want to know how you would find the answers, not that you already know them! OT is a dynamic field, and therapists whether experienced or new, must always be willing to learn and change.

Positive character traits are always important, and can be a new graduates' biggest selling feature. Highlighting which ones they possess, from integrity, work ethic and discipline to empathy, kindness and ability to work on a team, will equip them to be a successful therapist.

As veteran therapists, we need to remember that it is our role to help guide newer therapists. Assisting our fieldwork students not only with their knowledge but also the life skills of professionalism and tools to help them job search is very important.

Graduates need to remember that in many cases their first jobs will mold their foundational skill sets. So, although it is very important to land a job for financial reasons, now is the time that you do have some freedom to be picky, before you have family or other life constraints to consider. Be patient and take the time to find something that interests you, challenges you, and will allow you to best fulfill your role as an occupational therapist!