Occupational Therapists’ Advice for New Graduates
Although the conclusion of a university student’s degree is an exciting, epic moment for all new graduates, we know it can also be a tumultuous, even anxious time.
Do not fear! You are not alone in these feelings, and you certainly are not alone in traversing the next steps of your life as a new graduate.
As an occupational therapist new grad, you have a diverse field to begin navigating. Fortunately, a range of resources are available to you, and we have listed the best in this article.
Nothing beats advice and perspective from someone who has been in your position before. Hear from some of our therapists as they share their personal stories and advice on furthering their learning, joining the workforce and what you can expect as you embark on your journey.
Even the most experienced therapists were once where you are now.
Be kind to yourself, confident in your abilities, and take a moment to congratulate yourself for coming to the end of your studies.
Let’s hear what our therapists have to say.
What advice would you give to a new grad about what to expect as they embark on their journey into occupational therapy?
Having graduated in 2022, Peony joined Therapy Pro in February 2023. As an eager, ambitious new graduate, Peony took advantage of every opportunity offered through Therapy Pro’s new graduate onboarding process.
Peony undertook multiple shadowing sessions and had a mentor shadow her sessions while building her confidence.
Behind our outstanding therapists is a large team of colleagues, senior therapists, lead therapists, and a head of each discipline offering their support.
“Expect the learning never to stop. Occupational therapy is diverse, from paediatric to adult intervention, mental health to physical rehabilitation. With the right support, you can always find something new to learn. Every experience, client, and challenge will contribute to your growth as a therapist and will be rewarding.” – Peony
Anjali, from the Therapy Pro for Kids Team, highlights the importance of recognising that you are not locked into a specific practice area.
“Embrace opportunities to explore different areas of therapy practice in your career until you find an area of interest to pursue and specialise in if that is your desire, or to experience different areas for a varied skillset. You are not locked into a specific area of practice, there are opportunities to be exposed to a variety of roles that will help broaden your knowledge and ability.”
Therapy Pro’s large team ensures a depth of knowledge and clinical excellence that can be tapped into. Together, we share knowledge and skills and support each other. This collaborative culture drives our therapists towards success.
What were some things you considered when deciding on the right job as a new graduate?
It is essential to understand a job interview is not only a place to sell yourself to the employer but also an opportunity to find out if the employer is a good fit for you!
Therapy Pro’s National Head of Occupational Therapy (Acting), Page, suggests that for you to know if the clinical support is there in a role, you need to ask. Come to your interviews prepared with questions to find things that matter most to you – like supervision, support, or team structure.
An exciting element of risk comes with finding a job as a new graduate. Asking the right questions in an interview will help you assess whether the role or company is the right fit for you. However, in some cases, you will never know until you experience the culture.
“Take the chance. You won’t know if it’s the right job for you until you try it.”
Once you are in your role, Page continues, reach out, ask questions, and ask for help. There should be as much support as you need; you can never ask too many questions when first starting. If you ask for assistance or shadowing, the support will come if you are in a genuinely supportive environment.
Similarly, it is imperative to find a position with a Continued Professional Development (CPD) budget for its employees.
All Therapy Pro therapists pursue ongoing learning and professional development through regular supervision sessions with their team lead or by using CPD budget on specific courses.
Experienced occupational therapist Nikki offers her thoughts for new graduates on the importance of finding an employer that offers professional development and learning opportunities.
“Find a supportive employer that prioritises your professional learning and development. Regular (weekly) supervision is invaluable when you’re starting out as there is such diversity with clients, and it’s unrealistic to think you can know it all straight away. It is so valuable to have someone to bounce ideas off, ask all the ‘silly’ questions, help navigate complexities, and understand the system that you are working in.”
What keeps you motivated in your field? How do you stay up to date?
For Peony, personal growth and positive feedback keep her motivated.
“The opportunity to learn and apply new knowledge and techniques is motivating. The OT field is diverse and the variety in cases keep the job interesting! It is also incredibly encouraging when my clients make progress and express gratitude for my help.”
Anjali agrees that seeing her clients and families achieve the goals they have set keeps her motivated.
“Collaborating with families and clients to identify current barriers and develop a plan to overcome these challenges inspires me to continue developing my skills and utilise evidence-based best practice principles in my therapy.”
Outside of the resources available to staff at Therapy Pro, there are a range of resources to stay up to date with these best practice principles, including:
- Being a member of Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA)
- Communities of Practice
- Reflective Practice
- World Federation of Occupational Therapists
- Attending Continuing Professional Development opportunities
Nikki offers her insights into how she stays up to date in the industry, stating there is no better way to learn than on the job:
“I honestly just love the process involved in supporting people to achieve their goals. Every day is a new challenge and I love the creativity involved in taking evidence-based approaches and making them work in real life situations that have so much more depth and complexity than a ‘controlled’ study [you read in a book].”
She adds about the importance of a good work-life balance to ensure you stay motivated:
“Practice consistent work-life boundaries and develop solid self-care practices as these will help to maintain your passion for the work, help you be a better therapist for your clients, and support your longevity in the industry.”
Looking to Start or Continue Your Career as a Therapist?
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