November 8, 2014: eleven days before the ASHA Convention in Orlando, Florida.
After talking with my CSD professors and mentors about convention and exploring the ASHA website, I knew there was nothing more that I wanted than to attend. My chances of being able to go, however, were slim. After all, it was only a little more than a week away and I hadn’t figured out transportation or housing, much less how to pay for the actual convention.
I noticed the “Student Volunteer” link on the ASHA website, and my eyes lit up. At least until I saw the deadline to apply was two months ago. After a twinge of disappointment, I decided to email the volunteer contact anyway—I figured, “Why not?”
When I got a response back asking if I could work on November 18th from 10 am to 7 pm in exchange for complementary attendance, I practically fell out of my chair. I said yes, and after moving several pieces of the logistics puzzle around, my arrangements were set.
Now that I am fortunate enough to have attended my first ASHA convention, I can say with confidence that it was one of the most eye-opening, inspiring experiences I’ve had. Throughout the week, as I walked from session to session, I often found myself shaking my head in pure astonishment that the whole plan actually came together. The “Why Not?” mentality—grounded in drive, openness and ambition—encourages the pursuit of opportunities that seem beyond reach. Committing to this mindset will not only enable you to “shoot for the stars,” but to land among them.
When approaching your aspirations with a “Why Not?” attitude, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Communicate in a professional tone. Whether you are writing an email or interacting in person, be mature in your presentation to show that even as a student, you will be able to fit in seamlessly with experienced professionals.
- Providing too much information is better than too little. This is the part where you make it easy for them to say yes. Emailing to inquire about a volunteer position? Attach a resume before they ask for one. Tell them why you are the best possible fit. Hold nothing back when pursuing an opportunity.
- Be persistent. Professionals are busy, so don’t take lack of response personally. If you do not hear from anyone after a few days, send a polite follow-up email to ensure that they saw your previous message. Persist also in setting deadlines for yourself. If you say you will do or send something, then follow through.
- Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is one of my life mottos after being an avid gymnast for 14 years and I find it applies to almost every challenge I encounter. Asking yourself “Why not?” forces you to get out of your comfort zone and pursue opportunities not easily attainable. The more you put yourself out there, the better you will become at it.
Pursuing opportunities with the “Why Not?” mentality serves me well in attaining my ultimate goal of becoming an SLP, and affords me a variety of experiences, including the writing of this article. After receiving a hand-out to write for the ASHA Leader at the convention, I chuckled at the idea. When I took out the folded piece of paper from my backpack days later, however, I opened up my laptop, started typing, and thought: “Why not?”
Robyn Croft is a third year undergraduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at the University of Texas at Austin studying Speech/Language Pathology. She is a Student Clinician at the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.