Create a Career Roadmap Using 3 Key Questions

New grads deciding on career path

Well, it’s that time of year. Students everywhere recently celebrated graduation, breathed a huge sigh of relief about finishing theses, then partied after passing comps and licensure exams. Whew! All done. Right?

Nope! Your journey as a new audiologist or speech-language pathologist begins now. How thrilling is that? You chose a field with so much opportunity. However, many grads choose the population and setting where they want to work and consider career planning done. But there’s more …

To create your career roadmap, think about these three questions:

  1. Where do you want to go? Not just: “Where do I want to go right now?” Think about where you see yourself in five or 10 years. What do you want to do down the road? Do you want to grow in a particular setting, or do you see yourself building experience then moving to a different setting? For example, you might choose to work in an outpatient private clinic to gain experience and understand more about business as a springboard to opening your own private practice.
  1. What tools do you already possess and what do you need to help build future skills? Think about this in terms of your clinical skills as well as your professional skills. Are there areas in which you’d like to grow clinically or eventually specialize? If so, how will you obtain that experience? Think about what continuing education courses you can take. Look objectively at your communication skills, emotional intelligence, leadership skills and organizational abilities, to name a few. Which areas are your strengths? Where do you need to grow? If you have trouble evaluating yourself in this way, ask someone you trust to provide you with some perspective.
  1. Who can help? Find people to mentor and guide you. Maybe choose a colleague or two in your workplace whom you admire professionally. Pick their brains about how they developed their career paths. Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice. Most experienced clinicians want to share experiences and guide new colleagues. We were once were you were—just a little longer ago! In addition, your state association and ASHA offer great avenues for connecting with others in similar settings. Get involved!

During this time, stay flexible. Things change and that’s OK. Creating a career roadmap provides a framework, but you might put the pieces together in a different order once you start building. So congratulations to you on your graduation—relish this exciting time in your life and the start of a new adventure. Enjoy the ride!


Suzanne Bonifert, MS, CCC-SLP, manages rehabilitation services at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Ft. Worth, Texas. She frequently mentors and helps guide new clinicians.

‘You are Lifting People’s Voices and Lives,’ StoryCorps Creator Tells Conference Attendees

family photos“Every life matters equally and infinitely.”

That lesson is one that Dave Isay has learned in the process of compiling more than 60,000 conversation through “StoryCorps,” the project that collects recordings of conversations between everyday people. The author, documentarian and StoryCorps founder opened the 2015 ASHA Schools Conference and Health Care Business Institute by sharing some of those stories in a joint plenary session.

The project began as a single recording booth in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and now includes mobile audio booths that travel throughout the country and a recently launched mobile app. Millions of listeners tune in weekly to hear them on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The premise is simple: Come into the booth with someone you care about and, with the assistance of a facilitator, conduct a 40-minute interview.

What often ensues, Isay says, is a discussion centered on “If I had 40 minutes to live, what would I tell the person I love?”

He shared recordings of an older couple, both before and after the husband was diagnosed with cancer. The story of a renowned surgeon, who reveres his late father—a janitor and chauffeur—and who says, “I hope I can be just half the man he was.” A conversation between a woman and the man who, at 16, murdered her son, about forgiveness and the deep relationship they have since forged. The actor who stutters and who concludes, “Who would I be if I didn’t stutter? I would be a completely different person.”

A man with Alzheimer’s disease is interviewed by his two daughters. “I have no regrets,” he says. “I have a family I love and they’re loving people. That’s the biggest thing you can leave.” And a daughter responds, “You created such love. We want to be around you.”

A mother who has developmental disabilities tells her interviewer—her teenage daughter—“I am thankful because you love me and understand me.” A mother asks her 10-year-old son—who at 4 asked Santa to allow his younger sister to hear—about growing up with a sister who is deaf. “Well, I get to meet a lot of hearing-impaired people I wouldn’t have gotten to know,” he responds. “And when kids make fun of her, I tell her they’re just jealous because she gets to do cool things like learn sign language and stuff.”

The recordings often evoke deep emotions, as evidenced by the number of session attendees reaching into pockets and purses for tissues.

This “collection of the wisdom of humanity,” as Isay describes it, is testament to the work of communication sciences and disorders professionals. “You work very hard,” he told the audience, “and you love your work. You are lifting people’s voices and lives. You help give them voice, love and hope.”

Speech-language pathologists are “so much about what we do at StoryCorps,” Isay said. “We shake people on the shoulder and say, ‘This is what’s important.’”

Isay concluded with a favorite quote of Mr. Rogers, the beloved children’s television host, but attributed to a Philadelphia nun: “It’s impossible not to love someone whose story you’ve heard.”

“We love you for the work you do,” Isay told the audience. “Keep loving and listening.”

Carol Polovoy is managing editor of The ASHA Leader.

Why Aren’t You at ASHA Schools 2015?

We chatted with seven enthusiastic attendees at #Schools15 about why they’re here and what they hope to take home.

See what they say about how Schools rocks! Here’s a hint: “It’s intimate.”  “I’m always surprised at how much information I’m able to take back and put into use right away!”  “I enjoy the networking!”

Clinical Aphorisms: Thoughts While Shaving


  1. Evidence-based practice must consider the clinical intangibles: Performance does not guarantee competency.
  1. Do not be afraid of silence—it is your best friend!
  1. The most potent clinical interventions are those that empower the family.
  1. Family-centered is just that: seeing the family as our client.
  1. Not doing is doing: More often than not, it is the most powerful doing.
  1. The most important clinical tool is the clinician: Every so often the “tool” needs a checkup and re-calibration.
  1. Having dependent clients benefits no one.
  1. Covert help is the best help: Miracle workers need not apply.
  1. The clinician’s need to be needed—in conjunction with perceived client helplessness—is a clinical death dance.
  1. Clinical success can best be measured by the degree that the client takes ownership of the disorder.
  1. Operate on the fringes of your competency: If you aren’t a bit scared, you aren’t learning anything.
  1. Communication is best accomplished when we engage both feeling and cognition.
  1. View the client through the eyes of compassion; when you do so, there is no blame.
  1. Listening to the client is often the only thing needed.
  1. Embracing our pain—by expressing it—is often the first step in healing.
  1. The greatest gift we can give our clients is a support group: It’s a powerful healing vehicle.
  1. The difficult client is often our best teacher.
  1. It’s only a mistake if you do it twice—competency is born of mistakes.
  1. Always remember what the Dali Lama said: “Everybody is seeking happiness.” It helps to get through the day.


David M. Luterman, AuD, EdD, is professor emeritus at Emerson College, author of many books on counseling people with hearing impairment and other communication disorders, and director of the Thayer Lindsley Program for Deaf and Hard of hearing Infants and Toddlers at Emerson College.



Free CEU Courses From ASHA!

ASHA’s professional development program turns 15 this year. To celebrate we’re giving you 15 free continuing education courses. Starting today!

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Over the next 15 months—through the end of 2016—you can take a different 30-minute online course each month for free. If you’re  swamped one month and don’t get to the free option, don’t worry, you can still complete that month’s course for $15 any time. Each video offers practical takeaways and earns you 0.05 CEUs. Five courses focus on audiology practice, 5 on issues for school-based SLPs and 5 for SLPs in private practice or healthcare settings.

Get started this July 4th weekend with “An Overview of the AAC Assessment Process.”