Thursday, August 1, 2013

Preparing For Your CF Year - A Newbie SLP's Guide to Flying Solo

Congratulations, you're moving on... taking that next step!  You’ve survived grad school, research, clinicals/internships, comprehensive exams, presenting your research at conferences, and so much more!  You’ve lived in your SLP grad program building, lived without much of a social life, and sacrificed for your future profession.  Now it’s here.  You now get to forever attach those hard-earned letters to the end of your name!  (I accidentally do on the credit card reader at stores though so watch out!  The lady at target doesn’t care that you are M.S., CCC-SLP surprisingly enough!)

This post is about what to expect next.  That big scary world is waiting for you and now you’re supposed to be a “grown-up” and go help people!  Did your stomach just sink a little when you read that?  I was terrified.  Add to that my move to Chicago straight out of grad school and I had a recipe for a nervous breakdown.  Luckily, I survived thrived!  You will as well!

So, what should you expect in your CFY year?  Of course it’s a different experience for each person and has a lot of variables but there are several similar trends that year.  Here are just a few:

You’ll be the new kid on the block again.  You’ve been with the same people and professors for years but now you’re in a clinic/school/hospital setting and probably do not know a soul!  It can be terrifying but knowing that everybody has been the new kid can be soothing.  Do your best to get to know your co-workers and let them get to know you.  Having good working relationships makes every job easier and being an SLP is no different.  I have rarely met an individual that expects a newcomer to understand how to do everything on the first day.  So relax and ease into it.

You’ll be confused.  It happens.  Paperwork is different at every school and in every medical setting you’ll ever work in.  And the system for turning paperwork in, filing it, etc. is a process that has to be learned.  But, not overnight.  Find knowledgeable and helpful people to use as your go-to resources for all things paperwork.  This can be another helpful SLP, a SpEd teacher, the secretary, etc.  Somebody who you can pop in on with a question and get the correct answer.  Also, write down these answers.  I would sometimes ask where to find a document and then have to ask again a month or two later when I needed it again.  Now my office is full of post-its and reminder documents.  And most people you work with would rather you ask than spend too much time trying to figure it out or, even worse, do it incorrectly.  Once you start to get a hang of the paperwork process and documents, your workload will decrease immensely.  It used to take me hours to do a simple speech/language IEP but now, since my data is easily accessible, I can whip one out very quickly! 

You’ll work hard and work late.  You’re coming into a new system, profession, and place.  If it helps to stay late or come in early you can certainly do that.  But, do not live at work.  Do your best to limit yourself to 1-2 hours extra per day, if necessary.  But then get out of there!  Do some living and enjoy being homework free for the first time in your life!  If you only live at work you will lose that love for your profession.  Get out and have a drink after school with co-workers, visit family, get involved in a hobby, etc.  Don't let work be the only thing you do during your CFY year, or any year!

You’ll mess up… a few times.  That’s normal.  Give yourself some grace in those moments of imperfection.  You’ve been prepared for your CFY… not to be a perfect SLP.  We’re never perfect SLPs and, since we are human, we shouldn’t be expected to be perfect!  All you can do is work as hard as possible to do what is best for your clients.  Find another SLP who you can share those laughable moments with and who will understand what you're going through.

People/Parents/Patients may doubt your knowledge and abilities... don't buy into it.  Some people, in my experience, have a difficult time trusting young adults with important tasks.  Your task is important.  You'll be helping children learn to communicate, feeding patients, recommending diets, and so much more.  The more confident you feel, the more confident your clients and coworkers will feel.  Have you ever heard the term "Fake it 'til you make it"?  Well, this is true to some extent during your CFY.  Show confidence until you are confident.  Display knowledge until you are more knowledgeable.  You have the skills and they will get better every time you practice them.

You have fresh and new ideas and information... use it!  You've just spent 6 years learning all the newest techniques and research outcomes relating to speech-language pathology.  And you know where to find the information.  So, feel confident expressing your opinions when speaking with others and when deciding on goals and techniques to use in therapy.  Also, don't be afraid to share some of these great tips and ideas with others that may have been in the field for a while.  They will appreciate your effort and that can be the start of a great working relationship.

You will love it.  I mean, who wouldn't?  You get to make a difference in the lives of others every day.  Each day is different and rewarding and challenging in new ways.  I found that after my hardest weeks, when the dust settled and I looked back, I could see how amazing my job really is.  I could see the progress with my students.  I could see them meeting the goals we set.  I'm not saying every day will be a breeze.  And you won't love every day.  But you've worked hard to get here and now you get to just "do".  Enjoy it!

One of the hardest parts about starting your first job is the paperwork aspect.  So, I created a little goody to help you out.  (Or, for those who are going into the schools for the first time.)  This is a free set of paperwork templates to give you ideas or an easy starter.  You may use them as you like.  It's yours!

The SLP Starter Kit - Click here to Download

Enjoy your CFY year!  I can't wait to hear about all of your adventures!


  1. Awesome advice!!! Wish I had it 13 years ago!! :) :)

  2. Thanks for the great advice! I am about to start my CF and I have recently started a blog! I was wondering if I share a link to this post on my blog? I would love to share this great advice! My blog is

  3. Thank you!! I started my CFY about two weeks ago and feel like a deer in the headlights. Your advice has made me feel much better!!

  4. I know this is over a year old, but thank you so much for this post! I am starting my CF on Monday and as nervous as all get out! Thanks for the encouragement and reminder that it's all okay, and it's gonna be fine! :)