Part of the reasoning for making this blog was to share information from school with other students. Here are some things that snuck up on me and I later realized were important.
- Don't take it personally- In preparation for Level II fieldwork, we had to read "The Four Agreements."I did not enjoy this, at all. Thought it was worthless. However, agreement 2 (Don't take anything personally) has proven several times to be very worthwhile. Often, things that people say or do that irritate us were never intended to do so, yet we take them as an intentional personal affront. By learning to not take the little words and actions personally, you can save yourself a lot of headaches, especially those that can come if you are in a catty workplace.
- Leave it at the door- As a corollary to the first point, there is a line between your personal and professional life (especially on fieldwork). Sure, you can share information about yourself and interests, but your main focus has to be getting work done or it will come back to getcha. And of course, you have to be careful about what and how much you share w/ whom... does your supervisor need to know about your hangover?
- Act interested- One of my teachers used to say this was key to keeping instructors happy. No matter where you are, this is crucial. Make eye contact, nod approvingly, ask questions. People respond to this, and they respond to the opposite as well... I think that one of my professors is still a little icy to me because of this.
- It's not about the site- I spent a lot of time obsessing about fieldwork sites... pretty much from the time that I got into OT school. I pursued a few specific ones like a trained attack animal wearing blinders. And, in consequence, I had a few experiences that could have been better, more challenging, more relevant to my daily practice. You can obsess about the name or prestige of a certain place, but you have a find a good fit for you and a place where you can learn. Get a heads up from older students about different locations. Talk to your fieldwork coordinator about your goals and desires, but trust that in the end, it will all work out.
- It's not about specializing- This is hooked to the previous point. I remember in first year of school we were all getting to know one another, and most people had a specific setting or population that they already wanted to specialize in. Many people wanted to work in a pediatric setting, but some of them found out that they truly preferred geriatrics. It's getting harder not to find out about specialties early, as OT is becoming filled with deep niches (that's a separate entry), however, don't cling too hard to these ideas you have about your career early in school. Be open to the possibilities.
- It's not about money- It's always hard to believe as a student, but one day, someone will pay you to work! There will come a day where student loans no longer matter and you can buy brand-name food! However, there always seems to be someone on the listserv asking about their choice for first job... great money or supervision? The consensus answer is always to take the better overall experience and not worry about the money. It's hard to believe that the money will come, especially when everyone loves talking about the economy, but a good base of experience is something you can't buy. Admittedly, I let the money factor into my first job decision more than it should have (separate entry- negotiating and money management) but the position did have a mix of experiences and I have been learning a good deal. This is also why many teachers advise against taking a traveling position right out of school, get the supervision and assistance when you first start, and then go for the lucrative placement if you want to.
- You get what you give- It's hard to find energy sometimes at the onset of a day, especially if you're a "morning eeyore" like me. But you can't expect to get great things from minimal effort. In school, we organized a study guide sharing effort between classmates and then passed these down to the underclassmen. I certainly don't know how everyone's tests went, but there does seem to be a correlation between putting in the effort to make your own guide and doing well. This translates into the work environment as well. If you show your clients that you care and want to understand what matters to them, they will try more during therapy sessions. It's hard to be "on" all the time, and those that don't work in direct consumer interaction don't always understand that. But give the best you can, as often as you can, and don't expect more from those you work with than you are willing to give.