Oh, that wonderful feeling of completing your occupational therapy degree. Now it is time to begin preparing for your first occupational therapy job!
Here are some things to think about as you start preparing your first occupational therapy job!
You’ve made it through your occupational therapy coursework, never realized how much you’d learn in 12 weeks on your Level II Fieldworks, and are now starting to prepare for your career as an occupational therapist.
Knowledge is power
Knowledge really is power. Knowledge, in this case, refers to not only knowledge of different areas of practice, but also your general knowledge of occupational therapy treatment techniques and strategies.
You’ve acquired a lot of this knowledge from your coursework, fieldworks, and also preparing for the NBCOT exam. Passing the NBCOT exam is a huge milestone. It’s important to put all of your knowledge together to not only pass your exam but also use this knowledge to rock your first job as an OT!
A great resource I found to help put everything together for the NBCOT exam is OTQuestions.com. OTQuestions has over 1000 questions in their database all with detailed explanations, so it really helps to connect everything from the classroom, fieldwork, and even gain an understanding of other settings you may not have experienced—to help pass the exam and feel very prepared for your first occupational therapy job.
There are also many great conferences out there. A great place to start is the AOTA conference! AOTA has a broad OT focus so it will allow you to stay up to date on current evidence and learn new treatment strategies based on your area of interest. It’s also nice to catch up with other classmates and most importantly network!
Never underestimate the value of networking. Even though the field of OT is rapidly growing, the number of OTs is relatively small compared to other professions. This makes it extremely important to facilitate the relationships with your OT colleagues.
I know many people who have landed their dream job through networking. Networking has many great benefits—probably too many to mention here. If you have a specific area of interest, let those around you know about it and they can typically get you in contact with someone who has a similar interest too.
You never know when those you’ve networked with in the past can be an important contact in finding your first occupational therapy job, starting an interesting research project, or even starting a new business!
Pursue your passion
A huge advantage of a career in occupational therapy is that there are so many practice areas, with new areas being developed and expanded every single day! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding and pursuing an area of practice you are passionate about.
There is nothing worse than being stuck in a job for 8 hours a day that you aren’t passionate about.
When you are passionate about your work it makes going to work every day so much easier, enjoyable, and it increases your overall happiness level. Check out and explore different areas of occupational therapy, network, ask questions. and once you find an area you are passionate about, pursue it!
Select your co-workers wisely
When interviewing for jobs, it is important to keep in mind that you are interviewing the employer just as much as they are interviewing you. This includes understanding the benefits of the job, the flexibility of work hours, the temperament of your future boss, and most importantly getting a sense of your co-workers.
Co-workers are an essential part of your everyday life. You will often spend more time with your co-workers than you do with some of your closest family and friends. Therefore, it’s really important to get an understanding of who they are and try to imagine what it would be like to go to work every day with them by your side.
Look at other benefits besides salary
Finally, it’s important to weigh not only the salary or hourly rate but also the benefits of the job. Sometimes having great benefits or flexibility of hours is much more important than your salary or hourly rate. Always remember that the salary, hourly rate, and benefits are often negotiable. These often aren’t the first conversations you will have with an employer but can be a topic of conversation after the initial offer has been made.
Whenever you are negotiating as part of a job offer, be sure to provide a strong justification for your recommended changes.
Finally, be confident—you have just joined (or are about to join) one of the most rewarding careers out there! Don’t be afraid to expand your knowledge, network, pursue (and develop) your passion, and most importantly land your dream occupational therapy job!