Beginning your career is a big step, and it helps to have guiding figures show you the ropes. Though you’ve learned much in school about working as a therapist, so much lies ahead of you. Mentors are a valuable resource that can support you in your journey and provide real-life insight on what it’s like to work as a traveling therapist.
Mentors are people who have extensive experience that relates to your current career position as well as a work ethic or accomplishments that you admire. They can be within your field, for example, therapists with years of experience that work in your clinic or outpatient center. They can also be therapy professionals with experience in an area of specialization that you are interested in.
However, mentors don’t always have to be fellow therapists. They can also come from outside of the field, as April Fajardo, author of The Vagabonding DPT blog and experienced travel therapist, noted.
Professors, nurses, clinicians, administrative managers and health professionals in other areas can also be valuable mentors. You also don’t have to have one mentor, either – you may have several who have expertise and insight in different areas. “Mentorship does not have to be limited to our profession,” Fajardo wrote. “There is something to learn from everyone. Quite frankly, our patients become our first mentors. If you learn to listen intently, they will lead you to the answer.”
Working your first therapy job after graduation can be overwhelming, especially if you’re pursuing your first travel assignment. As you walk up the door of the clinic or patient’s home, you may worry about learning the ins and outs of the job and how long it will take until you feel like a seasoned pro. Mentors understand these nerve-wracking but exciting first days, and can help you get to know the practices and shared habits of your unique working environment. Empathizing with being in your place, they’re eager to share tips about juggling multiple patient visits in one day, socializing with fellow staff and understanding the needs of the community in which you work. Having someone kind enough to help you orient yourself is a lifesaver during your first assignment!
If your mentor has built a career that you admire, learning how they got to where the are today is can help inform your own career choices and ambitions. There is no one-size-fits-all path to success, but your mentor can offer advice about learning on the job, networking, specializing in a certain area and considering whether to develop certain skills or receive certification to help you reach your goals.
Great mentors understand that the travel therapy life transcends day-to-day job duties. It is a unique path that can offer adventure, freedom and self-discovery. Mentors can make recommendations for things to do and see in your new town and help you think more deeply about the rich rewards and challenges of working as a travel therapist. They understand the emotional satisfaction and stress that can come with working as a therapist, and are there to help you work through your feelings.
If you work as a travel therapist, you’re likely passionate about your job and how it affords you to help others in a very direct and tangible way. Serving as inspiration and encouragement, mentors can help you cultivate an even deeper passion, respect and enthusiasm for your role and the responsibilities it brings. A study about mentorship published in Physiotherapy Canada found that “building passion” was the foundation or mentor-mentee relationships, with mentees learning ethics and values firsthand from a role model dedicated to their work.
“Your mentor looks out for you and is invested in your success.”
Your mentor looks out for you and is invested in your success. They may point new opportunities your way, such as scholarships, research positions or classes and workshops in certain areas of care that you are most interested in. Having a strong relationship your mentor also means that they may be willing to write you a letter of recommendation for applications to jobs and academic programs.
Never take mentors for granted – they’re choosing to spend their valuable time helping you grow as a therapist and as a person. Be sure to thank your mentor often for their support.
And perhaps the best way to honor mentors is to eventually become one yourself. After getting accustomed to your role a new grad may join your clinic and look for advice. Be open to helping her out – she’ll appreciate your advice, and you’ll appreciate being able to help someone reach their dreams.