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Salary negotiations part deux!  Just to recap what we covered last time:

  • My level of experience
  • Demand for SLP services
  • Geographic location/cost of living

And what we will be covering this time:

  • Employment setting (i.e. nursing home vs. school vs. hospital vs. skilled nursing facility [SNF] vs. for-profit vs. not-for-profit [NPO])
  • Size of the organization
  • What is the compensation package?

Same Disclaimer as Before, 2nd Verse:  What follows below are some tools I was provided to make this…educated (more or less) guess about salary.  I am a first-time professional job searcher and am certainly not an expert on these matters.  I’m learning this as I go along too.  Nevertheless, I hope these tools are useful for people trying to determine a fair salary for themselves given their experience and geographic location.  At best, I think these tools gave me enough information to not over-price myself, but I still worry that I may be under-pricing myself.

Setting

As you will have observed from reading the Annual Salary Report (hinthint), pay varies across job setting.  Generally speaking, you will likely make less money in a school than a hospital, and make less money in a hospital than a SNF or nursing home. Likewise, if the hospital job you applied for is a NPO, then you will probably have a lower salary than an SLP working in a for-profit hospital. This is important to take into account when preparing an answer to the question “What kind of salary do you expect to make?”

Size

Size of an organization matters, too.  If you are working for a small, not-for-profit hospital in a small town in the midwest, you should expect a lower salary than a not-for-profit organization that runs multiple medical centers or perhaps has some funding/connections with a university.  It’s all down to the resources the organization has: a for-profit organization has more, as does a larger not-for-profit organization when compared to a local hospital that is not part of a larger healthcare system.

Compensation

What benefits is the company offering you?  A health insurance package?  Does it include medical, dental, and optical?  Other types of insurance, like life insurance or disability.  How do vacation and sick-leave work?  Is it paid?  Unpaid?  Are there retirement benefits like a pension? 401(k) plans?  Do they match contributions to your 401(k)?  Are there annual salary reviews (related to performance reviews)? Do they offer tuition reimbursement, health club membership, child care options, elder care options? Do they pay for or have a certain amount of money set aside for continuing education?  Do they pay your professional dues?

Yeah, it’s a lot to think about. It’s important to take into account, however, particularly if you are considering multiple offers.  If one place is offering you a higher salary, but no health insurance benefits, and the other offers a lower salary but provides full health insurance coverage, you need to really compare which is the better deal.  Will you still come out with higher salary if you are using part of that salary to pay for health insurance out-of-pocket?  Research and find out.  Benefits are an important part of the compensation package.  You may notice on the Salary Calculator that you can look at the total benefits package for that particular area as well.  I would highly recommending looking at that to see the actual monetary value of these benefits and what it makes your total salary when looked at in actual dollar amounts.

Whew. That’s a lot to consider, isn’t it?  Feel like banging your head against the wall?  Me too.  And this is all the information that you need to consider when going into the job ready to name a salary range and if you feel the offer is not acceptable and you plan to negotiate. You should also check out what the ASHA website has to say about salary.

Speaking of negotiating…here are some things to think about when the salary discussion comes up in the interview.

State whether the offer is acceptable, not acceptable, or if the figures in the higher end of the range (if they give you a range) are acceptable.  Always base your responses about the salary on research you’ve done on the areas I’ve mentioned in these posts, and phrase your response in those terms, i.e., “Based on my research….”  Make it as objective as possible.

You can always always always say “I’d like to think it over.”  You do have time to think it over.  This will give you the opportunity, for example, to consider if the benefits they offer you make up for the somewhat lower salary number they offered you. It will also give you time to discuss the offer with people who have more experience than you and who may explain aspects of the offer or contract that you aren’t sure about.  Plus, you may just need to the time to gather yourself together so you don’t appear gobsmacked that someone is finally offering to pay you before you accept.  (Haha!)

What’s negotiable?  There are both monetary and non-monetary aspects of the salary you can negotiate.  Monetary includes (the obvious) salary adjustment, extra compensation for working overtime, a yearly bonus, signing options, or stock options if it’s a for-profit business.  Non-monetary options include many of the benefits listed above, including health benefits or paying member fees or for continuing education. Again, the ASHA website has some excellent insight into the process as well.

If you still get a “no,” but are still interested in working for that particular organization, ask to have a review at the end of your CFY (and get it in writing!) and note all the instances you were awesome during your CF to brining up as extra evidence of why you deserve a raise/extra benefits, along with all the objective data you’ve collected, at the end of the CF year.

Bonus Material

Here are some links provided to me and my fellow classmates by one of our wise and wonderful supervisors about salary negotiation:

Comments?  Questions?  Time to share your wisdom, folks!


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Having just got off the phone speaking to a human resources representative, I feel I should take a moment to nail home an important point about phone calls. (Which actually one of the SLPs at my hospital internship tried to drill into me weeks ago.  You can lead a horse to water, I guess….)

Sell yourself.

I completely just failed at that.  Reflecting on the conversation I just had, the rep was giving me plenty of opportunities for me to extol my virtues and I did not take the opportunity.

The plan? I’m going to write down what I consider the highlights of my resume; what I think makes me a unique candidate.  I am going to have this list handy so I can throw in as many as possible during my conversation with an HR rep, or leave as many as I think I can in a message.  The one near the top of my list?  That I am looking for a CFY.  If it turns out the job I just applied for is not open for CFYs, there may be a CFY position available that they haven’t posted yet and that they can tell me about.

Lesson learned.

(Geez people!  I started writing this and I realized it was getting really freaking long and no one wants to stare at and/or slog through a post that long in one sitting.  Not that you have to read anything in one sitting.  But, for my own sanity as well, I thought I would break it up into two parts.  [Although part of me is thinking it might morph into 3 parts.  I just can’t shut up.]  So this is Part 1 and the other part[s] will follow in a few days.)

Time to talk money.  Yes, it’s very exciting to think of earning money after paying it all out and/or racking up ungodly amounts of debt over the past two years, but how do you know what to suggest for your starting salary?  You want this job.  You don’t want to scare them away because you accidentally priced yourself too high. On the other hand, you have loans to pay off and would prefer to not continue eating ramen every night like you have for the past two years.

Disclaimer:  What follows below are some tools I was provided to make this…educated (more or less) guess about salary.  I am a first-time professional job searcher and am certainly not an expert on these matters.  I’m learning this as I go along too.  Nevertheless, I hope these tools are useful for people trying to determine a fair salary for themselves given their experience and geographic location.  At best, I think these tools gave me enough information to not over-price myself, but I still worry that I may be under-pricing myself.

There are several things to consider when preparing an estimate to provide to a potential employer.  First, you need to consider what are your services worth?  You as a clinician.  In my case, a newly graduated clinician.  Things I have taken into consideration include:

  • My level of experience
  • Demand for SLP services
  • Geographic location/cost of living
  • Employment setting (i.e. nursing home vs. school vs. hospital vs. skilled nursing facility [SNF] vs. for-profit vs. not-for-profit [NPO])
  • Size of the organization
  • What is the compensation package?

Experience

Obviously the level of experience plays an important role for SLPs.  As I have mentioned in the past, at least in hospital settings, there is frequently not a path for promotion (unless the organization you are working for has a career ladder) for SLPs.  Increase in salary is frequently based on years of experience and performance within a particular job setting.  In the school setting, SLP salaries are generally advanced with years of experience, similar to teacher pay.

From my research, I have very little information about starting pay for SLPs fresh out of grad school.  However, ASHA publishes a study every year about SLP salaries, the Annual Salary Report.  (Download this document STAT!)  Unfortunately, our peers who are freshly minted CCCs have not seen fit to share this information with ASHA so that they can provide actual data for SLPs with 1 to 3 years experience.  (Folks, let’s help out our future graduate students by responding to this Annual Salary Report survey if ASHA sends it to those of us with 1 to 3 years experience.  And when we are elderly SLPs we can shake our canes and talk about how we negotiated our first salaries blindfolded, with our hands tied behind our backs, with minimal information, and in the middle of a snowstorm and how easy kids have it nowadays.)

Brief rant over.  Now, although this (otherwise helpful) document does not provide specific information for those SLPs with 0 years on-the-job experience (although we certainly have plenty of clinic hours), generating an adequate salary based on 1 to 3 years experience is, I think, easier than trying to extrapolate backwards from 4+ years of experience. However, the document does give a new grad an overall picture of how salaries vary across setting, geographic location, experience, and other variables.  This is helpful.  As a person looking for jobs in multiple geographic locations all across the USA, I liked knowing that the median income for a SLP in the West was higher than an SLP in the Midwest or South (likely due, I imagine, to cost of living differences).  This document provides a big picture for the new grad, as well as some possible variables s/he may want to consider her/himself when doing the research for her/his own salary negotiations.

Note: Please note that the Annual Salary Report provides median salaries, NOT mean salaries.  Take a moment to review the difference if it’s not clear in your head and consider the strengths and weaknesses of median data reporting and the range of salary numbers a median number obscures.

Demand

I think most of us know that SLPs are pretty high in demand. Based on my own search for a job, I would say if you are looking to work in the schools, a nursing home, or a SNF, you will be gobbled up.  If you are looking for work in a hospital acute inpatient, inpatient rehab, or outpatient setting, they tend to be looking for people with experience (i.e. NOT CFs).  I am searching really hard for a hospital job nonetheless due to my own personal preference for working in a hospital and my skepticism of getting appropriate supervision/support in a nursing home or SNF setting during my CF.  A hospital job fresh out of grad school is not impossible, I would just say harder to find than the other settings I mentioned.

Cost of Living

So, in that earlier paragraph, I mentioned that ASHA document provides information based on geographic location.  Giant pieces of geographic location.  A useful, but blunt tool.  For something more fine-grained, I recommend checking out the Salary Calculator, which provides median salary information for a specific zip code based on job title.  Pretty cool, huh?  Keep in mind here, again, that this is the median salary for all people with the title SLP, regardless of their experience and job setting.  Nevertheless, you can look at this and think, Okay the median salary for City is $$.  As a brand new clinician, I would probably be in the lower end of that bell curve. But based on the Annual Salary Report, it should be a little higher/lower within the left tail of the bell curve because I want to work in a SNF/school. (See how looking at the Annual Salary Report was kinda helpful after all?)  Now the trick will be not to underestimate your worth.

Cost of living (how much it costs for housing, groceries, utilities, etc.) in a particular place should also factor in.  For example, you would make much more as a starting clinician in Los Angeles, CA than you would in a small town in Arkansas just because how much it costs for you to buy things is more in one place than it is in another.  If you are looking for a job in an area you are already familiar with, you may not need to look into this.  You probably have an idea in your head of how much you money is needed to pay for housing and groceries and so forth.  If not, check out the Cost of Living Comparison calculator.

A couple other factors to consider in your cost of living (and your salary negotiation) is how much money do you need to sustain your lifestyle.  Essentials such as shelter and food are important, but obviously each person has different ideas about what constitutes as important in their standard of living.  Don’t get crazy, though. They’re not going to fund your standard of living that includes flying to Paris and staying for a week in 5-star hotels 3 times a year. If you name a price too high, the people offering the job are probably not going to agree with that. On the other hand, don’t be unfair to yourself.  It’s a tricky balance, and I have no doubt it takes some experience just like everything else about SLPing.  Another important factor to take into account, especially as a new grad is:  Are you making enough to cover the essentials and start paying off loans?  Those monthly payments are not cheap and a valid factor to point out during salary negotiations.  You did two additional years of school after a bachelor’s degree after all.

Questions?  Comments?  Feedback?  Input?  This is definitely an area where my knowledge is shaky at best, so if anyone has further insight into the salary negotiation process, comment away!  We would all benefit from your knowledge.

(To be continued in a second post as explained at the beginning!)

So while I’m stuck in the airport waiting for my now hour delayed flight, (Love you too, weather!), I thought I would write up a short post about the post-resume/pre-interview time.  As in,

Q: What to do after you have submitted the resume and are waiting to hear back?

A:  You call a week later to follow up on the resume.

From what I hear, you should try to actually talk to someone within the department (i.e. the rehab manager, or an SLP who works there.)  I have yet to figure out how to manage this.  Probably because I become blind with panic when I get on the phone and am rarely convincing and professional sounding enough (I imagine) to be connected.  If I ever figure out how to do this in an effective manner, you will all be the first to know.  (Or you can give me tips about how to get this done.  Hinthint.)

Until then, at the very least, talk to a human resources (HR) representative.  In fact, within the HR department, I would even check and see if there is a specific representative who works directly with the rehab department, or, even better, with the SLPs.  These people usually have a better grasp on what is going on in the rehab department/SLP division and are usually much more helpful in the information they provide than the average HR person (who will say something like, “Yes we’ve received your resume.  The X person reviews them and passes them on to Y person who will contact you for an interview if your qualifications meet our needs.”)  That does at least let you know that it’s been received, but otherwise for all you know it’s lost in some HR limbo, never to be seen again. On the other hand, if you talk to someone who directly represents the department (or is in the department) they may be able to give you a heads up on what specific qualifications they are looking for and maybe even if another job opening is coming up within the department.  (They almost always know pretty well in advance of the actual posting to the website.) Also, if you are talking to an actual person who Knows What’s Going On, feel free to take the opportunity to try to schedule an interview time while you have them on the phone.

At the very least, the call to whoever you end up talking to, reminds the people there that you are interested in the job…really interested in the job.  And that’s a Good Thing.

Don’t get anyone?  Have to leave a message?  Feel free to call back again in a few days or another week to follow up that follow-up call.  Don’t think of it as annoying them, think of it as showing them how interested you are in working with them!  Questions?  Comments?

Only one more job advice piece to write on salary negotiation, and then…and then…a post or two wrapping up my final thoughts on this whole experience.  And then…we’ll see.

The Interview.

Yes, that does look like it could be written in cheesy-horror-movie-font, and I have definitely thought at times that it should be.  Nevertheless, there are lots of ways to prepare for an interview.  And yes, the preparing part is key.  Someone has fallen in love with your beautifully written .pdf and/or online application resume and now they’ve called you for an interview.  What’s next?

Research

  1. Yeah, it’s too bad that you still have research to do even though you’re done with classes, but it needs to be done.  So!  Find out as much as you can about the place that wants to have an interview.  Their website is a wealth of information.  And, hey, if you happen to know someone who works there, use him/her a resource too!

Traditional Interviewing

  1. Every interviewer ever is going to ask this question, or rather, state this statement:  “Tell me about yourself.”  Yeah, that’s pretty wide open, but what they really mean is give me a 2 minute synopsis of your resume.  Write it. Rehearse it.
  2. “Why should we hire you?”= a short summary of your experience.  Write it.  Rehearse it.

Behavioral Interviewing

  1. The above are “traditional” interviewing questions.  There are also behavioral interview questions.  These usually involve you providing a real life example/story of when you showed teamwork, resolved a conflict, showed any one of the strengths you listed about yourself (more about those below).  They want you to show what you’ve done not what you know.  A few websites (a very few) have explicitly mentioned they use behavioral interviewing techniques on their page and even provide information on the types of skills they are looking for you to share a story about.  Most don’t and you probably won’t know which it will be going in.
  2. Prepare 4-8 examples of real-life situations you’ve been in. For example, maybe the time you helped a difficult client, how you prepared for a project in  school, or anything along those lines.  Any story that showcases your strengths and skills.  The manager I mock interviewed in told me it’s okay if I repeat the same example as before for different questions (especially as clinicians just starting with fewer years of experience to draw stories from), the point is to show you have done things that demonstrate the skills they are looking for.  (But hey, I’m sure if you have a different story for each questions, that’s okay too.)  Half should be positive, the other half should be situations that either started badly and ended positively, or that you made the best out of the outcome
  3. Set up your response like this:  Situation (the problem), the background (as briefly as possible), action, and the result.

Have Questions about the Company/Workplace Yourself

  1. This is a good way to show off the research you’ve already done above.
  2. Think of an interview as a two-way street:  The interviewer wants to know if you would be a good fit for the company, YOU want to know the same thing.
  3. Some examples (a lot of these are related to the Clinical Fellowship (CF) experience since that’s the type of position I am looking for):
  • Is this position likely to continue after the CFY (Clinical Fellowship Year)?  How much would I be supervised?  Would the supervisor be full-time?  Do you know who it is?  If so, has s/he supervised before?  Have you had CFs in the past?  (If not) How did this position become open to CFs if you haven’t had a CF in the past?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?  Is there a clinical ladder*?
  • How is one evaluated?  Is there potential for a review after my CF is complete and a possible raise or increase in benefits at that time?
  • What is the size of the caseload?
  • What would a typical day be like?
  • What are some of the objectives you would like to see accomplished in this job?
  • What do you like about working here?  How long have you been working in this position?
  • What do you think is the most important quality for a candidate?

Those are just a few.  Trust me, if you ask people (people like your internship supervisors or supervisors at school) they’ll have other suggestions!

Mock Interview

  1. That’s right, I said it, try to get a mock interview with someone.  I know a friend who had a connection for someone who working in a human resources department and was willing to give a mock interview.  The manager at my hospital internship was kind enough to do one for me.  It’s great because a) you get to practice and b) you get good feedback from people who know their stuff, but also don’t hold a job for you in the balance.  It’s a great resource, so seek it out!

After the Interview

  1. Don’t forget to send a handwritten thank you note to all the people involved in the interview process 24-48 hours after the interview!!!

Comments?  Questions?  Your very own wisdom from slogging through the job hunting process?  Share!

*Generally speaking, there is not way to advance in the field of speech pathology.  As you gain more experience this (hopefully) correlates with pay raises, but you’re always a speech-language pathologist.  However, some places have a clinical ladder wherein you get a different title (e.g. “Senior Speech Pathologist”) and a raise in pay as you gain experience and perhaps (? I don’t really know.  Does anyone else?) meet certain criteria/goals at your place of work.  If advancement like that is important to you, you will definitely want to find out in the interview.

At work today, I was sitting working on a progress note, and I realized I hadn’t addressed all I should have about resumes.  I mean I was totally focused on my work and thought of this idea at lunch or some other break in a day.

Let’s talk about online application forms.  The bane of my existence. The bane of my existence.

So, you will create a resume.  Have a million people edit it and comment on it and you will have a beautiful resume that you will then make into a .pdf so that you can email it to all the wonderful job opportunities you find on the internet.

And then you will actually GO to a website on the internet and hit the Apply For Job button and you will find yourself taken to an online application form.  Most will give you the option of uploading your own resume…and then mercilessly butcher it by trying to slot the bits from your resume into the empty text boxes online which you will only have to fix and did not save you any time at all.

Okay, I’m being a bit unfair.  I know this is a way for companies to get the information they want from you.  But it does make one start to feel the beautifully crafted resume you created is moot.

And so, some tips:

  1. Find some place on that damn thing to put your experiences at your university clinic.  On my regular resume, this is under the regular “experiences” slot after my externship experiences.  However, when the online application specifies “Jobs” I feel that I can’t bend my technically-a-graduate-course-I-took experience into a “job.”  (Although it was.  A job with long hours and no pay.)  I usually stick it under some part of the resume that says “job-related experience” or something similar.  However, if I don’t run across that, I go ahead and stick it under a “job.”  I will be recognized for all the hard work I put into clinic at grad school.
  2. Make sure to include your CPR/AED/first aid certification on there somewhere.
  3. In fact, you should put it in there (and your beautiful .pdf resume) like this: “(American Heart Association/Red Cross) Basic Life Support (BLS) Healthcare Provider certified.”  I recently realized that the world of healthcare calls it BLS Healthcare Provider certification (not CPR certification) and if they’re using their search engines for that, I want them to find it.
  4. Find a place for your membership to NSSLHA (because I know you’re all members of NSSLHA, right?  Right?  It’s a good way to show early dedication to the field…plus, when you make it to the end they give you a discount on your first year’s member ship in ASHA!)
  5. Do not bang your head against the wall.

Questions?  Also, I realized, if other folks out there have advice themselves for resumes, please leave it in the comments!  The more minds with more experience sharing advice, the better!  Your wisdom:  share it!

So I have been hitting the job market for the past 10 weeks or so and it has been filled with (mis)adventures.  While I feel my program actually prepared me pretty well in looking for a job (i.e. we had a couple of classes about writing a resume, what to do at the interview, negotiating job offers, etc.), I definitely have a lot to learn when it comes to putting it into practice.  I am passing on my advice so 1) I can look back five or ten years down the road and laugh about how much I still didn’t know and 2) perhaps save a fellow speech-language pathologist graduate looking for a job some head-against-wall banging.

This first installment focuses on resumes.

  1. Get as many people as possible to read over your resume.  This includes your friends, your family, your professors, and hell, anyone you may happen to know who works in human resources.  Get as much feedback as you can.
  2. Include contact information, objective, educational history, employment history, honors, professional organizations, and honors.
  3. Use an objective specific to the job you are applying for.
  4. Use action words.
  5. In fact, go check out the ASHA website.
  6. When describing responsibilities under your experience section, try to highlight things that make you unique.
  7. Don’t make the resume crowded.  Be as succinct as possible.
  8. Include the titles of the people you are using for professional references.

Questions?

So Friday was my three-quarters meeting (THREE QUARTERS!) and it went something like this.

CI:  So this is last 3 weeks of your internship.  On Monday, it’s all you.  You’re going to be a like a clinician starting your first job.  I’m just in the background if you have questions.

Me:  …. (Imagine a deer-in-headlights look)

CI:  Okay?

Me:  Um, sure!  Great!

And so it begins.  I have been running around crazy working on 1) the thesis 2) the job search (when I feel like I have it down…or at least most of it down, I will write up some tips.  I feel like I’ve made a million mistakes so that might be a loooong post.) and 3) trying to be an AWESOME independent clinician. (Note: This is always an ongoing process.)

Not much else to report on that I can think of…but if any readers wants me to write a post about some aspect of my internship experiences, post a comment and I will do my best.  Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for me to have a spare area of brain cells to sit and think about what I have written about and what I think might be interesting to write about.

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