I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy hearing my patients’ backgrounds — whether it be their personal life, career moves, or anything else they want to talk about. When working with a patient recently, I asked him, “So what kind of advice do you have for a young professional like me?” Never did I think in a million years his answer would not only excite and inspire me, but it would also give me actionable steps I needed to take to one day reach my professional and career goals.
He suggested writing down your career goals, not on your iPad or in the notes app of your phone, but actually writing down where it is you want to be in your career 3 months from now, one year from now, five plus years from now. Then when you get your goals set, create actionable steps to reach these goals.
This concept isn’t new, but it is one that needs to be revisited. I thought to myself, is it really that easy? I think yes.
Think of your journey like a road trip. Let’s say I am traveling from Bradenton, Florida (shout out to my hometown) to Houston. If I don’t use my GPS, there is a slim chance I am going to know where to turn, where traffic may be present, so on and so forth. Now, if I have my Google Maps ready and create a plan about when to stop for gas and food, I know I am going to reach my destination. This scenario is just like goal setting — know your destination, and create a plan on how to get there. There may be some roadblocks in the way (or in Houston’s case, traffic), but never lose sight of where you are headed.
Now, it’s not only important that you write your goals down, but it’s also necessary to create actionable steps to help reach these goals. And learn, learn as much as you can, wherever you can get it. You will not get your dream job out of college — if you did, someone was looking down and out for you. Your dream job will come in due time, but you will need to put in the effort, and know all the ins and outs of it before you may be considered.
Find your drive
Take Danny Amendola, a 5’11” wide receiver for the New England Patriots. He may not be the tallest or fastest guy on the field, but he has the heart and the drive arguably more than most on that football field. He isn’t driven by money or the fame, but by an inner sense of wanting to be the best he can be. It doesn’t matter what situation he’s in: he’s always prepared.
I think as therapists we can take away a valuable lesson from Amendola. Do you love what you do? Do you want to be the best therapist in the field you want to specialize in? Do you love helping people, no matter if they are an athlete, an average joe, a weekend warrior? Whoever you are treating, do it with all you have, and you better be prepared.
Back to my patient session – after everything that had already been said, he began to tell me a story. It was a rainy night in Philadelphia, and an elderly couple was looking for a room in a hotel. The hotel clerk stated that unfortunately there were no available rooms for the night. However, the young man couldn’t let the elderly couple travel back out in the bad weather, and said he lived in the hotel. They could stay in his room. The couple were reluctant, but the clerk was adamant that they could take his room since he had to work overnight anyways. The next day, the old man thanked the hotel clerk and stated, “If I built the best hotel in the world one day, would you be the man to run it?” The young man said of course, but knew nothing would come out of it. Three years later, the young man got a letter in the mail with a picture of the Waldorf Hotel. He opened the letter and to his astonishment, it was a letter asking him to be the hotel’s first manager.
This story, which gave me the chills, made me realize I come across patients all day and never know what I could learn from each and any one of them. Every person has a story and a life lesson, and it is in my best interest to learn what I can from them.
Communicate and keep learning
Am I in my dream job right now? No. Am I in a job where I am constantly learning? Absolutely. I have not only evolved in the past 6 months as a therapist, but have learned how to interact and adapt to patients and relate to them, and this is a skill that I believe every physical therapist needs.
So to recap, how do you get your dream job?
Treat every patient with the idea that they could potentially get you to your dream career.
Learn everything you can about whatever it is you want to specialize in. Wherever you are in your career right now, constantly ask questions and learn from those around you. Everyone comes from a different background and approach, and you can take away a little piece and make it your own.
Make a career map and write down actionable steps within those goals. Don’t only write them down, but do it. Your future self will thank you.
Are you in your dream job? How did you get there? Let us know in the comments!