By: Will Boyd, PT, DPT
Physical Therapy Student Advice #1 – Start Engaging with those You Admire
There is a lot of fear that is attached to putting yourself out there, extending your hand, and waiting to see if another hand comes back to meet yours. What are you talking about, Will? I am talking about connecting, engaging, and building relationships with those you want to emulate in your profession. As DPT students, that might be a professor, it might be a current practitioner with a social media presence, or it might be a business owner in a vastly different field that is having success using ethically and morally sound principles. Whomever it is that you wish to emulate, start tracking them (and not in a weird hunter-after-a-deer kind of way). Read all of the content they put out (odds are you are doing this already) and start putting their content into practice.
How do I connect with the people I want to emulate? USE YOUR THUMBS. What I mean is, start following the people you look up to on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and any other social media platforms they are on. Rather than asking them directly to mentor, answer a question for you, or ask for business advice, keep in mind that if they are in a position of leadership or expertise, they likely get those requests weekly, if not daily. It can yield incredible dividends if you engage with them using a different approach. The best way to start is to be an active member of their following.
Simply start by liking and re-tweeting their content. Tag them and let them know what about their content or personality that you admire and respect. Bring positivity to an area where controversy and negativity tend to be the trend. Do everything you can to convey your message in a way that does not expect anything in return. Just give. You will be amazed at the level of engagement that will come out of being an active supporter and encourager to those you admire.
They Were Once Us In Our Shoes
They, like you and I, are people who have doubts and feel empowered by our communities providing encouragement and constructive feedback. There is no guarantee that you will have people reach back out to you, but I think you will be amazed by the opportunities and further engagement that will come out of these powerful methods.
If you do connect with someone and a relationship is established, that’s amazing! Give even more. By that I mean, if someone you look up to takes time to provide you with customized information, guidance, or time, give them the gratitude they deserve. Write them a thank you note. Yes, writing with your hands is still a powerful tool.
Odds are they have some type of public work address, which is absolutely appropriate to use to send someone a thank you note. It’s old school, but it conveys that you valued their information and time so much that you are willing to value your own time enough to write them a thoughtful message.
Why would they interact with a lowly student?
They were once a student! Try not to forget that they understand your position and more than likely once felt the exact same way you do now. Also, if you are following them via social media, email, or whatever means, you are a MEMBER of a COMMUNITY. Communities only thrive if their members are actively engaged and express what the community needs to grow. Your voice is powerful. Don’t ever doubt that it is.
I met someone I had looked up to for a long time, Dr. Jeff Moore, through becoming a fan of his work, sharing it, and sending positive feedback What that eventually led to was an invitation to see if he would have an interest in being on our podcast. One key thing is that I never asked directly if he would be a guest on the show. I always try use language that is not demanding, but rather creates an environment that promotes friendship with or without expectations.
Through our conversation, Jeff helped guide me towards a Masterminds group, which eventually ended in a verbal job offer from another person connected in the field of physical therapy. That was a pretty amazing moment for me. Just through reaching out, being supportive, and wanting to give more than receive, I actually ended up receiving far more than I could offer to give. Over this winter break, make an effort to engage with those you admire and hope to emulate. They may just be more reachable than you imagine.
Physical Therapy Student Advice #2 -Develop A Few Basic Skills That Will Set You Apart
Here’s an interesting thought I had while working on building The Knowbodies Podcast and website from scratch. What percent of PT clinics, hospitals, or rehab facilities have websites? I don’t have a statistic, but I bet it is VERY, VERY high. Here’s another thought I had: how many hours do we spend in PT school learning the basics of running a website? In our program it was 0 hours. My suggestion (and I have personally seen this pay off via the amount of job offers I have received prior to graduating) is to sign up for a free WordPress site and start learning the basics of building and running a website.
The amount of private practice clinics that are struggling to keep up with the changing landscape of the Internet and social media is greater than I had imagined. Who can blame them? Very few, if any of us, had any desire to run websites when we signed up for PT school. That’s probably WHY WE SIGNED UP FOR PT SCHOOL! That being said, there is a need in many practices to lower costs and be more effective at running effective and attractive websites. Teaching yourself the basics of WordPress (WordPress has a fairly large stranglehold on the website creating world) or Weebly (another website creating program) may just increase your marketability when applying for jobs and will more than likely raise the interest level on the part of the people interviewing you because you are thinking beyond yourself, you are thinking of how you can help the team.
“I’m Terrible At Computer Stuff”
Try to keep this in mind: It’s not about being good or being the best at anything. It is about improving your own knowledge and increasing your personal skill set. Create a free blog and make a game of it. No one but you ever has to see it. The goal is to simply be familiar with the basics of how to organize and structure a functioning website. If you feel overwhelmed, using YouTube tutorials can help tremendously.
I was able to build and maintain our website through educating myself via YouTube videos. Take advantage of all the tools available to you. It might surprise you how far even the simplest of knowledge about creating a blog or website can separate you from other people interviewing for a job. Many private practices are interested in starting a blog, but haven’t started one out of fear of not knowing how to start one. You could be that person and that might be the reason someone hires you over another person.
Student Physical Therapy Advice #3 – Start Thinking About Getting “The Job You Want” and Avoid Thinking About Getting “A Job”
So much of life comes down to mindset and that is definitely the case when it comes to approaching interviews and potential job opportunities. The more you can start to seek out the jobs you want instead of hoping that you will get “a job”, the more you will attract what you seek.
Think of it like dating. You likely would not ask out every single person you see, but rather, you have an idea of the type of person you would like to date and you seek out those people. The same applies to finding a career. Are you interested in working with the geriatric population? Rather than applying to a blanket of positions, seek out resources that will help you grow as a practitioner in the area you want to work in.
Expand Your Knowledge
Seek out the Senior Rehab Podcast hosted by Dr. Dustin Jones and become familiar with the people he surrounds himself with. Want to work in Women’s Health or be an entrepreneur? Seek out Dr. Karen Litzy or Dr. Lisette Holland and study the paths that they have led to become successful. The same applies to outpatient orthopedics where people like Dr. Jeff Moore, Dr. Kelly Starrett, and Dr. Justin Dunaway, along with so many others are providing incredible content that can help you get a better sense of the job you will WANT and not a job you have to TAKE. If there is one very underrated aspect of personal and career growth, it is creating and nurturing a mindset of believing in your own value.
These are just a few strategies that can help you become more attractive as a potential future applicant for your first PT job. Here at The Knowbodies, we strive to better our own personal growth and love to share the lessons we have learned with others. A part of a healthy body is having a healthy mind and we have found that continual progress leads to permanent growth. Enjoy your holidays and if you get a chance, start putting in the work to separate yourself from those around you. It’s not a competition with them, but a competition with yourself to be your best. As always, it’s your body, know it.