I am often heard coaching graduating physiotherapy students around the importance of making wise decisions regarding their first physiotherapy position.
The weight of their decision and the importance of getting the decision ‘right’ is often underestimated. Acknowledgment of the decision’s importance and how foundational it can be to career success and satisfaction, is often missing.
Many graduates mistakenly believe that there is room for error in terms of where, and in which capacity they decide to make their entry into the physiotherapy profession. This presumed ‘room for error’ I believe is founded in the notion that if they make their decision wrong than they have the ability to ‘course correct’.
In many cases this ability to course correct is available to the graduate, and making the change quickly and early can represent a positive career move. Other times though such a change for the graduate physio may not happen quickly, and as with any decision that proves with time to be unwise, there are consequences that the graduate will experience.
It has been both my observation as an employer of private practice graduates for the last 8 years that course corrections while often possible for the graduate, are best avoided in the first place. My own experiences as a graduate who initially made a decision void of wisdom also taught me that it is better to get the entry position right initially.
I believe it is much better for the graduate to make a wise and informed decision initially, rather than needing to change if the employment conditions of their first job differ in any way from what was expected. Getting the decision wrong (as with any decision that proves wrong) will carry with it consequences. These consequences are typically not yet appreciated by the graduating physio moving in their entry position within the profession.
Perhaps you have recently graduated or are in fact soon to graduate. If this is you then take heed of the following 5 consequences of making your first job selection poorly:
- Consequence 1. You will fail to gain momentum with your career.
How you start your career matters. In fact how you start anything in life matters. Momentum can mean the difference between winning in a graduate’s first year or losing. Momentum for a graduate physiotherapist can mean different things. With the right environment for a graduate it’s possible to benefit from momentum in the following areas:
- Clinical development, learning, and new skill –acquisition.
- Non clinical skills- communication and body language skills.
- Case load facilitation-scheduling cycles to maximise results and clinical outcomes.
- Professional development opportunities.
- Case load building and client generation
- Community relations
- Credibility as a practitioner (largely attached to the credibility of the organisation)
- And so much more
- Consequence 2. Potential early attrition from the physiotherapy industry.
I have sadly observed this occur with several of my graduating peers (very talented students) who left industry inside 5 years of graduating. On speaking with them it appears as though they exited the profession either: under-challenged, under-stimulated, under-recognised, or disillusioned. I believe such industry attrition examples may have been avoided if their first job in the profession gave them a solid platform that allowed them to springboard into future career growth and progressions.
- Consequence 3 The Opportunity Cost.
Opportunity cost is defined as the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. So in the case of the graduating physio choosing poorly initially may mean that the very position or job that may have been a better ‘fit’ for them, is likely now gone. As a result of the ideal role no longer being available the graduate physio needs to accept or seek out the ‘next best thing’. It is easy to forecast how the next best job or whatever is available will play out, given enough time.
The opportunity cost to the graduate who finds themselves in the wrong job can include tangible factors such as: less pay, poorer overall employment conditions, and intangible factors such as: lost potential relationships (with clients, educators, and fellow staff), lost potential professional development opportunities, or potentially a more limited l career pathway.
- Consequence 4: A dulling of life in general.
We spend a lot of time at work. Despite the notion that work life balance is achievable and the two are separate, the graduate quickly comes to realise that work is inextricably linked to their satisfaction and pleasure in life in general.
Extrapolate this correlation simply means that if they are not enjoying work as much as they could than they are inevitably not enjoying their life as much as they could. The side effects of such dissatisfaction at work will flow into all of life’s key areas: recreation, relationships, finances, and family.
I have personally experienced a drop in my emotional vitality when on two occasions through-out my career I have found myself somewhere that ultimately I did not want to be. Unfortunately when this occurs not only do you personally experience the internal unrest and conflict, but those who you love and have relationship with also feel it.
- Consequence 5: Starting again elsewhere-rebuilding from scratch.
When a graduate realises that they are in the ‘wrong place’ and they need to start again elsewhere, they need to start once more from a ‘zero base’. In private practice this will look like starting afresh with building a new caseload, and the extra work required to win client’s trust and respect as the ‘new and yet proven member of the team’. Even in the instances where a graduate walks into a bustling case-load there is a lot of extra energy and effort required to build rapport and earn the trust of the ‘inherited case-load’
If this rebuilding is to occur 2-3 times than compared with the graduate who ‘got it right’’ the first time the physio who is needing to rebuild with each new job is likely a long way behind on their development curve as a professional.
The purpose of this post is not to instill fear into any graduate wrestling with deciding on their first career step, but rather to have the graduate acknowledge that making the first decision of where to work is extremely important. If you happen to be soon graduating from university and find yourself unsure of what to do and which decision to make, let me offer you two great tips:
- Listen: seek advice from others-family, peers, colleagues. Judgement is normally clouded in an environment where emotions are high, so enlisting counsel is wise and will dramatically increase the likelihood of you making the right decision.
- Gather information. A mentor once said to me he who gathers the most information will make the best decision and ultimately win.
Yours in physio,
Brad Beer (APAM)
Physiotherapist, Author, Founder POGO Physio