You’re probably wondering why “Going Pro” is talking about applying for a fourth-year externship, but one of the first steps in becoming an audiologist actually occurs in your third year. It’s the first time you consider different aspects of a job that would work well for you. It’s the first time you need to search out available positions, whether they are posted or not. It’s the first time your resume is going to be compared to other prospective applicants. And, it’s the first time you are given the opportunity to apply and earn the position you choose. The steps you take in searching, applying, and accepting a fourth-year externship are wonderful preparation to the process of finding your first professional opportunity and instrumental in becoming an audiologist.
I remember it like it was yesterday… I was finally in what seemed like the “home stretch” of my graduate career. I was in the third-year of my AuD program and I could finally see an end to being in class. But there were lots of new things to prepare for that brought on some anxiety – more advanced classes, “comp” questions, capstone projects, and especially applying for my fourth year externship. After all, I felt like it was the gateway to my professional career. Who wouldn’t want to find the best job they could?
So, how do you start? There are many aspects to consider in the search for the best externship placement, such as clinical services provided at the site, salary (if applicable), location, job prospects following completion, the number and experience-level of the audiologists and their previous experience with fourth-year training, and the list goes on. To help you sort through this, begin by asking yourself these questions:
- Am I looking for a certain type of site? Am I mainly interested in a being a pediatric audiologist, working with vestibular patients, working with cochlear implant patients, etc.?
- Do I want to my fourth-year experience to allow me to specialize in certain patients or clinical services or do I want a wide range of audiology areas?
- Am I restricted in the location of the site? Am I willing to move?
- Do I need a job with a salary? Am I willing to give up a salary or take a lower salary or stipend for a position I think is better suited to my needs as a future audiologist?
- Is this a site that may offer me a position after my externship is completed? Is the site in a good market area in need of audiologists if I’m planning to remain in that area?
- Has this site had experience in training fourth-year audiology students before? (This is not necessarily essential, but it could be helpful)
So, where can you find fourth-year positions? First, check with your advisors and professors at your university since they may have heard of opportunities. The American Academy of Audiology’s Externship Registry is a great online resource. And sometimes an online internet search can pay off. Specialized externships may be available, such as through the Veterans Administration or the military service branches. There are also postings at audiology meetings such as AudiologyNOW! and your state professional conferences. Sometimes, though, there are externships that have not been posted which you can learn about through networking and word of mouth. Talk to professionals in your area, network at conferences and conventions, and contact your previous peers who have moved on to become professionals. They may know of possibilities available that are not posted anywhere else. [On a side note, your peers will be beneficial to you in more ways that you could imagine, so I encourage you to be courteous, professional, and friendly, and continue your contacts with them. They will continue to be some of your greatest resources. (And your greatest friends.)]
No matter where you are in the externship search process, I believe that information and flexibility are key. For example, when I was looking for a placement, there were some facilities that were considering having a fourth-year extern but were waiting to see if funding was going to be available. Positions may post at different times, so it’s important to keep your eye out and check your sources often. And, unless you know you are guaranteed the position of your dreams, I would definitely recommend applying for more than one to help open up options for you.
Once you decide on placements to apply for, the application process begins. To start, you need to draft a well written, memorable cover letter. It’s very easy to draft a standard cover letter and just change the contact name, address, and site name, but it really makes a difference to write a personalized letter to the facility of interest. A resume is also an essential part of your application. It is important to highlight your accomplishments and experiences without bogging it down with unnecessary information that detracts the reader from your positive attributes. [Hint – keep records of your placements, experiences, and accomplishments throughout your professional (and pre-professional) career to help build your resume.]
Remember, your cover letter and resume are going to be the externship site’s first impression of you. It is how they start separating the applicants prior to the interview stage. But don’t worry – there are people to help you with preparing these important documents. Your professors, supervisors, and mentors at school and at your outside clerkships can offer guidance, and most universities have a career advisement office which can assist you. And, the American Academy of Audiology offers a free resume review service for members, along with other employment resources, such as job search, resume, and interviewing tips. [Hint – be sure to allow at least a couple weeks for the review process to be complete.]
For many sites, once your cover letter and resume “make the grade,” there will be formal in-person or telephone interviews. Some may also give you a small quiz or cases to discuss during the interview, so it is important to be ready and flexible. When going into any interview process, confidence is one of the most important factors as it is the key to your impression on the interviewer and integral to how you represent yourself throughout the interview.
After all is said and done, it will be time to wait – and it can seem like an eternity. The thoughts running through your head are not always good, even though you are really trying to stay positive about as much as you can, while what seems to be the most important step before becoming a professional hangs in the balance. All the while, you are still dealing with classes, projects, comps, placements, committees, not to mention your personal life. It is a lot!
We have all been there and we sympathize. We can remember that hectic and anxiety-ridden time. Hang in there because it is worth the wait. The day will come when you receive that coveted fourth-year placement. When it does, it will be a day of exhilaration, pride, relief, and anticipation of what lies in store for your fourth-year experience!
And for all the fourth-years reading this, you are almost there! It is now time to start looking for your first professional practice opportunity, applying everything you learned from your fourth-year experience, starting with the first day you began your search. Use every ounce of the experience you can – it does pay off!
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