If you’re familiar with the profession of audiology, it’s likely you’ve heard that ‘everyone knows everyone in audiology.’ Being a profession of only 15,000 (in comparison, there are 40,000 in optometry), the idea of six degrees of separation is more like two. Size is unarguably a strength and a weakness of our chosen profession.
As a budding audiology student or professional, it is important to establish and maintain relationships and mentorship before, during, and after your professional training for the following reasons:
- Increase learning and professional opportunities
- Build greater connections within the job market
- Integrate different points of view (particularly when outside of your own school or organization)
- Establish professional credibility (who will vouch for you)
- Seek collegial advice on professional matters
Let’s think of this mentorship thing like developing a new friendship. The relationship has to be good for both parties in order maintain a connection. Similarly, in establishing a mentor, the relationship should not be one-sided where you’re taking knowledge but not providing any added value through your relationship with your mentor.
Here are a few tips on establishing a professional mentor:
- Know (kind of) where you want to go. This is will help you identify potential mentors in your areas of interest.
- Inform yourself about a potential mentor. What is their area of expertise? What are your common interests? What is their school of thought? Do they participate in activities outside of work?
- Spark conversation. Remember why you picked this person to be a mentor. Initiate conversations and debates around common professional interests. Ask questions about their research and resources for learning more. Eighty percent of CEOs say they have had mentors, allowing them access to their insider knowledge and power, thus fast-tracking their careers.
- Ingratiate and don’t drop the ball. Thank your mentor profusely for their time, even if they respond weeks or months after you initiated contact. Additionally, if you say you will follow up, DO IT. Most mentors are busy and won’t go out of their way to make extra work for themselves. If you stand true to your word, they will be more likely to allocate time for you.
Some of these relationships will last well beyond your years as a student, and will take you to new heights in achievement. So, don’t be shy. Reach out today!
Kortney Bush is an undergraduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She currently serves as the SAA state ambassador to Oklahoma. In the future, she plans to pursue graduate school for audiology.
Anna Marie Jilla, AuD is a PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She is currently the manager of the Hearing Evaluation, Rehabilitation, and Outcomes (HERO) Laboratory. Her research and clinical interests are in audiologic rehabilitation, specifically hearing aid uptake, treatment adherence, and outcomes measurement. She also has a keen interest in balance assessment, treatment, and management. She served on the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) Board of Directors for two years, chairing the Advocacy and Fundraising Committees. She currently serves on the Coding and Reimbursement and Nominations Committees for the American Academy of Audiology, and is a professional mentor for the SAA State Ambassador Task Force.
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