Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Workplace Wednesday | Changing jobs

Welcome to Workplace Wednesday, a  place where I will share my thoughts on all things work-related. 

Today I'd like to talk a bit about changing jobs. This is something I've done a fair amount in my nearly 8 years as an occupational therapist. Four times, in three different states, over the course of seven years, to be exact. I would not recommend changing jobs that often, as it definitely raises some red flags with employers. The first question I now get asked at interviews is "So, why have you moved so much?" followed by "Do you plan to stay in this area for awhile?" We move frequently because of my husband's job, and I find employers are generally okay with that answer. And then I usually tip toe around the second question, because honestly, who really knows where they'll be in two years?

While changing jobs presents with many challenges (learning the culture of a workplace, new assessments, new reports, new kiddos, new everything...), there are some upsides to changing jobs. Here are a few of the things I've experienced that I wouldn't have without my unique job hopping.

The opportunity to work in a variety of settings. Hospitals, public schools, private schools, charter schools, pediatric clinics, home based early intervention. You name it, I've probably done it.

Kids are kids are kids. Kids everywhere are still just kids. Kids on the east coast are just like kids on west coast.

Cultures and people are different. I've had the opportunity to work with families from so many different walks of life, as well as co-workers so very different from myself. I'm so very grateful for what these experiences have taught me about myself and the world I live in.

Public education is not the same everywhere. Eye opening, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to see the differences with my own eyes.

New opportunities and new skills. Every job is different, which leads to new opportunities to learn and grow. A change in jobs took me from learning all about feeding therapy and infant massage to executive function skills and Social Thinking. Growth I'm so glad that I experienced.

Flexibility. This is a key trait for any occupational therapist. Changing jobs (and moving) frequently definitely made me a more flexible person and therapist.

I know what I want. I can walk into an interview nearly stress free. I know what I like and what I don't like in a workplace. I know what questions to ask and what to look for.  

I can always find a job. Finding a new job has never been a problem, despite my resume looking a bit wonky. So grateful to work in a profession that allows me to pick up and move easily.

The world is big and I am small. This might be the lesson I am most grateful for. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind of a workplace. Ultimately, I am just one person, doing the best I can, in the environment I am in. I can't do it all or know it all, but I can bring my unique experiences to the table and make a difference, however big or small it may be.

AOTA's OT Practice recently had a feature on finding the best job and knowing when to leave a bad one. While I wouldn't necessarily say I LOVED all of my jobs, every job I've left was because of relocation. I did find that the article had interesting advice on leaving and changing jobs, whatever your reason for doing so. AOTA members can check out the article here.

Have you changed jobs frequently? Or have you stayed in one place for many years? What lessons have you learned from changing (or not changing) jobs? 

1 comment:

  1. I was actually a traveling therapist for a while because when I graduated in 1999 jobs were very hard to come by. I wouldn't necessarily recommend my job track to anyone, but it worked out for me. I agree with all the points listed in your post. I've seen that I am much more flexible than colleges that have stayed in one place their whole career.

    Some skills I've learned that have helped me with transitions to new jobs:
    -Be extremely helpful and flexible in the beginning. Go out of your way to help and ask if others need things done for them. First impressions are everything, and when people see you as a responsible person it will come back to help you in the future.
    -Sit back and observe processes for a while before suggesting changes. Due to working in a variety of places, I am not married to one way of doing things. As an OT, I always want to fix something if I see that it can be better. This is great, but wait a while before wanting to re-invent the wheel. There may be good reasons why a process is the way it is. Maybe not, but don't jump the gun.
    -Change is always stressful and just be prepared to be stressed out for the first month or so until you settle in. Make a concerted effort to learn names of coworkers - even those you do not have daily contact with.
    -Always be open to learning from co-workers, and don't get defensive if you are corrected. I can't stand it when people can't admit when they make a mistake or that there might be a different/better way of doing something. I have always learned from my co-workers and now that I'm a more seasoned therapist, it is nice to pass along some of that knowledge to therapists who ask for help. Another great way to earn brownie points is to ask a co-worker if they have any ideas about a particularly difficult case.


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