5 Pieces of Advice For Every New Recreation Therapy Graduate

By: Katie Darcangelis, Owner of the ‘What The Rec’ blog

Graduation is a time to celebrate your accomplishments, and look back on everything that you have done in your collegiate career! It is also a time to look forward to what you hope to do and be within your career field. Below are 5 small pieces of advice for recent graduates to help with those “I’m a real adult now!?” jitters and a little guidance from someone who’s been there!

Anyone who has anything good to say about you, keep in contact with them.

1. Celebrate & Acknowledge Your Hard Work

First off, let me be one of many to say congratulations! This is a huge milestone in your professional and personal life. It takes a lot of grit, determination, and hard work to complete a degree, so never downplay all of the hard work you have done! How does it feel?! Do you feel triumphant? Accomplished? Scared? Anything you’re feeling is valid and completely normal. Acknowledge those feelings, but while you do, know that you should celebrate everything you have done up until this point in your life. You’re doing great and will continue to do impactful things in your future.

 

2. Keep In Contact With Your References

This one is really important and something young adults don’t do often enough. (I was/am very guilty of this too) Keeping in contact with any and all professional and school-related references is a HUGE part of job hunting and professional development. Remember that amazing internship supervisor who gave you a glowing review (*cough* any of my Temple University Interns are you reading this??) – Keep in contact with them. This goes for supervisors, professors, teaching assistants, etc. Anyone who has anything good to say about you, keep in contact with them. Employers ALWAYS ask for at least three references when applying to jobs, and if you haven’t kept in contact with anyone who can give you a good reference…who are you going to write down? It is also not a great look, to contact someone after potentially months or years of no contact asking them for a reference. First off, it seems a little one-sided and rude, right? And secondly, if they have not talked to you in years they won’t be able to mention anything new you’ve accomplished since you last spoke! If you “know” someone for 3 years but if you haven’t spoken in 2 of those years – do they really know you anymore? So keep those contacts and constantly build upon them.

This is a great time in your life to put as much risk into your job search as possible, with the ONLY reward!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Connect With Peers and Older Colleagues

A part of constantly building upon your reference lists, connecting with peers and colleagues in your field is a key part of networking for your career and potential job prospects. With today’s technology, it is easier than ever to talk to someone in a field or in a job you are potentially interested in. From LinkedIn to Facebook groups, reaching out to peers and/or people in the field is so simple! A great way to get a glimpse into the life of someone with a job you think you’d love is to connect with them – whether that’s online or in person. The internet is a great resource for learning about new careers and connecting with people in various fields, but in-person networking events are even more effective in creating those needed contacts. Finding events, whether they be low key networking events for people in healthcare or specific more high key events tailored to a specific company – they are WORTH attending. Meeting people and getting your face out there is never a bad thing and will aid you in job searches and career advancement. So make those connections, get those business cards, ask people in your area on LinkedIn for coffee – you will never regret it.

 

4. Take Time to Understand What You’re Interested In Before Pursuing Graduate School

Many people coming right out of undergraduate studies will think they need to pursue graduate school right away. That if they don’t, they’ll lose traction or fall behind on their career paths. While this might work for some, it is not the end all be all. Sometimes, when we’ve been in school for so long, we get this feeling of not knowing how to do anything else—so why not two more years of school?? Well, graduate school is two (or more) intensive years of study in one very specific subject – there are no random general education requirements. If you get bored in one subject, the rest of your courses are likely to be very similar because graduate studies are all based on a subject you aim to be extremely proficient in, especially in the human services field. It is not like undergrad, where you can just “switch” majors.

 

With that in mind, it might seem really daunting to potentially just pick something you ‘might’ like with the weight of the knowledge and the usual hefty price tag associated. Being able to go into the field and work for a while to potentially see if you really love the field you hope to obtain a master’s degree in could be beneficial. It might even allow you to discover a different degree or pathway you didn’t know was out there. Many programs could be right for you and being able to examine them first-hand can aid in deciding. Many RT graduates ask what graduate school programs “go with” RT and honestly the programs are endless! These could range from a Master’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation to Social Work, to psychology, nonprofit management, and beyond. Many graduate programs can connect seamlessly with the knowledge you’ve obtained with that shiny new bachelor’s degree, but it all depends on the type of human services position you see yourself in down the road. So do not feel pressured to jump right into graduate school after undergrad if it’s something you are unsure of, there is plenty of time to decide.

The internet is a great resource for learning about new careers and connecting with people in various fields, but in-person networking events are even more effective in creating those needed contacts.

5. You Don’t Need To Find Your “Dream Job” Right Out Of School

Do not fall into the trap of feeling, that in your early 20’s you should have figured out EXACTLY what you want to do, the exact population you want to work, and/or the exact career trajectory you see yourself going on FOREVER! Understanding that you might have a desired population or type of work, and then you get that job – (YAY!) And wait…you realize oh maybe I don’t like working with kids? You might think you want to work as a clinician but find you enjoy doing research. Maybe you thought you’d love working with older adults but find you adore young adults with developmental disabilities. THAT’S OKAY! It is completely normal, and I would say essential to test out various jobs to see what is out there. This is a great time in your life to put as much risk into your job search as possible, with the ONLY reward! It is a time to test the waters of full-time employment and start ticking off things you enjoy about a job, a company, a career, and really figure out what works best for YOU! Your dreams change as you age, and as you obtain more knowledge – right? How many of us wanted to be Britney Spears AND a Veterinarian who ALSO wrote novels on the side? No? Just me? Regardless, you get what I am saying. You don’t need to have that “dream job” right away – and even so, your dreams might change along the way and that is okay!

 

Again, congratulations to all the new graduates. If anyone has any other pieces of advice to share, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments!

This guest post is from Katherine Darcangelis, creator/owner of What The Rec, a resource site for recreation and activities professionals. Katherine is a Director of Recreation and Volunteer Services for an adult day health organization in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. She holds a Master’s degree in nonprofit management, along with a background in therapeutic recreation and human development. She hopes to utilize her platform to enhance the field of recreation in healthcare, especially surrounding geriatrics and aging services.

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