Could you find your mentor through social media?

Social Media

Image (cc) Flickr Jason A. Howie

Social media beginnings

I have been on Facebook since 2004. This was back when your university had to be added to Facebook and you could “friend” people in your classes and see their course schedules. Facebook has evolved and changed since then. I tried using Twitter a few years ago. To be honest, I thought Twitter was stupid. I just didn’t get it.

And then about a year and a half ago for some reason I found the #slpeeps on Twitter, and I’ve been there ever since. About a year ago I discovered Facebook groups for SLPs. I dabble on Pinterest.

One of the things I noticed as a participant in these communities was the number of student and CFY clinicians. At first I thought that students were “cheating” by asking questions in these forums, but mostly I think I was jealous they had more support than I did when I was in graduate school. Now I think it is awesome!

Social Media for the SLP

Social media is an excellent place, not just for new clinicians but for any clinician looking to grow and learn. Really, when is the last time you had a client that was JUST like a client you have had previously. Never, right? The awesome thing about our field is we are learning.

But for those new clinicians, social media is a great place to find mentoring relationships. I chatted with Aubrey Klingensmith and Kirsten Whalen-Pedersen (over social media, of course!) about the mentoring relationship they formed. (Responses are paraphrased.) Hopefully their experiences will inspire you.

How did you meet? Tell me about the first social media interactions you had when you started to connect.
Aubrey: We met online when I was beginning graduate school and Kirsten was finishing graduate school. We connected right before ASHA 2012. I had questions about how to prep for ASHA, and we were both organizing #SLPeeps related activities (e.g. flash mob, dinner). Also, we had a similar attitude toward mornings, morning people, and coffee. Heh.

Kirsten: I have met so many SLPs across the country through Twitter and the #SLPeeps hashtag, including Aubrey!! I had attended one ASHA previously as a grad student, so I had some perspective as to what Aubrey was getting herself into. And as she mentioned, we are both the world’s worst morning people pre-coffee. So we made plans to grab coffee together in Atlanta as much as possible!!

Describe your mentoring relationship.
Kirsten: I think a lot of the SLPeeps were further out of their CFs than I was, so I answered questions on the initial job search. Then halfway through Aubrey’s CF, she had the similar thought I did during my CF – maybe she didn’t pick the right one, so it was great that I could help her through the experience of choosing a new CF as well!

Aubrey: When I started applying for CF positions in early 2013, Kirsten told me she was available as a CF fairy godmother should the position need filling. Since then she has helped me through the process of weighing pros and cons of jobs, making the decision to move cross-country (twice), change CF positions, etc.

Would you recommend a virtual mentoring relationship to other SLPs? Why or why not?
Aubrey: Of course. It has helped me to have someone outside of my “real life” circles to give me “unbiased-ish” advice, especially since Kirsten had just been through the CF process.

Kirsten: I would recommend ANY form of mentoring relationship. Personally, my mentor in my final months of grad school was an amazing supervisor I had during one of my clinical rotations in grad school. Whether it be an in-person mentor or “virtual” mentor, you should go for! I loved mentoring Aubrey. I saw her going through some of the same things I did, and it was great to be able to share knowledge I gained during my experiences. Plus? I gained a friend for life!

What tips would you give new SLPs (or those that recently switched fields within SLP) for developing a mentor relationship?

Kirsten: I would say, Don’t be shy! We all go through a lot of the same experiences, and more often than not, it’s confusing to figure things out for yourself. It’s a great way to find success, and also build long lasting relationships with your peers.

Aubrey: I suppose it has to be different for each person. In general, join the Twitter #SLPeeps and develop a network of mentors and friends.

Did you have a “define the relationship” talk?
Aubrey: Yes, there was a formal godmother swearing-in ceremony and everything.

Kirsten: I offered my services as CF Fairy Godmother and luckily they were accepted. I don’t handle rejection well.

Don’t be shy when seeking a mentoring relationship

Okay, so my question about “defining the relationship” talks seems kind of silly at first, but I think it is a very important step in order to get the most out of your mentoring relationship. If you want your mentor to give you unsolicited advice when you are lacking the insight to see there is a problem, it is good to let them know that’s appropriate. Defining your relationship is a key to success.

I love that Kirsten made the first move to offer her services as a CF fairy godmother. It can be nerve wracking for a new clinician to ask someone to be their mentor. What if you get rejected? But new clinicians, do not let that stop you! There are so many uses of dating language in this post, because there are many parallels, including the first phase being really awkward.

Be your awkward self. Nudge into mentoring conversations. Don’t worry about rejection. There are many #slpeeps in the social media sea.

Many thanks to Aubrey and Kirsten for their sharing their insight and experience.

Kirsten L. Whalen-Pedersen, M.S. CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech-language pathologist, working full-time on a special education collaborative team with elementary and middle school students, and part-time at a hospital outpatient clinic. Clinical interests include Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC), feeding therapy, craniofacial anomalies, and developmental speech and language disorders. Find her on Twitter, by email, or out around Boston trying to find the strongest cup of coffee.

Aubrey Taylor Klingensmith, MS, CF-SLP recently switched from an inpatient acute care hospital to a combined rehab/SNF/LTC facility. She is a Founding Partner and the Director of Website Content Development for Yapp Guru. Her blog, Speechie Apps, focuses on enhancing traditional therapy via technology. Aubrey’s clinical interests include dysphagia, assistive tech, developmental disabilities, and over-caffeination. Find her on Twitter or by email.

Rachel Wynn
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Rachel Wynn

Speech-Language Pathologist at Gray Matter Therapy
Rachel is a speech-language pathologist and creator of Gray Matter Therapy. She started making noise as a patient-centered care advocate in 2013. She believes great care happens when patients are informed and engaged.
Rachel Wynn
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