But it’s not all doom and gloom in the job market. Many employers are still looking for talent, and there are people who graduated during the pandemic which have managed to find wonderful careers.
We recently spoke with one such person. Kiran Silwal is a Doctor of Audiology at Lake Forest Hearing Professionals. In May, she graduated from Rush University Medical College and was hired at Lake Forest Hearing that same month.
Dr. Silwal talked to us about how she managed to start her audiology career during COVID. She also gave some essential tips on everything from interviewing to continued education after college. We think there’s a lot of valuable information here, and we hope that her path to audiology gives you hope for your own journey to success.
You can read the full interview below.
You recently graduated. Tell us about what you studied. What made you select the field you studied?
Yes, I graduated this May with my doctorate in Audiology from Rush University. I had no idea that audiology was even a field until undergrad when a good friend – who had always known that she wanted to be an audiologist – told me about it, and that’s how I first heard about it.
I started in science, thinking I would somehow be in healthcare somewhere, someplace or another, but being a medical doctor was never an ideal situation for me. I wanted to find a profession that would really help impact the patient’s life while having a work-life balance. I looked into many allied health professions like optometry and dentistry, and I shadowed an audiology clinic at UW Madison; that experience gave me a positive mindset and the clarity that I needed.
I saw that audiologists spend a lot of time with their patients, counseling them, and it really made me find that niche that I could belong to.
I realized that communication connected us to others – couples not listening to each other, lack of communication, the elderly in the house not being engaged in the conversations – it all began making sense. I used that as a foundation to explore more about audiology and discover what this field was all about. I applied to programs that allowed me to jump right in without taking many prerequisites. I didn’t want to get my certificate or go back to speech and hearing classes as an undergraduate. Knowing Rush was the top ten schools, I chose Rush as one of the schools and got it.
My education and training experience at Rush was exceptionally rewarding. It helped grow my passion for this profession; all my experiences with patients, other audiologists, and my classmates have helped make that experience more profound.
You graduated during COVID. As you know, many recent graduates are struggling to find a job. What do you think helped in your journey?
I did graduate during COVID, and it is definitely a tough time to be graduating. Still, I have to say I am happy that I graduated even during COVID because I would not want to be in classes right now; I can’t imagine trying to do clinical virtually. I know it’s tough to get a job; it’s about marketing yourself as a “confident you” and overcoming the mindset that there is someone better – there is always going to be someone better out there, but you have to focus on your own skills, focus on what you control.
I do agree with you about self-marketing and being confident. I also believe that confidence comes naturally and is not something that everyone has, so do you think struggling grads should find a way to overcome their lack of confidence?
There is no question that it is tough out there for everyone. And of course, being a recent grad adds another layer of stress. But you can stay busy and keep yourself and your mind active. Even if it is not in Audiology or whatever you have studied for, it does not help to stay at home and continuously look for job postings, engaging in unproductive activities.
Find a fraction of your day, and use it to do something: get out of the house, take a part-time job, do something.
Before I started as an Audiologist at Lake Forest Hearing, I worked 35 to 40 hours a week babysitting because I needed to get out of the house. I needed to feel productive, and it didn’t matter what job I was doing. I know for myself, if I let my mind wander or sit idly, that’s when I become the least productive. That’s when I start feeling discouraged since I’m not putting myself entirely out there as a productive individual.
It’s easier said than done; we all have those stages where we just want to isolate and disengage, but that’s precisely when we need to find one or two hours in the day to keep our mind busy. Keeping the mind busy will encourage you to stay productive. Then that’s when you come back and start searching for the job, with a refreshing outlook.
In my opinion, productive people stay productive and stay in that mindset of being productive. That’s what helped me, I stayed busy, and I wanted to keep staying busy. I feel like I didn’t have time off during COVID; it actually helped me transition to a career that I wanted. I didn’t really allow myself to think that there would not be a job out there during COVID for me – I just took that as it may not be the job that I want today. I may not find a job in Audiology, but I’m going to find myself a job so that I’m not just sitting at home and feeling discouraged, and that is probably the best way for me to help me.
You talked about staying connected. Do you consider that networking? What do you think about networking, especially right now during COVID?
I reached out to my previous professors and peers who graduated a year or two above me. However, I was aware that these are challenging times for many people, including them. If you are networking, it is important to be aware and mindful of what everyone is going through, and to not be a burden while thinking about how to market yourself rather than asking, “Do you know where I can find a job or have you heard of this position available?”
You can bring the focus back to yourself and best represent yourself by knowing what sets you apart from anyone else out there, such as your clinical skills and being confident and genuine. That’s what helped me; I was always ready with the conversation I was going to have and knew why someone should hire me rather than preparing right before the interview.
Speaking of interviewing, I am sure that was different than what you had expected since so many interviews are virtual now. Did you do anything different to prepare for your interviews?
Distractions are the most significant thing. Make sure there’s nothing strange on the wall behind you for the person on the other line to get distracted by. At the same time, make sure that you are not distracted by the things behind your computer or by your phone.
Stable and reliable internet or phone connections are a must-have.
And certainly represent yourself well. Don’t slack off because it’s virtual; the person on the other side is getting to know you as an individual, so you want to present yourself as a professional.
Stay aware of how you can come off in a phone conversation. Don’t let your mind wander. Don’t let your eyes wander, especially when you’re on video. You want to stay focused. Have a pen and paper next to you to write down notes that you want to reflect on, respond to, research, or follow up on.
Make sure to talk out loud and lower your speech rate, because with many possible interruptions and technical difficulties, the interviewer might not be hearing you very well; this is audiology 101: Slow down when you are talking. It can be hard to gauge when the other person has stopped talking or asking questions, or when you should start speaking. I think it’s helpful to pay close attention at the beginning of the interview (the small talk portion) and get a sense of the interviewer’s speaking pattern. You have to pay attention to these things so that you’re not interrupting the other person.
To me, interviewing was the first step in starting my career, not just a job, so I took it seriously. Regardless of whether it was by phone or video or in person, I was equally excited and ready.
What do you think set you apart from the other candidates? You do not have to be modest.
I want to go back to the topic of being confident. I believe a real confident person approaches the topic with determination, stays active in that subject, is knowledgeable, and can provide precise and accurate answers. However, at the same time, that person possesses self-awareness to recognize when a new topic requires research.
I’m not someone who needs to say I know what I’m doing. I know what I’m talking about, but I’m also confident enough to say I’m not sure about what you’re asking me, and I’m going to set up the time to read up about it, research it, and get back to you. I would never make up an answer, and I abide by that rule. If I don’t have a good response to something, including in my day-to-day interactions with patients, I just say I don’t quite know the answer to that yet, but I’m going find it for you. And I know patients appreciate that – my colleagues do too. And certainly, someone you are trying to impress as a future employer is going to appreciate that quality as well – being confident, knowledgeable, yet honest.
Now that you have been doing the job for a few months, what do you think? Is your work experience similar to what you had learned in school?
Shifting the mindset, from being a student to a doctor, and being mentally prepared for that can be a little bit of adjustment for many people.
I think that mindset has to start before graduation and during that last year. You have to start thinking about what you would do if you were out there. If it was your name and license, what would you say and do, and how would you do it? You have to start with this mindset before you start your career. Certainly, there is a lot to learn on the job, and you are always learning (and we should always want to learn), but you have to develop the mentality that you are the decision-maker before you graduate.
During my externship, I looked at any responsibility that fell on me with the attitude that sooner or later, it will be my name, my signature, and my license, so I had to learn to make the decisions on my own.
This can relate back to confidence. If you are knowledgeable about the topic, you can be confident enough to make decisions independently and stand by them. But you have to have the expertise, and then the confidence will show in every aspect of your life.
Luckily, working at Lake Forest Hearing as an Audiologist, I can collaborate with my coworkers. We can develop clinical decisions together, be a resource for each other, and always learn from each other. At the end of the day, our philosophy is to take care of patients first and foremost, and coming together with that philosophy in mind has helped us bond better as audiologists. We all work together better each time and set the bar higher for each other.
These things have made working here very – I don’t want to say the word easy, but pretty seamless.
Any tips for recent grads looking for a job? How about third-year students?
Start thinking of yourself as a doctor before you become one because sooner or later, it will be your name or signature on the paper. You always need to think about what’s going to be the best for the patient. Do you feel satisfied with the recommendation that you’re making? And if you are not knowledgeable, do your research. Don’t pretend to answer. Research, study and ask questions. The more you learn, the more your confidence will grow. Before graduating, find ways to learn more. Don’t just settle for what’s in front of you. There is so much out there. Try to be the person that’s always striving to learn more and is willing to evolve.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
People have described me as sincere, sympathetic, driven, competitive, supportive, a team player, studious, self-aware, confident…
We had to stop her there, but the reality is that Dr. Kiran Silwal is all of the characteristics above, plus another one that’s missing from the list: funny!