Not alone: building a sustainable, meaningful career as a speech pathologist in private practice

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Type A personalities where we have to keep going and succeeding? Over-invested in detail-oriented, admin-heavy roles? Tendencies towards perfectionism and over-conscientiousness? Sometimes unclear, messy, and interrupted career paths? Part of a profession that loses far too much talent every year to burnout?

I hate to generalise, but I’m of course describing many speech pathologists in private practice – including me! 

We’re not alone. Many lawyers face similar issues.  

The legal profession has more resources than speech pathology, and has invested lots of thought, time and money into helping lawyers at all stages of their careers stay in the profession. So I thought I’d ‘translate’ and share some of the legal profession’s best ideas and tips for maintaining a long and satisfying professional career!

  • Join practices that are flexible and happy to support you at different stages, with things like hybrid roles (e.g. WFH and in-clinic mixes) and adjustments for parenting, carer, and other commitments.
  • Seek out practices that:
    • invest in and prioritise on-the-job, one-to-one training over generic external training events and webinars;
    • have a clear mission and strategy, but welcome new ideas and feedback and are open to change; 
    • reward what you put into the practice (not just what you produce); and
    • are managed by practising speech pathologists who understand the realities of professional service delivery with all the real-world constraints.   
  • Manage burnout risks:
    • Make time not to be a speech pathologist: Make space for the rest of you, your family, and friends. Make time for pleasurable and relaxing activities.
    • Maintain friendships and professional networks with people who are not in the profession to keep perspective.
    • Learn to understand how stress affects you and what your triggers are.
    • Stay curious and keep exploring to combat pessimism.
    • Learn to let your perfectionism go by embracing materiality – how much it matters in the larger scheme of things. 
  • Build systems and redundancies into your processes so that your practice can run without you when it needs to.
  • Don’t be deterred if your career path isn’t linear or if you hit a block. You can learn a lot from tough jobs and setbacks. 
  • Wherever you find yourself, prioritise doing a good job to maintain your reputation and self-respect.
  • Focus on long-term relationships, rather than individual jobs and roles. 
  • Be a joiner: Outside your workplace, join organisations that have a big mission: people striving for the things you support, and things that move you.
  • Find your niche by combining your baseline of competence and knowledge with your personal skill set and outside interests.
  • Learn to listen carefully to client, team and other perspectives.
  • Be kind and respectful to everyone you meet, even when it’s challenging.

Key source: McDonough, K. (2023). Great Expectations. What makes for a sustainable legal career? Law Society Journal, March, 50-67. 

Man wearing glasses and a suit, standing in front of a bay

Hi there, I’m David Kinnane.

Principal Speech Pathologist, Banter Speech & Language

Our talented team of certified practising speech pathologists provide unhurried, personalised and evidence-based speech pathology care to children and adults in the Inner West of Sydney and beyond, both in our clinic and via telehealth.

David Kinnane
Speech-Language Pathologist. Lawyer. Father. Reader. Writer. Speaker.

1 Comment

  • Liz says:

    This is brilliant! Thank you very much for taking the time to reflect on how to apply these principles from the legal profession, to ours. I will be able to apply these ideas to myself, and also in supporting other clinicians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard