Photo by Jeanette Davis
Give us your tired, your weak and your aching backs. But first, give us a job. For new graduates of massage or chiropractic schools, finding a suitable workplace can be tricky. Here are some tips from people who’ve been there, done that:
Know thyself and know thy market. “A lot of people who graduate don’t really know what they want to do,” explains Jackie Jamieson, who opened her own massage clinic within three months of graduating. “Once you decide what you want to work on, you can go from there.” Andrea Giaschi, executive director of the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy, suggests working at two types of clinics first. “Students don’t generally know what they like until they try it,” she explains. She also says that spas are especially desperate for masseuses these days.
Join a clinic… for now. Owning a clinic is always the best scenario in the long run, but joining an existing one has its advantages too, says Katherine Tantalo of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College. According to Giaschi, joining a clinic first can prime you for starting your own business later. “You learn how the business runs, can piggyback of the existing clientele,” she explains. “The cross-referrals are also there.” But don’t expect any handholding. “A lot of people expect more help than they get,” says Ian Eix, president of the Toronto Chiropractic Society.
Be careful with that contract. “We’re not lawyers,” says Eix, “Don’t be afraid to say that you need to take the contract and have someone else evaluate it.” Giaschi warns about splits in the contract too; your clinic or spa may be taking 40 per cent of the money from your clients, but does that include the cleaning of linens? Does that give you the right to keep your files if you leave? Make sure you know.
You can look back if you need to. Your textbooks are still as important now as when you had those exams to study for. “I use my reference books I have from school all the time,” says Jamieson. She also still e-mails her instructors for help and says not to write them off now that you’ve graduated.
According to Giaschi, only about 30 per cent of recent graduates really take advantage of their former instructors as a valuable — and accessible — resource.
Mind your own health too. When you’re a new therapist anxious to jumpstart a career, this is an important principle that can easily be neglected. “Don’t work more than 30 hours hands on. You will burn yourself out and not have a very long career,” explains Giaschi.