Published By Kate Paolini
Summary: Caitlin Mueller knew her job as a school-based SLP wasn’t the right fit. She started as a clinical consultant and ultimately moved into marketing at an AAC device manufacturer. Now, Caitlin uses her SLP background combined with strategic thinking and leadership to create clinical content that helps SLPs implement AAC successfully.
1)What got you into SLP? What drove you to seek a career change, and how did you start the transition?
Becoming an SLP wasn’t a straight line for me. My undergrad degree was in psychology, and I worked in the nonprofit sector for several years in various roles. I knew I needed to get an advanced degree if I wanted to earn more within the “helping” roles that I was most interested in, and I first pursued school psychology.
However, a year into the three-year program, I decided to not go further as I could tell it wasn’t going to be the right fit for me. My parents are audiologists, so I had some familiarity with the field of speech, and after observing some SLPs and reading about how promising the job market was for SLPs, decided to move forward.
Even within my speech program, I sensed that it wasn’t the right fit for me, but I wasn’t going to drop out of a second grad program, so I moved forward, hoping it would get better once I was a practicing SLP.
Trying other settings, but still burnt out.
I hoped to work in the medical setting, but couldn’t get my foot in the door, so I took a job in the school setting. I worked for a few years with various ages, never enjoying it, and finally settled in on mostly 18-21-year-olds transitioning out of school-based services.
I liked the older age group better, but still felt burnt out in this setting, didn’t enjoy planning therapy, and dreaded going to work most days—not a feeling I had ever had in past jobs. I also felt guilty that I wasn’t giving my all to these young adults, and felt like they deserved an SLP who was excited to work with them.
At that point, my goal was just to try to switch settings because I had put in the time and money to become an SLP, and felt shame and guilt considering leaving it behind, especially given the mountain of student debt I had accrued.
A glimmer of hope for a relevant non-clinical career!
But, mostly by dumb luck or divine intervention, in my job search, I saw a post for a clinical consultant with an AAC device manufacturer. I felt this huge weight lifted off of me when I realized there might be a career where I didn’t have to totally leave speech behind, but I also didn’t have to be a practicing clinician.
2) What does a Clinical Consultant do?
The Clinical Consultant is a sales role, but with the goal of providing training and education, and only pushing the sale if it’s truly a good clinical fit. The role also required giving presentations.
When I applied for the role of Clinical Consultant at Lingraphica, an AAC device manufacturer, it felt like a long shot. However, the company was fairly small at the time and I was able to play up the skills I had learned in previous roles.
Relevant prior experience:
Prior to becoming an SLP, I had worked in adoption, providing education and counseling to prospective adoptive parents and encouraging them to join our agency if their goals and values aligned with our agency’s.
I was able to draw on that experience, which is really what the company was looking for—someone who was an SLP but who also had some background in an ethical, consultative type of sales.
3) What do you do now? What additional training or self-teaching did you do to acquire the necessary skills to be a Clinical Consultant or Clinical Marketing Manager?
I’ve now been with Lingraphica for seven years, and my role has transitioned and grown into a clinical marketing manager.
In my role, I manage a team in charge of all of our company’s marketing and content creation that has any clinical slant to it—from CEU courses to web copy, to email campaigns, to sales enablement PDFs.
We think about what SLPs want and need to know, how to get them to give our devices a try with their patients, and what information we can provide to make those device trials as successful as possible. I get to organize and attend outreach events and conferences, and create programs to engage with universities and SLP grad students.
When I became an SLP, I never imagined I would end up as a marketing manager.
In order to move to this position, I took some marketing certification courses (including a Hubspot content marketing certificate), but it mostly just required being a strategic thinker, being candid and sharing my ideas with my supervisors, and putting myself out there even when it felt uncomfortable or like I wasn’t qualified.
I love my role and feel incredibly lucky to be where I am. My background as an SLP got me in the door, but now I spend more time managing a team and thinking strategically than I do using my actual SLP knowledge—though it is still very relevant.
Improved Career Satisfaction 📈
I have flexibility, rarely feel burnt out, and work for a company that has a strong mission and values. There are very few cons in my current role. The only immediate con is that we’re largely a remote company and I work from home—which has the benefit of flexibility and not having a commute—but as a social person, I miss having real-life colleagues on a day-to-day basis.
The clinical consultant role that I started in was also very positive; however, there were a few more cons in that as part of the sales team, it was a higher pressure role with needing to meet certain metrics.
4) What advice do you have for fellow SLPs looking to transition to working for an AAC manufacturer as a Clinical Consultant or Marketing Manager, or transition in general?
I think working for an AAC device manufacturer is a great option for SLPs who want out of clinical practice, but don’t want to totally leave the field behind. I know as our company has grown, getting hired has become more competitive and we get a lot of applications when a role for an SLP within our company opens up.
The best advice I have is to play up any sales, customer service, or presentation skills, whether it’s been within speech or outside of speech.
If you don’t have any of that in your background, see if you can do some in-services or trainings for colleagues.
At our company, as hiring has become more competitive, we also look for people who have experience and familiarity with our devices. If you don’t have experience, take some CEU courses, request a loaner device and a device demo—anything you can do to build some history with the company.
I think the biggest thing you can do is put yourself out there. Understand that it’s scary and you might fail more often than you succeed, but you only need one person to take a chance on you.
If you’re not happy in your job, there are other jobs out there. Time will pass regardless, and you can spend that time unhappy in your job and be in the same place in five years, or you can spend that time getting additional training or making a change to be in a different place.
Even if you’ve spent time and money getting to where you are as an SLP, it doesn’t obligate you to stay there, and making a change when you’re not happy is a brave move to be proud of.
- Don’t be afraid to change fields, even if you’ve invested a lot of time and money to become an SLP—you may find a job that’s a better fit and still benefits from your SLP knowledge!
- Research AAC device companies to find positions that draw on SLP expertise in nonclinical roles, such as “clinical consultant.” Emphasize your familiarity with their AAC product to stand out in the applicant pool.
- Highlight any sales skills, public speaking, and customer service experiences when applying to clinical consultant roles.
- Reach out to clinical consultants on LinkedIn to find out about how they landed their roles and their experiences working in sales. This is a great opportunity to learn about the pros and cons of their job as well as expand your network!
Thank you Caitlin for sharing your story!