Show Me the Money!
By Leslie Welch, Child Life Specialist
Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee
Courtesy of ACLP Bulletin, Summer 2018
When I was growing up and unnecessarily worrying about the future, I remember my father telling me, “Les, just do what you love and the money will come.” Now, he never mentioned how much money, because his message was about following my heart, rather than dollar signs. He knew before I did that my heart was always my compass. I suspect if you’re reading this, then you share that trait.
There is no denying that the child life profession is entirely mission-driven and passion-based. We specialists do not enter the field because we believe that we will be buying a yacht or private plane with our earnings! Although those possessions would be nice, acquiring them is not our motivating factor. We are confident in the evidence that supports our work and we know that our compensation is measured in non-financial gains, like seeing a child successfully complete an MRI without sedation for the first time or receiving a card from parents thanking you for the compassion you showed their child throughout the hospital experience. Some of us become interested in the field because of a personal experience with a child life specialist that had a remarkable impact on our life. Some of us pursue the career because we like the idea of helping children through challenging situations. Some of us have the experience and desire to open an independent child life business. Whatever your reason was or is to be a child life specialist, your heart is likely what guides you. Thankfully, having passion for your chosen profession is a contributing factor to fulfillment. But passion alone isn’t enough. Fulfillment also comes in feeling accomplished, successful, competent…AND in getting recognized for your achievements. What human doesn’t love a little praise every now and then?! Recognition can come in the form of financial elevation (i.e., a raise), receiving awards, career advancement, invitations to collaborate with other disciplines, getting more clients (in private practice), etc.
So how does one gain recognition? You might get various answers depending on whom you ask. My answer is rooted in one word: marketing. Thoughtful and authentic personal marketing will lead to recognition and ultimately professional fulfillment (passion + recognition). Over the years, in various child life roles and in other careers, I’ve learned some simple thought strategies in personal marketing that have proven helpful along my path. By sharing them, perhaps they can be beneficial to you…