How to thrive as a new grad

Blog // How to Thrive as a New Grad

By Justin Lim

The Transition

It was a big step up from student to qualified physiotherapist. It can be a weird experience, as you enjoy being independent and autonomous but you can feel like you don’t know a thing, especially when you don’t have previous experience in that particular clinical area… I wasn’t sure what to expect: what level of competency should I be presenting, am I supposed to know a certain condition, etc etc…

Looking back, I realised that this is normal. It is likely that everyone has experienced similar feelings, even after they have been qualified for a few decades! It is what makes us human.

I am not writing to tell you, however, that everything’s normal and you can continue to plough through when things are not right… There are some practical tips that could ease your journey into the qualified world. These are some principles/ lessons that I have learned after a year out from graduating from university.

Goal Setting

You have probably set some SMART goals for your patients, but what about yourself?

I wasn’t aware of the power of goal setting until I read Simon Sinek’s book: Start With Why. Before reading his book, I wasn’t motivated to get out of bed early in the morning, and I was putting in a huge amount of effort without any progressive results. From this book, I realised that starting with a clear goal (starting with why) is more important than the amount of effort put in.

“Those who know what they do tend to work harder, those who know why tend to work smarter…”

It is also the doing that matters. If you set a goal and do not act it is just the same as if you didn’t set a goal to begin with.

“If you give yourself 30 days to clean a bedroom, you will take 30 days to clean your bedroom”

Action Tips

  • Write down 3 goals that you wish to achieve in 3 months, 3 years and 10 years respectively and place them in a visible place
  • Discuss these goals with someone close to you (Family, friends, supervisor)


This is the mindset that eased my transition from being a newly qualified physiotherapist. My senior told me: You must remember that everyone in this department is learning. They are just in different stages and it so happens that you are at the starting line.

You might feel out of your depth, you might feel uneasy that you don’t know a thing… But the truth is that you are SUPPOSED to feel that way. No one knows it all, especially when they first start out as a junior physiotherapist! So have an open mind and acknowledge that you are there to learn.

Action Tips

  • If you feel uneasy about information overload, take a break!
  • Acknowledge that no one is supposed to know everything
  • Read more about developing a “growth mindset”


The PayPal mafia is a group of former PayPal employees and founders who have since founded and developed additional technology companies such as Tesla, LinkedIn, Palantir Technologies, SpaceX and YouTube. The obvious secret to such success is – strong association.

Having strong associations helps with your mindset, habits and behaviours because “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.

Action Tips

  • Reach out to people (Clinical or non-clinical) and introduce yourself
  • Join a professional network (Local physiotherapist group, special interest group, online fb group etc)

Clinical Reasoning

I was fortunate to realise the importance of clinical reasoning when I was a student. During my MSK outpatients placement, I was allocated some time to discuss after I had seen a patient. My clinical educator would keep questioning my diagnosis and treatment. For example, ” Why do you think this patient presents with rotator cuff related shoulder pain and not a frozen shoulder?”. This facilitated my critical thinking process which enhanced my clinical reasoning skill.

Action Tips

  • Question yourself why on every step: From assessment to treatment to follow-up sessions.
  • Draw a table and start filling in clinical signs and symptoms of each condition

Work Hard, Play Even Harder

Finally, make sure you get adequate rest when you start working. I always thought that working as a newly qualified physiotherapist is being on placement but for an indefinite amount of time. It can be quite daunting for the first few months. So make sure you pace yourself and not go all in, otherwise, you are at risk of burning out.

Action Tips

  • Block out some time in the evening/weekends to do something you enjoy
  • Have a strong support network (Friends and Family) and share your stories with them

The Outro

Being a newly qualified physiotherapist is an outstanding achievement that no one really talks about. You are the NEXT generation that will support your healthcare workforce. I hope these tips can contribute to some thinking or even better: change the way you perceive things in a clinical and non-clinical setting. What a time to be a physiotherapist! All the best!


The ideas that I presented are tips that worked for me. Obviously, everyone is different so feel free to take away what you have learnt!


CSP Resource

My seniors post on BMJ

CSP mentoring platform


How to improve clinical reasoning

Career Pathways 

Justin is an MSK physiotherapist working at Airedale General Hospital, United Kingdom. He is passionate about supporting students and newly qualified physiotherapists with an interest in MSK. Connect with Justin via Instagram or email jlthphysio24@gmail.com

Written by Justin Lim

MSK Physiotherapist, United Kingdom

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