Stuck Between Disillusioned and Desperate

Dear Inadequate Graduate,

I’m halfway through my program and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my degree, much less whether this is the right field for me. I love psychology and what I’m learning, but I just don’t know where this is all heading and I get freaked out when I think about ‘the real world’. Do you have any advice for the unknown future?

-DisillusionedStudent

Dear DisillusionedStudent,

I’m so glad you asked, this, as I have felt similarly a number of times when I was in school, and know many others who struggle with the question of ‘the real world.’ Early into my studies I was very sure that I wanted to enter the military and be a Navy psychologist. I tailored my class schedule accordingly and as I proceeded through recruitment process, I became very sure that I did not want to be a Navy psychologist. Initially heartbroken, I ultimately felt relieved to have this insight before I signed a four-year contract. I also was able to use this knowledge to choose different electives going forward, and I believe that taking time for self-reflection saved me hardship and headache in the long run.

That said, my advice is to examine why you love psychology, and your classes, and ultimately why you chose to pursue this degree. If you chose this because you enjoy your classes and/or the hope to help others by applying what you’re learning, I would say keep at it. As long as you are following that instinct, things will work out (possibly in unexpected ways). Although you are learning a specific set of skills, it is likely your education is also transferrable to other fields, even if your dream job doesn’t happen right away (or even if you don’t know what your dream job is). Feeling overwhelmed is common during training, but unless the idea of continuing in your program is absolutely unbearable, it can be difficult to stop midway with no direction and a ton of debt, so having a degree will likely be to your advantage even if you don’t use it in a traditional sense. 

That said, is there a way to structure your day/week/workload so that things feel a little more manageable?  Or, can you take some time off to examine what would be the best choice? It might behoove you to seek out a trusted person to explore this further, as well as reconsider your time- and stress-management skills to get to the root of your uncertainty and overwhelm.

If, however, you entered your program for reasons other than wanting to invest time and energy into what you are learning in classes and with clients (such as wanting to proving something,  someone pushed you in this direction, etc), I would encourage you to reexamine your priorities. One of the tragically beautiful aspects of studying a psychology-related discipline is that is requires intensive self-examination. I personally found this both daunting and liberating, but in being very honest about your values, motives, and priorities, you will likely find the answers that you are searching for. 

Many paths can lead to happiness, and remember that whatever path you chose,

You. Are. Enough.

Signed,

The Inadequate Graduate

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