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Surviving the First Year as an Early-Career Psychologist



After an intense six-year journey to becoming a fully registered psychologist, transitioning from a structured, supportive learning environment to standing on your own can be both exhilarating and daunting, potentially leading to feelings of apprehension and self-doubt. Here are a few tips to guide you:


Confidence


When imposter syndrome sets in, remember that you have worked hard and earned your title. You are capable and competent and you have earned this title.


Ongoing Supervision


It might be tempting to skip the cost of supervision that you've been shouldering during your internship, but this is often the biggest mistake I see new psychologists make. Engaging in regular supervision as an early-career psychologist is crucial. It's one of the best ways to continue building your skills, competence, and confidence. Whether through individual sessions, group supervision, or peer consultation, having some form of supervision during this transition period is vital.


Self-care


Even though the stress of university and internships is behind you, the risk of burnout from clinical work is real and should be taken seriously. Being an early-career psychologist means you're at a higher risk for burnout, vicarious trauma, and occupational stress. It's crucial to have a solid self-care plan if you envision along career in psychology.


Community


Working as a psychologist can be isolating. Unlike other professions, where you might share details of your day with family, partners, or friends, confidentiality laws restrict this as a practitioner. Psychology work is unique, fulfilling, but also emotionally demanding. Connecting with others at the same stage of their career, to share experiences and ideas, is invaluable. I highly recommend taking time to build a support network of psychologists.


(Come join my online community for early-career psychologists with over 250 members!)



Professional Development


Embracing lifelong learning is part of being a psychologist. Our field is constantly evolving, and we have strict Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. The exciting part is now you get to choose your professional development path! In your first year, I suggest opting for practical trainings focused on skill-building. You're likely still mastering the basics, and these will form the foundation for your future practice.


Money Matters


Having invested significant time and money into your training, it's only fair that you are compensated appropriately for your expertise. It's important to acknowledge that pay rates can vary widely depending on the context. Typically, private practice is the most lucrative avenue. If you're in permanent employment, you might expect to earn around $55 per hour. For those considering contracting, aim for a negotiation that favours you with at least a 60/40 split. Public health settings may offer lower pay rates but often come with better employee benefits. While financial considerations are crucial, I advise balancing the pursuit of potential earnings with finding the right working environment. Enjoying your work is paramount as a psychologist, given the inherent risks associated with the role.



In all, the first year in the field can be a blend of excitement and nerves! While it may be tempting to forgo some of the supports you relied on during your internship, I recommend maintaining these as you begin your career. Remember, you have earned your professional title as a psychologist, and are likely more competent than you believe. However, learning in psychology is a lifelong journey, and there is still a steep learning curve in the first few years of practice. Whether it's mentorship, ongoing supervision, or professional development opportunities, these supports can be invaluable as you navigate the early stages of your career.





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