Dream Career: Pediatric Psychologist

When I first entered graduate school, I knew what my “dream job” was — it was to be a pediatric psychologist, of course! But, truthfully, I am still not certain what specific jobs I will be applying for when the time comes. This is because while I have uncovered my true passions, I have also been exposed to a variety of incredible career paths available to pediatric psychologists! As I close in on applying to internship and making the big transition from pre-doc to post-doc, I find myself more eager than ever to realize not just my dream job but my dream career, as pediatric psychologists are likely to have a variety of positions over the span of their working years.

Whether your dream career picture is crystal clear or a little blurry, fortunately, there are plenty of avenues for exploring what pediatric psychology career is calling you.  Here are some ideas:

Talk to your mentors, advisors, and supervisors. Ask your mentor if they would meet with you to discuss their career path and yours. Ask them: Why did you choose your job? How did you get it? When and how did you realize that was what you wanted? What other jobs/careers did you consider? Any advice for someone following in your path?

Network. They say the contacts you make as a graduate student will help you land your first job. Meet as many other pediatric psychologists as you can, and find out what they do! Have you heard about someone with a job that sounds interesting to you? Reach out to them, introduce yourself, and express interest in learning more about their work!

Use APA’s Resource for Individual Development Plans (see link below). This is a career tool developed through the Opening Doors Summit organized by 2014 APA President Nadine Kaslow, PhD, which sought to help graduate students transition into their first jobs. The IDP is a reiterative five-step process which includes 1) assessing your values, skills, and interests; 2) exploring careers and the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed for them; 3) comparing and contrasting your career goals with your current skill set and training; 4) setting goals by making concrete plans to improve your skills; 5) implementing your plans by using milestones to measure your progress.

Attend APA in Denver this August. Division programming offers opportunities to hear about what pediatric psychologists are doing in a variety of settings! The convention is a great place to also think about how pediatric psychologists fit in with psychologists from other sub-disciplines, as well as in the larger health care system. The division will be offering Speed Mentoring again, perhaps one of the best ways to meet a variety of pediatric psychologists. The APA of Graduate Students (APAGS) also offers programming specifically designed for student career exploration (for example, “Alternative Career Paths with a Doctorate in Psychology” or “Plan Today to Succeed Tomorrow: Individual Development Plans for Graduate and Postdoctoral Training”). And do not forget about other division programming for students– the Internships/Postdoctoral Fellowship Training Programs on Parade, a Q & A session on applying for internships in child clinical and pediatric psychology, and a student social co-hosted with Divisions 16, 27, and 53!

Attend SPPAC in Portland next March. The opportunities to explore career paths while at SPPAC are endless. Not only is there a variety of programming delivered by pediatric psychologists from a variety of settings, there are also direct sessions on such topics (for example, this past SPPAC in Atlanta there was the symposium “Psychologists as Innovators in the Pediatric Medical Setting: Moving Beyond Traditional Roles”) and direct opportunities to meet with mentors in the field and ask how their career paths developed (e.g., the Mentoring Luncheon).

Maintain passion, enthusiasm, optimism, and an open mind! They also say your first job is usually never your dream job, but it should always be a stepping stone to it. Be open-minded to opportunities that come your way, especially during these important years of health care reform. And do not forget the power of visualization– if you see it you can achieve it!

Please contact me with questions and comments at SPP.StudentRep@gmail.com