This post is a bit different from other posts. In fact it wasn't even written in this year or the one before. As I was cleaning out and organizing all of my electronic files I came across this reflection I wrote in the midst of internship interview season.
As a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology, the last hoop you jump through before everyone must call you doctor is internship: a one year, full-time, clinical position. The internship itself was a pretty amazing experience; the interviewing was a whole other story. This is that story.
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In the last three weeks I have spent 19 nights sleeping in a bed – or couch – not my own. We often incorrectly make the assumption that because we understand the facts regarding a situation that it then holds we understand the context. I can say with certainty that I have been on 11 flights, 1 train, and driven almost 9 hours over the last three weeks, but that does nothing to capture the intricacies of the internship interviewing process; not just the exhaustion, but the complete numbness to the process and your responsibilities –
I took a nap immediately after each interview if the situation permitted, if I didn’t have to run to the airport for the next adventure. I learned exhaustion wasn’t cumulative, it grew exponentially such that any prior predictions or nightmares I envisioned missed the mark completely in the face of time zones, prolonged presentation management, and loved ones asking me what I thought of internship program X when I wasn’t even sure I had thoughts. I stole alone time any moment I got, slept when I could, and enjoyed the feel of walking outside in a strange place even if it was raining and cold. Asking curious others to hold off on drawing out opinions until I could sleep in my own bed and shifting focus onto the programs themselves helped to alleviate the unspecified frustration without providing any clarification to the outcome.
Research, organization, practice all served to prepare me for the interviews themselves and yet because I viewed the experience, understood the context, as a series of high stress, low transparency, professional interviews I came away from the experience lost. Assuming we are all proficient in our designated fields, know how to act like “normal” people, and can maintain that composure for a period of time it’s safe to assume that we could come out of interviews fairly certain we did not send up any red flags. I like to think I’m the type of person others would want to work with and yet the question I feel ill prepared to answer is how do I know if I want to work with them?
Internship programs tell us to ask questions that can help us make informed decisions, guides tell us what questions we may want to ask but what they fail to tell you is that data is not the goal in all of this, figuring out who you want to be is – and that’s a much harder question. Now that I have had a few days to breathe and sleep, have relearned how to process information and be a graduate student, I am left with the realization that I do not have the analytic plan to make any sense of the data I’ve collected.
More frustrating, the realization that as time goes on the data does not magically form into pros and cons that are along the same continuum but rather everyone else tells you which analysis to use to understand your data, essentially adding new variables that continue to make a mess of it all. Three days ago I had decided to follow “the feels” – that giddiness which has served me so well up to this moment in pointing me in a direction that I knew I’d have sustained passion. Today, I listened to esteemed advisors tell me to ignore the facts of internship and take a new perspective – go somewhere with mentors and a network that will advance your career. Naturally, I just want to go to sleep.
Dr. Jessica is a psychologist (supervised practice), author, and trainer who is dedicated to bringing science-driven advice and information to everyone.