Identifying Bad Advice
The central mission of Psych Mic is to provide students with the resources and support they need to determine how they want to use their psychology background. However, there are just as many opportunities to receive “bad advice” as there are to receive “good advice,” and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Save this blog for determining if someone’s suggestions are helpful or harmful, and then how to proceed when you do receive potentially damaging feedback.
Here's some bad advice you may have heard:
“You need clinical experience to be competitive when applying to clinical PhD/PsyD programs.”
“You can’t do anything with a bachelor’s in psychology. You need a graduate degree to be successful.”
“Doctoral programs are harder than getting into medical school. It’ll be impossible.”
“If you don’t get published, don’t bother applying to doctoral programs.”
“Don’t waste your time getting a master’s degree. It’s not helpful.”
“You need to know exactly what your research interests are from the very beginning and only stick to that area of work.”
“You’ll never make money in this field.”
“There is no point in studying psychology unless you plan on being a therapist.”
“Once you choose a path, make sure it’s the right thing, because it’ll be hard to change direction if you’ve invested so much.”
“Starting a family in grad school is too hard. Wait till after.”
“Don’t worry about debt. Just do what you love.”
“Be prepared to not have a life in grad school. You’ll need to commit all your time to academics, or you won’t succeed.”
For more examples, an article with anecdotes from real professionals about the worst advice they’ve received in their career.
So who and what can I trust?
It can be extremely challenging to hear words of discouragement as they relate to your professional goals and interests. Remember these key points:
Most people who give you advice only know you in one context. There are not many people who know the whole you. For example...
Your professor only sees you in class
Your boss only sees you at work
Be wary of words of discouragement from people who don’t have a stake in your success.
“Don’t accept no from someone who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” For example...
You’re interested in working on a research team and are talking to a current RA on the team, who tells you the team isn’t looking to add more people. But the RA doesn’t have the power to say “yes, we want to hire you,” the PI does. Consider who’s the decision-maker!
Who is qualified to give you advice? Each person’s feedback holds different weight, so you should enter any interaction with the knowledge that some people don’t have the experience or the perspective to give you “good advice.” The following are good places to start when seeking mentors or others for feedback:
Research mentors who’ve shown they care
Professionals in the field you want to work
Current graduate students
In general, anyone who is invested in your success
It’s also important to remember that as a listener of Psych Mic, you are already being proactive in seeking out multiple sources of information. Bad advice (and good advice) is just that—advice—and it is in your power to combat any negativity when it comes to your personal journey in the field of psychology!