Postgraduate Psychology Careers and the Impact on Mental Health

Postgraduate Psychology Careers and the Impact on Mental Health Brighter Life Therapy

Graduating and psychology careers

Graduating from university can bring a wave of relief and excitement for many psychology postgraduates. This is especially following a term of dissertation projects and final-year exams. However, this can be closely followed by the competitiveness and stress experienced when trying to kick-start a psychology career.

Be it careers within the realm of clinical psychology, or contributing to public policy, many postgraduates come to the realisation that job-hunting straight after graduating can be stressful. One common example is Assistant Psychologist vacancies. It’s a very popular role many graduates apply for, with many of these applications being unsuccessful.

With or without the struggles of a pandemic, building a career from the bottom is, of course, no small thing. It can be very daunting, especially when it is a completely new experience!

Impact on mental health

Experiencing this part of life for the first time, coupled with initial rejection can be disappointing and a bit deflating. As a result, negative thoughts, feelings and general deterioration in mental health are commonly experienced.

Postgraduate Psychology Careers and the Impact on Mental Health Brighter Life Therapy

Negative self-worth

As a career (for most) is a massive part of life, it is not surprising how much career-related triumphs and short-comings can have an impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Postgraduates finding it hard to bag a job may experience this, especially with regards to their self-esteem. Such difficulties may trigger individuals to question their self-worth and their achievements. This can then act as a magnet for other negative, self-deprecating thoughts, such as those below.

Postgraduate Psychology Careers and the Impact on Mental Health Brighter Life Therapy

Vicious cycle

Continuous self-deprecating thoughts can lead to maladaptive behaviours such as avoidance. After experiencing several employment rejections, an individual may feel less motivated to write and send application letters. This also acts as a way of avoiding future rejections. 

This behaviour can fuel more negative thoughts e.g. ‘I am lazy.’. This creates a generally negative mindset, making it harder to be productive and focused. This vicious cycle is thus created, and can lead to troubling mental health issues such as low mood and depression. Not only that, but advantageous opportunities are also missed out on.

Upward comparisons

As an added note, such situations may be prone to trigger  ‘upward comparisons’ with those around us. It is very common for people to compare themselves to others. This may be from career and academic achievements, to personality traits and talent. Some are prone to do this as a way of judging their own progress, to help avoid falling behind.

Upwards comparisons occur when an individual compares themselves to someone they believe has achieved more in some way. In the context of job hunting, an individual who is struggling to find a job may begin to compare themselves to someone who has achieved employment. Although it can be motivational, it can also be damaging to our self-esteem and encourage unhelpful thoughts, as we draw inaccurate conclusions about ourselves.

How do we look after our mental health whilst job hunting for a psychology career?

Postgraduate Psychology Careers and the Impact on Mental Health Brighter Life Therapy

Don’t be so hard on yourself!

Try accepting that it is not always possible to go from graduating with a degree straight to the job you initially had in mind. This can be a big step to put your mind at ease. Be kind to yourself and set more achievable goals. For example, you can change ‘I will get a job by next month’ to ‘I will apply for 5 jobs this month’ to help remain productive. For long-term career goals, set that goal for a couple of years and work at it bit-by-bit.

Asking for advice

Most universities continue to offer postgraduates career advice after graduating. They can help in general terms, providing advice on how to plan your next career move as well as offering feedback on CV’s and cover letters. They can also take you through interview techniques and etiquette, and assist you with practice runs; something that I know could be very helpful, as many people find interviews very nerve-racking!

Some things require a review

If you do feel you are repeatedly unsuccessful, maybe review the jobs you are applying for to see what you are missing. For example, some employers are more inclined to employ those who have completed a masters course or will offer the role to someone with more experience.

Are there alternative roles you should be aiming for instead? Could you complete online training or volunteer work to make your application more appealing? It can also help to ask the employer themselves for feedback on your application as this can provide a clearer view of your next possible steps.

Assistance with your mental health

Hopefully these steps will provide a more positive outlook and can lead to less pressure on your mental health.

However, seeking professional help can be very beneficial if you feel you are struggling. With regards to our own services, Brighter Life Therapy provides fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108 or by emailing

Here at Brighter Life Therapy we also offer CBT mentoring. This can be one-off or several sessions, and usually takes place via zoom or phone. Read more about it here.

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