I met a new person recently who I am more than likely to work with in the near future. This person graduated with a psychology degree in 2010 (not from Salford by the way!). You might expect that a shared passion for psychology would provide a solid foundation for our potential working relationship. However, they were very anti-psychology and said that their degree had been no use whatsoever in terms of getting a graduate job. I initially took this personally and questioned whether I wanted to work with someone who disliked psychology as a discipline so much. Dissing psychology is like dissing me as who I am is so bound up with psychology – I teach psychology, I carry out psychological research, I talk about it all day, I talk about it out of work.
I also see the world from a psychological point of view – being an academic is something you can’t switch off. I am particularly interested in how we construct ourselves in social interaction with others. I thought that positioning psychology negatively seemed to enable this person to maintain a positive sense of self and also justify a career path outside of the field. Then I reflected on how I felt about psychology upon graduating. For a while, I too rejected psychology when I gave up on the idea of becoming a clinical psychologist, something which had driven me through my entire degree. I even sold all my psychology textbooks on eBay only to repurchase most of them a few years later. So the anti-psychology was nothing personal. I’ve even experienced it and my own take on psychology also stands outside the ‘mainstream’.
Later on in our conversation we spoke about this person’s dissertation research which they discussed passionately and in such detail it was as if they had just finished it yesterday. They argued for the relevance of the chosen topic and defended their psychological research. It felt like the passion for psychology was still there somewhere. Psychology just hadn’t featured explicitly in this person’s career. Or had it?
This person has a job working with a wide variety of people on a range of social issues. Their job involves collaborating with academics within the social sciences. This person was clearly a critical thinker and problem solver, which I think are crucial attributes for professional, ethical and humanistic community engagement. This person also recognised that psychology students would benefit from ‘real-world’ work experience, something which this person could definitely enhance given their psychological knowledge.
My mentor has a saying that graduates only recognise the relevance of their degree, regardless of topic, five years after graduating. The person I met is currently in their third year after university. If the theory is true, perhaps now psychology will begin to demonstrate its relevance for them. In a way, I am still taking it personally because I am on a mission to change their mind. My starting point is this blog post!