|dc.description.abstract||The process of becoming a psychologist requires a great deal of time,
energy, and training that results in a transformation from student to professional.
Likening the developmental process of professional identity construction to the
building of a custom home, the current study sought to understand the process
whereby early career psychologists begin to “customize” their professional
identities. With the understanding that the construction of professional identity is
a lifelong developmental process, the current study provides a conceptualization
of the important factors comprising customization. After the foundation of one’s
professional career has been “laid and framed” throughout graduate training,
customization commences. As no two custom homes look completely alike,
neither do the careers of two recently licensed psychologists.
Qualitative research methods afforded the opportunity to explore
professional identity using in-depth interviews with eleven early career child
psychologists who had graduated from doctoral training programs within the last
two to six years. Upon thorough analysis of the interviews, a theoretical model
emerged conceptualizing the decision-making process of early career
psychologists during customization. The decision-making process is comprised
of three components: connections, weighing options, and settling. Forces of
reality and ideals were found to significantly impact decision making. Forces of
reality exist outside of the individual and include romantic relationships, family,
finances, and health issues. Ideals exist within the individual and are comprised of
personal and professional interests, characteristics of self, and goals. Achieving
balance between forces of reality and ideals in the context of the decision-making
process is discussed.
The results of the current study hold implications for training and
professional practice. It is hoped that results are used to inform training practices
for students and establish mentoring programs for early career psychologists.
Psychologists-in-training require time and experience to grapple with the forces of
reality and ideals within the supportive context of graduate school. It is hoped
that such experiences will result in a shift of priorities for the early career
psychologist, placing importance on the need to strive for balance between
personal and professional factors, which will facilitate preparedness in making
informed professional decisions.||