You’ve worked long and hard and put huge amounts of energy into your chosen profession, and now you’re entering your postgraduate year.

As you look for a great site that will utilize your skill set, it’s also important to have a plan for making the most of this final year of training. In this article, I will share some of the things that I wish I had known prior to beginning my postgraduate year.

1. Find the Right Placement

Start by looking for sites that match your interest, or what you would like your specialty to be once you are on your own.

This is a good way to gain the specific expertise you are looking for, while providing supervision and consultation with other staff members as you learn.

2. Find an Excellent Supervisor

I did not say find a good supervisor, because there are plenty of good supervisors out there.

You are looking for the supervisor who meshes with your personality and working style, and knows about the population with whom you are working.

If you wish to have a focus on REBT for trauma patients, for example, you might not want your supervisor to be an existential psychologist who works specifically with the geriatric population. Be selective and take the time to find someone you click with. Sometimes the supervisor you think is perfect for you might not be what you need at this specific point in your career.

On the other hand, choosing a supervisor who practices a different modality than yours can be eye opening. I graduated with a humanistic perspective, but my supervisor was psychoanalytic. It made for great conversation and better insight.

3. Find Free Supervision

If you have accepted a position with an agency who provides supervision as part of your employment, you may not be able to choose your supervisor. This can be challenging if you and your supervisor are unable to meet in the middle about certain aspects of a case, but it is much more affordable because you do not have to pay for supervision (which can really add up).

If you cannot afford to pay for supervision, take a look at agencies within your community who provide supervision as a perk. You might get a chance to work with a different population and learn a whole new set of skills. If you do not get along with your supervisor, try to see it as a challenge – learn something new about yourself as well as different ways to work with patients. We all need as many tools in our toolbox as we can carry.

4. Obtain Weekly Signatures From Your Supervisor

Use a software tool (like Time2Track) that will keep track of your hours for you and allow you to print off signature sheets for your supervisor (or get your hours approved online). Do this on a weekly basis rather than waiting until the end of the semester or year to get them all signed at once. In addition to being ahead of the game, you will have proof of your hours if something happens to your supervisor (eg. they quit the agency or pass away).

5. Start Studying for the EPPP Now

Most of us have to wait until we are done with our postdoctoral year before we can apply to sit for the EPPP, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing now.

You’ll be farther along when you receive your permission and be able to take the test much sooner than those who wait until after their postdoctoral year is complete to start studying. And you’ll have one less thing on your plate once the EPPP is finally behind you.

6. Prioritize Work, Life, and Family Balance

One of the most difficult things in your postgraduate year (or in graduate school period) is finding work / life balance. How do you balance your work, your family, and your own self-care without sacrificing one of these things for another?

An important thing to remember is to leave work at the office. You have done the best job you can today, so let your work stay at the office. That way you can be fully present with your family when you arrive home.

Find time at least once a week to do something nice for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – small things count too! Taking care of yourself gives you the energy you need to obtain your postgraduate hours and spend time with your family without feeling overwhelmed.

7. Get Your Own Therapy

It is vastly different on the other side of the therapy room, and getting therapy for yourself helps you to realize your patients’ perspectives.

It also allows you space to vent about work or life challenges and work through old issues. Therapy is an important component in an excellent self-care plan.

8. Enjoy the Process!

By the time you reach your postgraduate year, you have probably grown tired of keeping track of your hours and working under someone else. You have completed your practicums and your internship and feel ready to be out on your own.

However, your postgraduate year is the time in which you really learn the nitty-gritty of working in the behavioral health field, and it is an excellent way to explore without fear of failure. Use this time to challenge yourself and decide where you really want to be and what type of work you really want to do.

These are just some of the things to think about when entering your postgraduate year, but if you put in the time now to make this experience everything you want it to be, you’ll be in good shape.

Your postgraduate year is a time of growth and learning, so take the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the ride.

This article was originally published January 4, 2016.

Michelle Yep-Martin, PsyD