205: Becoming a Doctora and First-Gen Professional with Dr. Mayra Gaona

205: Becoming a Doctora and First-Gen Professional with Dr. Mayra Gaona


This week I interview Dra. Mayra Gaona who discusses her process of becoming a doctora and first-gen professional. Mayra Gaona is a school psychologist. She received her PhD in School Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. She is currently completing a postdoctoral experience in a hospital/university setting in the Chicagoland area. She is also serving as an adjunct professor. Her research interests include trauma-informed schools, multi-tiered supports for EL students, and the experiences of newcomer immigrant youth. She is also the founder and creator of the IG page @becomingadoctora where she shares tips and inspiration for first-gen students whose hope is to pursue graduate school.


In this episode, Dra. Mayra shares her background as a first-gen Mexicana and the strong influence her immigrant parents had on her education. She shares how she discovered her passion for psychology and what school psychology is. She also reveals how and why she launched her “Becoming a Doctora” platform during the early part of the pandemic to provide inspiration and build community. And she acknowledges the feelings of uncertainty and doubt that come with transitioning into life after the PhD when you do not immediately land your dream job.


You can connect with Dra. Mayra on Instagram: @becomingadoctora and Twitter: @MayraAGaona

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Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:02

Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring podcast. This is your host, Doctora Yvette, and today we have a special guest who's going to discuss her journey on becoming a doctora, does that sound familiar?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:19

Our guest is Doctora Mayra Gaona. She is a school psychologist and received her PhD in School Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. She is currently completing a postdoctoral experience in a hospital university setting in the Chicago area. She's also serving as an adjunct professor. Her research interests include trauma informed schools, multi tiered supports for ELL students, and the experiences of newcomer immigrant youth. She's the founder and creator of the Instagram page becoming a doctora where she shows tips and inspiration for first show students whose hope is to pursue graduate school. Welcome to the podcast, Dra. Mayra.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 1:04

Thank you so much for having me doctora, it's a it's a pleasure.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:08

Oh, so happy. I'm so happy to have you here to talk about the first gen experience and what it's been like for you becoming a doctora and a first gen professional. And I would love for you to get us started by telling us a little bit more about your background, your backstory, and how you got to where you are today. Anything you're open, comfortable sharing with us.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 1:31

Yes, of course. So I think for a lot of us, right, as a first generation students, I think our background is super, super important to us. And so I love the opportunity to get to share that with with folks, right, but I am obviously first gen Mexicana, daughter of immigrants from Michoacan, Mexico. So my parents immigrated similar to many other parents of first generation students and a very young age. And so my dad was the first to, there's a little bit of a difference in ages between my parents, and so my, my dad's the one who got to the United States, like sooner than my mom did. And so he actually started working as an agricultural worker in California.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 2:25

And so I sort of whenever I share my story, I'm like, you know, I've have never lived in California, but I feel like my story, you know, starts like from Mexico. And then there's also, you know, the times that my dad spent in in California, and so he was an agricultural worker. And he always tells me all the stories right about just how hard that work was, and just this even stories about where they were worried que va venir la migra, you know, and, and just, you know, take them back to Mexico, essentially. And so all of those things are things that have stuck to me. And I like to, you know, remember those those things, right, especially throughout my journey, like remember those things to, to kind of push me forward. And so that's a little bit about my dad.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 3:15

And then my mom. So her, her dad was also working as an agricultural worker, I think it was more of like a bracero, right? Because it was like, a little bit back. Yeah. And so essentially, he was able to, you know, have his children come over to this country, but it was also again, at a very young age. And so, you know, ever since then, I think my parents have always had, you know, have always been from the working class, had a working class background. And so we grew up being low income, my parents were working factory jobs, and to this day, they still are. And so that's a little bit about my background. And like I said, we grew up low income, but I feel like similar to other first generation students, I feel like I never needed more, right? Like my parents were able to, you know, provide for me and they instilled I think, a really good really some really good values, right? And the biggest one being education.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 4:16

And so there wasn't an expectation per se, right. Like for me, because I have I'm one of three siblings, one of two siblings, I should say, I have two sisters. And so there was never an expectation of like, okay, you're gonna go to college, you know, you're gonna do this, I feel like it was very much living day by day, right and really learning as we go, right? And then sometimes from other families, right, like, my parents with, you know, friends that they would have here in the United States or people that they work with in the United States, like we learn about certain different things. And so again, I don't think I you know, as a child, I don't think I ever imagined okay, this is what I want to do. I'm gonna go to college, right? I never think I don't know, personally, I never really like. I was, I don't know if I never thought about, like what I would be when I grow up, right.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 5:10

But again, just like given our backgrounds and like you literally lived it day to day, right? So you don't really imagine, like what's gonna come in the future. And so my sister was like the first in our family to pursue college, and she applied to college. And she was in college for quite a while didn't finish her studies, due to a variety of reasons, right, but she kind of paved the way for my siblings and I. And again, my parents instilled education. And so this opportunity sort of was presented right to my sister. This guidance was provided to my sister, and she was able to, you know, pave the way for my siblings, and I and so from there, I was able to apply to college.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 5:58

Again, I didn't really know what I was, what I was doing, I was sort of like, okay, my sister apply. So I guess that means I have to apply. But yeah, high school. I don't want to sound like my parents, but I was like, that'd be a mudra. I like I got like, grades. Like I didn't take my education very seriously, even though my parents were like, You guys have to do well, you know. And so in college was like, you know, the first time that I actually like, cared, right, and I think a lot of that was because I was able to able to find psychology. And I was able to find something that I was passionate about. But anywho, I don't want to get into some of the some other stuff that we'll talk about later. But that's a little bit about myself and how I came to education and my journey.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 6:51

Yeah, that's a perfect segue. Because I was curious. It was like, why psychology? And then how did you go from majoring in psychology to then pursuing grad school, because if you, if you started out really young, not even knowing about going to college not having this conception to then arrive at college and want to then jump into graduate school. That's a huge leap. I know, I wanted, I actually wanted, I didn't know what college was. But I wanted to go to college when I was little, I had never stepped foot on a college campus. But when I got to college, I didn't even know grad school existed. And so I'm curious what your journey pursuing graduate school was, like, like, at what point did you find out about it? What motivated you to apply? And specifically, why school psychology? Because that's a very specific field.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 7:43

Yeah, and that that's a great question. And so like I said, I started taking psychology courses in college really loved it. And it came so natural to me, and so easy. And so, I was like, I was undeclared, like an undeclared major for a little bit. And then as I started taking courses, I was like, okay, I think I want to commit to this, you know, I was having commitment issues. I was like, do I want to do this? Or not? But no, I went for it. And I was like, okay. And so from there, I think I started just becoming really involved with research. I was like, on a, I would support one of my professors with research, but then we have the opportunity to, to complete, like our own sort of, like research projects.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 8:36

And so from there, it was, like, I was able to create my own research project, like I presented. It was like, you know, just like, academic stuff, right, essentially. And so from there, I was very sort of just intrigued, and I think I, at the time, I didn't know, but a lot of my professors, I think we're picking up on the fact that I was actually building experiences that could make me a very competitive applicant, right? So for me, it was like, I'm just going through these notions, because I like this, right. But then I think my professors were like, you know, you could apply to graduate school. And so this actually, this idea wasn't presented to me until like, June, like my third year of college. So like, almost towards the end. And I always tell folks, like, don't do this. Obviously, this is what happened to me.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 9:28

But yes, I learned about this possibility of graduate school, like towards the end of my like, junior year of college, and then like the summer and then I applied like the during my fall of senior year, and so it took it was like a very short turnaround, right. And so I was like thinking about it, considering it and it was like, okay, it's time to apply. And so as I say, do not recommend this to to folks, right, obviously, this was what happened to me right? And I'm glad it worked out. But oftentimes I sit and think and like, how different would it have been right? If I have spent a little, little bit more time, right? Maybe preparing? Maybe, if people weren't pushing me to like, figure out what comes next, right?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 10:17

Because I think there's always that there was definitely that, that I was like. So it's either I have to get a job after I graduated college, or it's grad school, there wasn't anything in between, right. And so that also, I think, really influenced that decision whether or not I wanted to pursue graduate school, like right off the bat. Um, so yeah, I mean, like I said, it was a very short turnaround. And then luckily, and again, by no means do I recommend this, but it ended up being that I was accepted into a school psychology program.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 10:51

And psychology is very broad, it has different like branches of psychology. And there was like, clinical psychology programs, there was like community psychology programs, like school psychology programs. So when I was applying, I just kind of went broad, like, I was just like, honestly, like, all of these sorts of programs have like interests of mine, because I've always sort of been a person who like, could see myself like, my interests are broad, right? Where they could be applicable to different like, just like, areas of studies, right? And so I was like, okay, I'm gonna apply to like, clinics, some clinical programs, or apply to the school programs and apply to like community programs. At the time, again, I don't know if that was the right thing to do. But I did it.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 11:39

And so I learned about really school psychology, like very later on in, in my college career, I learned about it, I would say, much more right during the whole process of like, interviews and like everything. And so school psychology was right at the intersection between education and psychology. And that to me was like, you know, amazing, right? Because I was always I love those fields, right? Separately, but when they come together, I think it's just so much so powerful, right? And so, I always knew in my head, I'm going to work with kids. And so it just kind of seemed like the perfect fit for me, right? Obviously, it ended up being sort of just like, a weird way to learn about school psychology. Right. But that did. That's how it worked out for me. And, yeah, I mean, that's like pretty much it. And then after that, I was definitely, you know, as I was seeking some of the coursework, I was like, Yeah, I made the right choice, you know, and so, yeah, that's how I came to really how I really came to this field.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 12:47

I love that you shared that you had this general interest in psychology, and then you decided to kind of explore the different areas. And then you arrived at this intersection. Sometimes we arrive at disciplines because of the intersection of our different interests. So like, in my case it was performance studies, which is the intersection of anthropology and theatre. So school psychology, education and psychology. I'm glad that you mentioned that and that you mentioned your interest in working with kids. Can you quickly, just for folks who might not be familiar with school psychology, maybe say a little bit more about what school psychologists do?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 13:29

Sure. So school psychologists are, I would say most folks think it is doing a lot of like assessments of students and essentially collecting information. And doing testing to see to say, a student might need like special education. And so that's what folks tend to think that it is. But essentially, the role of a school psychologist is very, we do a lot of things. So we provide therapy within the schools. We consult with teachers on a variety of like different things such as interventions, just like crafting strategies that they can incorporate in their classrooms so that students can learn better. We collaborate with parents and we sometimes help develop programming for families to increase sort of family school collaboration.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 14:27

We do a variety of different things. I feel like it's you know, that we do a lot more than just testing. We do assessment, counseling, consultation, and collaboration, just a broad range of things. And I think it's the field has been developing a lot more and I think they've been building more ways for people to learn about this about the role right of a school psychologist because our field in general psychology is very white, right? But our particular field our specific field for psychology is also very white. And it doesn't reflect the population in schools.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 15:04

Thank you for sharing that. I'm actually glad I asked because I've worked with school psychologists before, like in relation to getting accessibility supports for my son. But I actually didn't realize that there's this whole breadth of things that you do as a school psychologist, including, like the programming aspect of that I didn't know about that. It reminds me of when a while back when I interviewed someone who was a school librarian, and then I realized, wow, librarians do so much. So I'm glad that you shared that and you kind of demystified the profession a little bit more.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 15:38

I would love to go back to to your grad school experience, though, because I know that I, you're here to talk about the process of becoming a doctora that word is, is so particular. And in terms of becoming for a lot of us, especially first gen Latinas and first gen BIPOCs. It can be quite a shock, you know, why in some, it's not always the case. But it can sometimes be full of lack of support, or lack of representation in higher ed. And so I'm curious about your experience. And what were some of the challenges that you specifically faced as a first gen Latina in your graduate program?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 16:26

Yes. So I attended a primarily white institution. And there's things that I constantly reflect on, right, like what could have made my journey better. And, you know, as I had stated, previously, like, my faculty saw that I could be competitive enough to apply to graduate school, they pushed me to apply to graduate school. And I'm very grateful for that. But there was a gap, right in the fact that they, they didn't fully sort of give a disclaimer, right? Like, these might be some of the things that you will encounter, right, as a person of color, right. And to some extent, I understand that, that that wasn't a part of their identity, right. And so maybe it was not, they felt like that it might not be their place to share, because that's not an identity that we share. But I do feel like a lot. And I feel like I share this experience with some folks that I've spoken to, but that's a gap, right?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 17:31

So I think we need faculty professors, if you're advising students, right, especially, like, from bio BIPOC populations, like you should not just be advising to like pushing your advisees to apply to graduate school, but you should also demystify sort of some of the the challenges or how these institutions and systems are set up, right. And so I obviously got into this program and a PWI had no idea what a PWI was. And so immediately, it was like, big culture shock. So I went from a smaller institution, HSI. And it felt like, oh, my gosh, like, it was a lot, right, a lot of things to process. And so obviously, like I said, it was a much larger institution. So that was one thing.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 18:26

But I realized no one around here really looks like me, you know, that was like, the biggest thing I went from an HSI and, you know, I had a group of friends back in undergrad, and you know, we would all like, you know, we were like Latinos, right? And so, we'd be like chatting in Spanish, like, you know, just the way that we, as Latinos are like, that's the way that we would like build community and just like chat amongst each other. And that was like, it felt like a little piece of home, right.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 18:57

And when I wanted to visit institution, I was like, okay, well, I'm not getting any of that fear, you know? And so yeah, definitely, lack of representation was like, the biggest thing for me, and it definitely hurt a lot. And I think that contributed a lot to the uncertainty and doubt that I had the first couple years of my program. And so the first couple of years, it was just so hard to get adjusted, right? Like, not only because of the, you know, the fact that it was such a large institution, the fact that there was no representation. It was also that grad school was very, very different. The expectations were different.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 19:43

Before it felt like people were were holding my hand right and almost like, okay, like, these are the course requirements, like this is sort of the expectation like you're supposed to do XYZ assignments, and this is, you know, this is what it looks like, but in in grad school, it was very like independent, more independent, right, we're like, we're gonna give you these readings, you have to decide when you're going to do them. And on top of this, you have to go to, at least for us, we had to do some, like applied experiences within the schools. And so it was like very much figuring out your own schedule, a little bit more independence. And so that was so hard for me as well. I was like, oh, my goodness, like, I don't know how to do this, right. So there was there was also that right to navigate.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 20:30

And so at first, like the first two years, I can say, so, so, so hard. I remember just so many times my first year of the program, just being so worried about whether or not I appeared smart amongst my classmates, whether or not if I spoke up, and I said something, whether like faculty would say, she's not going to be she's not smart enough, why did we even let her into this program? Right, um, things like that. And so I would come home crying a lot. And I don't know, it was just probably one of the most difficult times of the program, right. Over time, I think, you know, we all sort of develop ways to, to resist right to, to just overcome a lot of these challenges. But I would say that those were like, sort of the primary ones.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 21:29

In addition to lack of representation, I think just like mentorship for me, like it wasn't, at least I've personally always sought out a mentor who looks like me, right? Who can understand what it is to come from a family like mine, when I say a family, like mine is like a, you know, a Latino family with collectivist values and things like that, right? And sort of understand that I'm not just an academic, that I'm always kind of be going to be thinking about my family, like, you know, just having to work right, like things like that. And so I always struggle with that aspect to the fact that I never had mentors like that, in my graduate journey, right. And so, again, much later into my journey, right, I was able to just develop some ways to cope with those things and overcome some of these challenges. But yeah, I would say overall, it was, it was all of those things. And it was, it was definitely difficult.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 22:33

Hearing you talk about your experience, is an experience that I hear so often, it's almost like an echo of so many of us who have that same feeling those same thoughts of I'm not good enough, they made a mistake, being afraid to participate, going home crying, and I wish that I could like go to your previous self and even whisper in all of the ears of all the undergrads that are listening to this podcast episode to say, like, you're not alone, and you are more than worth it. And you are in this space for a reason. And if you don't feel good enough, it's because these spaces are not affirming you enough. And I'm just I'm glad that you shared that because it's again, it's part of the larger echo of like reminding people that they're not alone.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 23:26

But then also I can imagine, it might have been the catalyst or one of the reasons behind, you're starting your platform. So I would love for you to now talk to us about how did that get started, because you've got a really big platform. And it's incredible everything that you share. And it's so inspirational and motivational. And I'm sure folks who are listening to the podcasts are also familiar with you and your platform. So how did that get started? Tell us all the chisme.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 24:00

Yeah, I love this question. And I'm sometimes I'm like, oh, how did I start this, but I think it was an idea that I had for a while. And so from me thinking about this idea to actually executing the idea. It actually took a while, but I followed pages, like the pages of academic mami, Latina grad guide. And I was like, this is really awesome, right? And at times, I felt like it was my only sort of like, outlet right to know, okay, there's other people doing this. The hard part sometimes is that other people, so a lot of these creators, like lived in California, right?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 24:45

And so I was living out here in the Midwest, and I was like, it's like, we're doing the same thing, but it doesn't feel like you know, like, it's just for me, I'm like a very location like, I need to feel that you're somewhat close to me. Right. Again, I think it's similar to when we speak of representation, right? Like, someone who understands my context, right. And so for me, I was like, okay, there's not this context piece right now. And so I, obviously, for a variety of reasons, that was one of the things right, I was like, why don't I try and maybe do something similar, right. So that was one of the initial ideas.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 25:27

But I was also like, I was, like, I had told you, I was really going through it, right. And I was like, I don't have too many people to share this with, like, obviously, I had my siblings, but you know, your siblings, obviously, I know, my siblings are kind, right. And they will listen to me, but it's just, it's different. And so I, at the time, didn't have too much of a support system. Because a lot of the friends that I had an undergrad, we all sort of went our separate ways, right? Like we all had different career journeys, right. And so I was sort of just in the midst of two of just like, a friendship transitions. I don't know if that's the best word, but something like that.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 26:15

And so this idea really came from, okay, I want to share my experiences, right? It's okay, if I don't get like if people don't care, but at least I want to just like make this something for me, right? Where I sort of release stress. And I post pictures of like, this was this day, and this happened, right, whatever. So it came from that. And it also, in some ways, it was like stress, right? A stress reliever for me. Right. And so I saw pages like the ones that I had mentioned. And I was like, why not? Right? Well, yeah, I think that's pretty, pretty much it, it seems very simple. But it's just kind of incredible what how much I think that that page has given me and just a side note, this is actually three years today, from my page.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 27:09

Felicidades, three years, that's incredible, everything that you've done in the three years since then you have become a doctora.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 27:21

An additional point that I just forgot to mention, and if it's okay, I want to add, um, so I have, like I said, this is the idea. I forgot to share the execution, right, like when I actually, like, made it happen. But I actually started again, I'm celebrating three years with my page. And so I actually started this page in 2020. And so it was like, right in the middle of the pandemic, and como que nunca me anime, right, a hacerlo mas temprano. I was kind of like, huh, like, this is a great idea. But I'm also don't not sure I have the time for it, or sure that I want to put myself out there.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 28:00

And so during the pandemic, I was like, literally, I have time, right? Because we can go go out I'm in. I'm in here, I'm in this house. And why not? You know, and I think for me, it was like a lot of, I think for a lot of us, right? The pandemic forced us to like reevaluate some of the things that we were doing right on on a daily basis, right, and really what our values were right, and what things matter to us. And so I think that that is also just a very, very powerful. That was a powerful time for me, right. And this is how, and this is something I was able to do a product right of just like those times. And like I said, this page has given me so much, but I think that that was important to share that it happened during the pandemic.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 28:55

I think yeah, you're right. For a lot of us during the pandemic, it was a big I don't know how to describe it. But it was we learned a lot of lessons from the pandemic about what what are the things that are most important to us? What are the things that we need, and one of the things that a lot of us needed and continue to need this community and you were able to build that through your platform? And I'm curious, what, specifically like were you said, it's given you so much like what kind of impact have you noticed that it's had and, and what what do you envision for the future of the platform? I can picture you doing a lot of things, but I'm just curious if you have considered where you're taking it in the future.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 29:41

Yes. So when I say that it has given me so much. I can definitely speak to community right and support. And so that was one of the original sort of ideas and sort of things that I even though I explicitly never said it out loud death place something that I was seeking out, right. And so I have been able to build relationships with folks on there that I had no idea that I would create, right? Like, I get to chat with folks like you, right? You're like, amazing. And I get to do that, right? Because of why? Because we connected on social media.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 30:19

And so this is the biggest thing, right, that I've been able to connect with a whole bunch of people from throughout the United States, but also outside of the country, right, who are pursuing, you know, academic degrees, right. And we're all kind of like, on the same boat, right? We all were, are on the same boat, and we're all navigating the same things. And it decreased, right, the loneliness that I felt. And so that was the biggest thing, and it's still to this day continues to be the biggest thing, like, people sending me for us, right for like, different, you know, things that I'm pursuing now, right, as a, as a first gen professional, and I do the same to others, right. And I know, we're all kind of like a small, small community mighty community. Basically hacemos todos eso right, like we all like root for each other.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 31:11

And one of the other things that I've seen it transform, like social media transform into, it's just like a powerful tool to for networking, and for like, sharing information, sharing opportunities, like, you know, job opportunities, like research studies, like things like that. And so this is what I mean, when, when I say has given us so much right. And personally, for me, I definitely feel that in a variety of ways. And I'm just, I feel like that's pretty much it. I mean, I can't, I'm just so grateful for it, you know, I'm, I feel like I've been able to utilize social media as a tool in those ways, right to build community to advance my own professional career, right. And all pages like yours have been super instrumental to me for just like tips, right? And how to sort of keep moving forward. And I know we owe a lot of this right to folks like you, right, who are more advanced in your careers, and who have paved the way for a lot of us who have pages like this. So thank you, and shout out to you as well.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 32:23

Oh, thank you, thank you. And I can envision you'll keep doing this work for a while, especially now that you have made this transition. And I could argue you're still in the transition of the from student to professional, I feel like it took me a while to fully to fully lean into my doctora identity. And to get acclimated to oh, I'm not a student anymore. I'm curious about that, about that transition for you. What lessons have you learned or are currently learning about the transition from being a student and graduate student in particular? And now being a first time professional?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 33:07

Hmm. Yeah, so one of the biggest lessons for me has been that it never, you never really start, stop paving the way right, like, it's a constant like, cycle of like, okay, I'm navigating this for the first time, right. And so as a, as a professional as a study, a very starting psychologists, right, in anything that I've had to pursue, right. I've always sort of been like, I don't know how to do this, right. Like, I've never, like, I just, I've never done this, right. And so it's like a learning curve, right. And it's like, consistently learning new information. Right. And so that was the biggest thing for me. I was like, Oh, so you mean, this isn't over. Like, I have to keep doing this.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 34:01

I hate to cut it to you, but yea.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 34:02

Yeah. And yeah, so see, this is using it. So like, now I gotta really, you know, get that into my head. Right. Like, it's been an adjustment just to consistently, you know, like, yeah, I don't know how to describe it. Right. But as we're leveling up, yeah, it's like, Oh, my goodness, but that's been the biggest one for sure. And I'll be honest with you, I think this is related right to, you know, being a first time professional, but I think there's also like a lot of doubt and uncertainty right after the PhD. And I know personally for me, you know, I spent a lot of time devoted to this program. And it was almost like, you know, I devoted everything right to this program like I live to breathe this graduate program. And so I think that, you know, people told me, right, this is how, you know, you work so hard, and you're going to see the outcome of it right and as soon as you graduate.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 35:16

And so sometimes the reality doesn't, doesn't match up right to the things that people tell you, that will happen. And so that was one of the big things for me too. Like, I was like, my reality does not match what people told me was going to happen, right? And so I think, you know, it's built up for us, right? And I shared this, I think, a couple of weeks ago, but I did not land my perfect job, right, right after the PhD, like, I'm gonna be real. I didn't. And I felt so sad for a while. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, like, what is going on? Like, why did I mess up? Why did I make this decision? Like, I shouldn't have accepted this position, blah, blah, like, it was a whole deal, right, like, um, but I was able to really, through just like, you know, internal work, and then talking to my therapist, she was able to say, you wouldn't have known right, that this is not the position you would have wanted, unless you had pursued it, right.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 36:23

And so I think, as first generation students, right, we want to be able to, you know, see the roots of our of that work, right, that we put in, right, we want to see the outcomes, right. Like, we know, like, for a lot of us, through our journey, that sacrifice is the biggest thing, right? And so we want to be able to show the sacrifice, valio la pena, right. So I think for me, I just the fact that I wasn't maybe I didn't land the perfect job, like that felt horrible, you know, what I mean? And I started, you know, to some extent, comparing my, like, post PhD job in my post PhD journey to like other people, which is not good. But it happens. And that was a lot. That was a lot for me to, to, to process to understand. And that's not something that a lot of people, I think, talk about, right, just what happens after the PhD, like, what are the feelings that come with finishing up a PhD, and I know that this is not obviously something that everyone goes through. But it is something that some people experience. And I mean, I can share, right that that was my experience. And that was one of the other things that I wasn't ready for, you know,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 37:49

It's actually quite common, I have a whole, I think, at least one episode on like, post grad blues. And so it reminds me of the parallels of like, the high expectations that you have of like landing a job or going to grad school after you finish your college degree. Similarly, after grad school, there's this like big expectation, like you're building up to this big moment, and then you file and you finish, you defend, you file, you finish. And you're like, This is it like what.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 38:15

And also, I appreciate you normalizing that, in a lot of cases, people don't end up landing their dream jobs. And if they do, it's not the first job. So I'd like to remind individuals, especially folks that like are within my vicinity, like to say, It's okay to have a stepping stone job, you know. It's okay to have a job that pays the bills, it's okay to not, for your job to not be your calling, like, because you are your calling. And you do, you can, like do that in different spaces doesn't have to be in your nine to five. And also the realities of folks who want to stay in academia and go on the tenure track job market, or that they're just not enough jobs. And you have no idea what the circumstances are for the people that do land, the jobs, what are their circumstances? What are their resources, what are their privileges? And sometimes some of it is just flat out luck in terms of what positions become available on any given year.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 38:21

So I just want to again, thank you for normalizing that, it actually is quite common to not not land your perfect dream job immediately after grad school. And that that's okay, too. And that, I mean, I guess everybody's outcomes for their PhD are different, but in my experience, I have never regretted getting a PhD because even if I didn't land the perfect job, as a result of it, I have become the person that I am now as a result of it and you have to I would, I would argue so yeah, I would love to try In addition to maybe having you share some words of advice, some consejos for first gen students, folks who are in the thick of it, who are currently navigating the grad school process, and maybe in their fields, too, because of all, you know, the struggles and yeah, I guess I have anything you want to share with them now that you're on the other side.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 40:25

Yeah, so I would definitely say that don't be afraid to, to seek out I think mentorship outside of your institution, right? Like, you don't have to devote all your time to institution or be or think that you owe your time to the institution, right? Like, you are more than okay to seek out external like mentorship, right to reach out to folks via social media for mentorship, right? And I say that right? Because that was my my own experience, right? Like, I always, like I kept saying, right, during earlier during the, the, this episode I mentioned, right, like, I never had somebody who looked like me, who could mentor me. But I did seek that out through social media. And for a while I was like, is this weird? You know, should I do this but why not? You know what I mean?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 41:22

Wait, did you reach out to professor's through social media or to who?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 41:26

I reached out to different like senior psychologists. So like you had been, who have platforms and who have been out in the field for a while. And so I can share just an example. But when I was applying for postdocs, I was like, I don't know what I should be looking for. In a postdoc, I don't know how to negotiate like, I don't know, all of these things. And I was able to reach out to someone that I know, on social media, and I was like, hey, do you think you could maybe support me with this? Or like, what do you think are some kinds of questions that I should be asking? Or how can I go about this? And so she's somebody that I reached out to, via social media.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 42:07

And so I would, you know, tell folks like, it's okay to use tools like social media, right? Like, that's what these tools are for, right nowadays. And so don't feel like it's, it's not okay. Right. And again, I think our institutions oftentimes will tell us, Well, you shouldn't do this, well, you shouldn't do that. Right. But again, it's very much tailored to white students, right? To who might be have the resources, right, have the means. You know, and not tailor to us, right. And so we have to do things that are most authentic to us, right, that are most helpful to us. And so I know, it can be hard at first, but don't be afraid to do it, it will be so beneficial. So that's my, my first piece of advice.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 42:56

And then my second piece of advice is definitely to, to hang in there. And I say this, because I like I shared right. I had such a hard time, the first two years of my program, particularly the first year of my, of my program. And so I think it takes time, right, obviously, to adjust to a different setting for many of us, right. And, you know, I think that they're there. I think, to some extent, time needs to pass right by a little bit, and you need to get adjusted. And I think there's also you know, with time comes and understanding, right, I think that you belong, right. And I think that you have shared this talk, but I but you know, I think it's like being able to realize that acknowledge that you're not always going to be in this in this bad time. Right? That things will and can get better, right? And I hope that you know, for a lot of you that you're able to realize this right?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 44:11

And, you know, I know for a lot for me, personally, it was a lot of like, constantly telling myself every day like you belong here, right? And that is how I was able to you know, overcome a lot of these challenges. And so I will say Hang in there, right? And you can overcome these challenges, right? And it's leaning in into your support system, right? telling yourself that you're badass, right? Documenting all of those times that you thought you you couldn't but you could write one thing that was helpful for me it was looking at my acceptance. While will not look at because I got like a call when I was accepted into my program but like listening to things like that or or just having those things those achievements visible, right, that you can see that you got into this program. Right? So that means that you belong there. Right.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 45:06

And so those that is another just piece of advice, right, that you deserve to be there, that you can hopefully hang in there. Right. And that this is not, you know, this is this bad thing, right, the bad feelings, I think that come with just the transition and how big a journey like this is right. You know, are normal, but that it doesn't mean that this is going to stay this way forever. Right. And so yeah, that's, I think my second piece of advice, and I will leave it at that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 45:40

Right. Great. Well, we're getting close to wrapping up. I wonder if there's anything else that maybe we didn't get to cover or any other closing words? And if not, I would love for you to share how folks can stay in touch, reach you connect with you if they resonated with what they heard today and want to hear more?

Dra. Mayra Gaona 46:02

Yes, so I don't have anything additional to share. I mean, I just want folks to know, right? Like I was in your shoes, right before I was in your shoes, right? And so we have now well, we have now obtained our PhDs, right. And so as we mentioned, I know for me, I'm a postdoc. But you know, it never really, this is like a journey, right? A lot, lot lifelong journey that we embark on right as as just people who are paving the way, right. But you're not alone. That's the biggest thing I want to say, right? Like, you're not alone. There's so many of us who are doing this. And we're, honestly, we're doing pretty well, right, like a lot of us are killing it. I won't speak for myself, but I know that there's some folks who are. So that's just the last thing I want to say.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 46:53

And then folks can find me on social media on Instagram via my instagram handle is becomingadoctora on Twitter. My handle is mayraagaona and that is all for my social media. I also have an email and so my email is becomingadoctora@gmail.com. in case folks want to you know, have a question, or have some questions. I want to just share those via email. That would be perfectly fine, too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 47:28

Great. Great. So for all you school psychologists, folks who are interested in that field, go ahead and take advantage and shoot her a message. We will share all of those details in the show notes. I want to thank you that I might have for spending time with us today for sharing your knowledge, your experience your wisdom with all of us today. I appreciate you.

Dra. Mayra Gaona 47:51

Thank you so much, Doctora Yvette.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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