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Hey all,

I need an opinion. I've applied for Clinical Psych PhD programs, and I've accepted that I am not attending this year due to rejections, so I'm trying to figure out my next step. 

I am currently volunteering at two places--one is a research lab at my undergrad (started May 2016), the other is at a Level 1 trauma hospital, where I did a practicum my last semester of undergrad (Spring 2016) and have continued to volunteer after graduation. 

My research interests are to explore cultural values in ethnic minority communities and see its relationship with mental health stigma/help-seeking behavior. More specifically, I want to look at cultural values of individualism/collectivism and masculinity/femininity dimensions in ethnic minority women (i.e., assessing gender expectations and the difficulty is may be for ethnic minority women with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia). 

At the research lab, I'm helping with a dissertation study that looks at men who drink and sexual aggression. I'm in this lab more so to get experience interacting with clients and learn more about the gender aspect of my research interests. At the hospital, I'm getting more of the culture and mental health aspect, but I recently had to turn in my badge due to its expiration...and I can't renew it bc I'm no longer a student and renewal of the badge is expensive for non-students. Because I don't have a badge, I can't interact with clients and can only do administrative work, On top of all of this, I'm working a part-time job at retail that, since the holiday season has ended, is barely scheduling me at work. I'm getting scheduled for maybe three shifts every other week, with an hourly wage of $8.25. 

I'm pretty frustrated right now. I'm ready to improve my application for the next application cycle, but I'm trying to figure out what to do this year. I contacted an acquaintance of mine who is actually getting paid at the same hospital, but through a different psych organization. He said that one of the trauma studies at this organization is going to offer RA jobs in May or June, but that he can get me in touch with the study supervisor to start volunteering to get my foot in the door. This sounds great, but I don't know if I can manage volunteering at three different places for the next 3 months and stick with a part-time position. 

Part of me wants to give up the research lab. If I decide to help with this trauma study, I can get a badge and continue helping with the other organization. I can do all my volunteering at one place. This trauma study also looks at a specific ethnic minority population. I can work retail until this trauma study takes me on as a paid research assistant.

 Another part of me is unsure whether it's a good idea to leave this lab, as I don't want this to affect my letter of recommendation from the lab supervisor or relationship with the grad student (who I work for on her dissertation).

What would you do?  

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Sounds like a tough situation! I would definitely not give up on the lab especially if you don't have the other hospital position yet. You may have to volunteer for three different things and then pick and choose. It's never a bad thing to do multiple things, especially related to research. If you really want to quit one, think about who can get you far in terms of application, letter of rec., etc. If you are not planning on taking two years off, you will not get to know the hospital supervisor well enough for him to write you a solid letter of rec. In my personal experience, it takes at least a year of working with someone for them to really get to know you. 

I would encourage you to try to get on a poster, presentation, or paper in your current lab. Even if you quit, let them know that you want to work on such things after you leave. I left my lab but remotely worked on a paper for a while. Hope this helps and best of luck! I know this process is rough.

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