Jennifer McCormick is a counsellor and an assistant professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University Student Counseling Services.

I went to the University of Calgary to complete my undergraduate and masters in the field of psychology. When I first went to university, I originally was a geology major for a while. I started to take psychology classes as options and really enjoyed it, so I decided to switch to psychology.

I always knew I was interested in psychology, and it was at this point I took the risk of taking a psychology undergraduate without necessarily knowing where it was going to go. I worked for a couple of years and decided that it was time to go back and complete my master’s degree to fulfil the desire of becoming a psychologist.

I was drawn to psychology was when I was younger. I thought a lot about people and the dynamics between people and I thought everybody else did too. I would spend a lot of time thinking about why people did certain things and asked a lot of questions — looking back now, I am pretty sure my questions were very annoying. But, I was just really curious and I really enjoyed the information that psychology classes gave. I appreciated the fact that there was a science to psychology as well as an art.

For the first real job I had after I finished my master’s degree, I did not register as a psychologist right away. I also worked as a research assistant at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in the Psychosocial Oncology unit.

Even though I was working in research, I was in the same office as the counsellors. I learned a lot. My supervisors were psychologists as well, even though they focused more on research, I learned a lot from them about treating people and how to understand very complicated experiences such as cancer.

I ended up here at Student Counseling Services after doing both my practicum and my provisional hours at the University of Calgary’s Counseling Centre. I really enjoyed working with university students. My dad always used to say that, “University is about growing in so many more ways than just academics,” and I found that students face such a variety of concerns that it was just a great place to learn.

After I finished up my provisional hours, I worked as a sessional for a short period of time and then started up my own private practice. But, I really missed working with students. I went back and started to work part-time at Mount Royal and then when a tenure-track position became open, I applied and I was successful. I’m very grateful for it.

The challenges of my job are wanting to meet the needs of people — with the recognition that sometimes resources are limited — and being able to be privy to stories of injustice and stories of horrific abuse is challenging.

It is rewarding to be balanced by stories of resilience. To watch people grow and make decisions that work really well for them. To see things like traumatic growth and people who have the strength to be vulnerable and to keep moving forward.

What I enjoy most about my job is listening to stories and trying to see people understand something new because of the conversation that we had. For people to come to their new meanings or new understandings of their situation or their own ability. That’s pretty fulfilling.

One thing I wished somebody told me before becoming a psychologist was that you won’t save the world. To appreciate the small successes. To appreciate that one person changing one thing is significant and to really appreciate and celebrate that with your client.

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing a change in people, helping people to see their own strengths and their own resiliency and the ways that they are already coping. And also to be a part of a greater community that has such an investment in student health and well-being.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have done my honours in my undergraduate degree. I think that would’ve helped prepare me better to do the research of my master’s degree. But other than that, I feel pretty satisfied with how things have gone.

As told to Mollie Smith. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

This article is part of a series of profiles on industry professionals through the Calgary Journal. To see more like this, visit the On the Job page.

Editor: Robyn Welsh | rwelsh@cjournal.ca