So you want to be a Occupational Psychologist? What to do once you’ve got the Msc

psychologyWow, you’ve made it!  Msc in Occupational Psychology successfully completed. So now what?  I’m assuming that if you are reading this you wouldn’t mind a few hints and tips about how to find work and make you as attractive as possible on the employability front.  Well if that is the case, read on my friend. I’ll see what I can do…

1.  Start thinking about what kind of Occ Psych you would like to be.  There are a surprising number of career paths open to you as an Occ Psych so a good first port of call is to get a sense of which direction you might be interested in going.  Off the top of my head here are the main ones:

  • Academic – if studying is the life for you! Time to start checking out studentships
  • Research – Oooh, I do love a good spreadsheet and a bit of SPSS!
  • External Consultant – Working with a variety of clients, with a varying degree of specialism
  • Internal Consultant– working for one organisation, typically in the HR or Learning and Development function
  • Other – human factors, ergonomics, etc

I’ve personally spent my entire career as an external consultant; however the following advice applies across the board. Any additional advice around how to getting into any of the other above fields is more than welcome in the Comments section.

2.  Explore what connections your tutors might have.  Some university tutors are pretty well connected and take a sense of pride in helping their Msc students find work – now they’re the ones you want on your side!  On a serious note, if you’ve built a good relationship with your tutors during the course you’ll know which ones have connections in areas that you are interested in, so go have a chat with them.

3.  Attend conferences and networking events.  This is something I mentioned in Part 2 and I would reiterate here.  As well as building up your network it will give you insight into what’s relevant and important for our industry as well as our clients.  As a starting point, check out those events and conferences put on by the BPS, ABP and CIPD.

4.  More reading. Again mentioned in Part 2, but it’s time to start ramping this up now.  As you start going for job interviews it will become increasingly important to understand what is going in the industry.  Beyond books, Twitter and LinkedIn discussions are great sources of information about what‘s on people’s minds, the latest research, and key challenges being faced.

5.  Start actively maintaining your public profile. Time to start thinking carefully about what information about you is out there in the public domain.  I’m not suggesting that you engage in a frenzied phase of purging and serious editing of information that hints that you occasionally like to go out and have fun. I’m just saying there should be a balance.

Make sure that you have an up to date and fully completed LinkedIn profile, and your Twitter activity portrays a serious interest in Occ Psych.  I suggest keeping the majority of your personal/social activity to Facebook.  You could also explore other social platforms such as Google+ but whatever you use stay focused and keep it up to date.

6.  Ability tests, you know you love ‘em.  A lot of employers use psychometrics these days in their recruitment processes as a sifting tool and the scary bit is typically the ability test.  If the thought of them brings you out in a cold sweat then it’s a harsh reality that I’m afraid you are just going to have to face.  However, with practice the experience and gradual decreasing of nerves gets better.

There are lots of both websites and books out there so I suggest you get practicing now – don’t wait until a couple of days beforehand.  I personally recommend a well thought out sustained attack on any apprehension you might have in relation to these tools.  That way when a potential employer mentions the need to complete an ability test or two you can smile back with a look of calm confidence.

7.  Look out for internships.  Some Occ Psych consultancies have internships for recent Msc graduates for 6-12 month periods. The pay may not be great but it will give you experience and a name on your CV that under other circumstances most people would give their right arm for.

These aren’t often widely advertised and I’m loathe to name names of the ones who do in anticipation of me setting them up for a flood of prospective CV’s and begging emails – and me some serious hate mail.  Instead I recommend regularly checking their websites and also checking with your university if they have links with organisations which have internships. Note, competition for these positions is likely to be high.

8.  Do your research and start identifying the ‘movers and shakers’.  When I completed my Msc I had no idea where to start in terms of who would give me a job.  Occ Psych jobs come in many guises so you have to starting building your list of potential employers sooner rather than later so you know who to target.  I can’t list them all here but some key categories to get you started are:

  1. Test publishers
  2. Occ Psych consultancies
  3. Civil Service, e.g. the larger police and fire services all employ internal Occ Psychs
  4. Management consultancies
  5. Recruitment agencies

9.  Dont be too fussy.  Good first time jobs with proper well respected Occ Psych companies are hard to come by, so if necessary be a little more creative.  The general rule with this industry is once you are in, you are in.  It is just getting that first job, that first 12 months on your CV.  I’m not suggesting you sell your soul to first dodgy management consultant you come across, but if all else has failed don’t rule it out.  Essentially, think long-term, and think baby steps – if necessary plan your career in small increments that ultimately get you closer to your goal.

10.  Be prepared to move and let your potential employers know that. That first job is the toughest one to get and I would personally recommend being prepared to do whatever it takes to get it, including moving to some remote corner of the British Isles.  In my own journey towards that perfect job I’ve realised that Occ Psych consultancies can often be based in some wild and wonderful locations – which completely crushed my initial naive assumption that they would all be based in London.  The willingness to move is ultimately your decision but I just want to put it on your radar.

Ok peeps, that’s it.  You’ve bled my dry.  I’ve pulled together every hint, tip and trick I can think of to help you in your journey towards becoming a fully fledged Occupational Psychologist – from choosing your Msc, what to do once you are there, to how to find a job afterwards.  I genuinely hope you’ve found it useful.  When I undertook this journey myself there was a serious gaping black hole in the vicinity of where the useful advice for aspiring Occ Psychs should have been. If this series of blogs has gone any way to addressing this, then mission accomplished. Good luck.  Over and out.

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