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Pathway to success

By Katherine Evans

As an early career psychologist, still new to the world of occupational psychology, I was lucky enough to take part in the Future Work Centre’s session about developing new psychologists at the Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP) annual conference last week in Nottingham. This was a great opportunity for me to share my past experiences as a student, worried about finding a job at the end of my master’s course, and what it’s like to be a trainee on the Future Work Centre’s development programme, Pathway.

It’s well known that today’s graduate job market is tough, and this trend is certainly no different in occupational psychology. Jobs are scarce, and even competition for unpaid internships is plentiful. But there’s another challenge too – while our MSc programmes equip us with the academic theory and knowledge we need, students are generally not taught the professional skills needed to be a successful practitioner or to meet the minimum requirements of potential employers. This means that there is often no clear path for talented but inexperienced new graduates of occupational psychology. As a result, many move into HR, work for test publishers, or end up doing something completely unrelated.

I feel extremely fortunate to have been offered a role at the Future Work Centre, and to be able to undertake their development programme, Pathway. This programme aims to create well-rounded occupational psychologists with all the necessary skills to be successful practitioners. I spend approximately 20% of my working week on developmental activities, such as attending sessions on topics like coaching skills and finance for psychologists, and working on my BPS Chartership entries. What the Pathway programme really means for me is that I can be confident about my future; after three years on the programme, I know I will be well equipped to continue my career in whatever direction I choose to take.

While unfortunately it’s not possible to take every occupational psychology graduate onto the Pathway programme, the Future Work Centre is dedicated to making development available to as many future practitioners as possible. That’s why we’re opening up the Pathway programme, meaning that graduates will be able to sign up for individual modules from the programme, and organisations will be able to incorporate it internally to develop their new talent. So, whether you want to improve your commercial awareness or go through the BPS Chartership process in a supportive, group environment, the Future Work Centre can help with your professional development.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Pathway development programme, please contact info@futureworkcentre.com

Taking your first steps as an occupational psychologist

By Rhiannon McGuinness

It’s graduation day and you’re feeling a real sense of pride and relief at finishing your occupational psychology course. Whilst celebrating with your friends, one of them asks you ‘So what’s next for you?’

How would you answer?

Within the field of occupational psychology, there is a wealth of different career paths available to early career psychologists:

  • You could work in an HR department, perhaps within a learning and development team, or helping to select and assess the best people for the job.
  • You could work for consultancies with a specialised focus on occupational psychology, which could each have a unique niche, e.g. selection and assessment techniques.
  • You could work within an educational environment, such as a career adviser within an university.

Plus many more!

But what’s tricky is that there isn’t a clear-cut career path as there is with other professions, such as accountancy or nursing. It can feel overwhelming for early career psychologists – especially when it’s well-known within the profession that not all post-graduate courses provide the practical guidance and work opportunities to students that might help them build a clearer picture of their career direction.

So, how do you overcome this challenge?

Being a relatively new occupational psychologist and having experienced some of these feelings myself, I wanted to share my own perspective on what I found most useful in overcoming this challenge.

After gaining some valuable experience within an HR environment, I realised that for me, there wasn’t enough opportunity to share my passion of occupational psychology within this type of role. So, I went back to the drawing board and thought carefully about my ideal role and working environment, and how I was going to find it. I did this by working through the following steps:

The first thing I did was spend time reflecting on the type of psychologist I wanted to be:

  • What positive impact or contribution at work can I make?
  • What is the one thing I can change at work for the better of all?
  • Importantly, what sort of psychologist do I want to be? In which areas do I want to have a meaningful impact?

In answering these questions, I gained a better picture of what was important to me in my ideal role. This helped narrow down my search, and prevented me from repeating previous mistakes of applying for potentially unsuitable work environments simply because they were hiring!

Once I had an idea of what would make work meaningful to me, I was better able to take control of shaping my career, which I did by:

  • Attending networking sessions within the OP field. This not only enhanced my understanding of the various career paths within the profession, it also provided the opportunity to meet with likeminded professionals who gave me valuable advice and support, which really helped me through the next step of my career journey.
  • Completing company research. After attending a few networking events, I had several business cards and delegate lists at my fingertips, which helped kick off my company research. Using these sources, I began to read through company websites, blogs, social media updates, and learnt about different organisations within the OP field; their differing cultures, their ethos and whether this matched up with my own values.

By completing these steps, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the potential work opportunities available to me as a new OP.

I decided that I would ideally like to work with others that are as passionate about OP as I am, and who are driven by the intrinsic rewards of improving people’s working lives, rather than just earning money or awards. This narrowed down my search to a few potential organisations, one of which was the Future Work Centre. And although it’s early days within my role, I can honestly say I have never been happier at work!

So, although this process may initially feel quite daunting, I would encourage any early career psychologists to follow these steps as it could really pay off in the long-term!

Developing the next generation of occupational psychologists

One of the aims of our organisation is to raise the bar of occupational psychology, which we do by carrying out scientific research that helps organisations make better decisions and openly sharing the results with as wide an audience as possible. But we believe that to really achieve this aim, we need to put our money where our mouth is and invest in the next generation of occupational psychologists.

Earlier this year we launched a search for six early career psychologists who were passionate about the science of occupational psychology and eager to achieve chartership. Last week we reached an important milestone as we welcomed the six successful applicants to our team!

In their roles as Insight Psychologists, they will work with clients, conduct research into the world of work and embark on a development programme called Pathway.

Pathway is a three-year development programme running in parallel with their BPS Chartership, which will provide them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to become well-rounded occupational psychologists. This means developing their skills beyond psychology; equipping them to become professionals who understand and can operate effectively in organisations.

One of the things the new team will be working on is identifying and evaluating the evidence-base for a range of HR challenges such as training and development, performance management, and the impact technology is having on how we work. We look forward to sharing the results with you and championing the importance of evidence-based practice.