Finding a Psychology Position

After spending so much time in school and training, some individuals may find it difficult to make the transition to finding a job. Fortunately, in a psychology career, job networking can start as early as graduate school. To start, individuals will need to begin the process of writing résumés, getting ready to interview, and asking for references.

A résumé should begin with personal contact information including one’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. In the next section, the applicant’s objectives are stated. Following that, the reviewer expects to read about the applicant’s work experience. List hospital, office, and clinic patient care experience including the dates the positions were held and the titles of the positions. Under each, list the job responsibilities. After this, education, professional societies, and certification information is listed. Lastly, language skills and references are expected.

Despite all of the knowledge one may have, first impressions really do matter. When interviewing for a psychology career, the applicant is expected to show up on time and look presentable. In the case of a psychology career, it is expected that the applicant wear a suit. Psychologists, especially those who intend to see patients, should be able to build rapport very quickly with strangers. Interviewers will expect the applicant to develop a relationship very quickly. A clean copy of a résumé should be brought to the interview as well. At the close of the interview, it is helpful to get the business cards of those who were encountered throughout the day. A nice, short thank-you note is expected following the interview process.

Finding a Psychology Career

After review of the résumé and the interview itself, prospective employers may contact the applicant’s references. Even if the references are not contacted, this list should be compiled as if a prospective employer would speak to everyone on the list. Typically, three references are provided. Names and complete contact information should be listed. Be certain that the listed individuals have been asked if they are willing to speak on the applicant’s behalf.

Certain jobs will require one to complete an internship. This additional clinical experience is necessary for doctoral students.

In summary, finding a psychology career will likely involve compiling a résumé, interviewing for a position, and asking individuals for references. It may, additionally, require an internship. Handling these details with the attention they are due should aid in finding employment.

Résumés

A résumé may be the first chance a prospective employer has to make judgments regarding a job applicant. For an individual seeking a psychology career, a résumé serves as a summation of all the schooling and training one has received as well as an opportunity to describe one’s career objectives.

Generally speaking, a résumé includes personal information, objectives, experience, education, professional society membership, licenses and certifications, language skills, and references. Each section contains an opportunity for the applicant to provide information that may help a prospective employer get to know him or her.

The first thing an employer expects to see is the applicant’s personal information, including one’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Following this, a statement of objectives is expected. Here, one can include a brief description of the desired position. This section should be limited to a few lines.

In the next section of the résumé, list any clinical experience. Start with the currently held position, and list all positions in reverse chronological order. Be sure to include the relevant dates of employment along with the locations. For each position held, list the relevant skills that were acquired and accomplishments that were achieved. Using bullet points can help identify key information. If this is the applicant’s first job search after completing a graduate program, be sure to list clinical training information and even graduate school clinical rotations if they are relevant. Some first-time applicants may choose to include relevant volunteer experience in this section as well.

After reviewing work experience, a prospective employer expects to see the applicant’s education background. As in the experience section, educational institutions should be listed in reverse chronological order. This is the place to list any awards or honors received.

Next, the applicant should list any relevant professional societies that he or she belongs to and then any licenses and certifications. Finally, language skills and references are expected. Under language skills, be sure to state the proficiency level. With regards to references, all individuals listed should have been previously contacted and asked if they are willing to speak on the applicant’s behalf.

If there is additional information that one wants to include in a résumé, a miscellaneous section can be added. If the applicant has any publication history, this information could be included here.

Some applicants may choose to prepare two résumés, a more conventional and concise résumé to send to prospective employers and another detailed version to bring along to any interviews.

For those who have never compiled a résumé, there are many different resources online, including sample résumés to look at for formatting ideas. Some services will compile a résumé for an applicant for a small fee.

It is important to remember that this is the first impression one makes on a prospective employer. The résumé needs to be a summation of one’s education and experience and should be detailed in a clear and concise document.

Interviews

An interview for a psychology position is the applicant’s opportunity to sell himself or herself beyond the information presented in a résumé. While a résumé can lead to an interview, in nearlhy all cases it is the interview itself that leads to the offer of employment.

As the old saying goes, one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. When interviewing for a position as a psychologist, it is expected that one will wear a suit to the interview. If traveling a significant distance to interview for a position, it may behoove the applicant to travel with the suit jacket on a hanger, rather than on his or her person, to avoid unsightly wrinkles. Also, some colognes and perfumes can be offensive to others, even when applied in small amounts. It is probably best to avoid them altogether. By contrast, breath mints are always good to have on hand to avoid bad breath, moisten one’s mouth, or to get a little sugar kick in the midst of a long interview process.

Once one looks the part, it is expected that the applicant “walk the walk,” so to speak. Psychologists in clinical settings are trained to build rapport naturally and quickly. An interview is an excellent method for interviewers to gauge this skill. The interviewee should know that he or she will be presented with a question they are unable to answer. Having the confidence to answer the question honestly will be impressive to the interviewer. One should not answer a question with confidence if one does not know the answer, rather be honest about not knowing the answer and explore how an answer might be found.

From the moment one leaves one’s car, treat everyone with respect. One can never know who is related to, married to, or friends with the individual one is about to interview with. While waiting for the interviewer, one could discuss the office environment with administrative assistants or other office personnel.

It should go without saying that the applicant should show interest in the interviewer. Asking relevant questions is a good way to show interest. Prior to the interview, one should have performed research about the hospital, office, or clinic. Asking relevant questions will open the door to having a more laid-back conversation and will make the applicant more memorable.

It is important to match the body language of the interviewer. For example, in a formal interview setting, it is important to practice good posture, keep one’s suit coat on, and so on. If, on the other hand, the applicant is led to a more causal location and the interviewer takes off his or her coat and sits on a couch, one should relax one’s stance to match the interviewer’s. One does not want to appear lax in a formal atmosphere or uptight in a laid-back atmosphere.

A clean copy of a résumé should be brought to the interview as well. At the close of the interview, ask for business cards so that nice, short, thank-you note can be composed. An interviewee should not bring up salary, benefits, or other forms of compensation in the course of the initial interview.

Interviewing for a position in a psychology career is one’s chance to put a face to a name and to personalize the details of a boring résumé. Looking good and acting respectful and enthusiastic can help land the job.

References

Apart from one’s résumé and interview, references are the best way to get to know a job applicant’s credentials, personality, and what it is like to work with him or her.

After review of the résumé and an interview, prospective employers may contact the applicant’s references. Even if the references are not contacted, this list should be compiled as if a prospective employer will speak to everyone on the list. Typically, three references are provided on a résumé, so the names and contact information should be listed. These individuals should always be asked in advance if they are willing to serve as references.

References should be tailored to the position one is applying to. Because different positions will have different responsibilities, one needs to make sure that the references provided can speak to one’s ability to perform those specific job duties. The first thing one should do to determine the job necessary responsibilities is to research the hospital, clinic, or office that one is applying to. Then, choose references appropriately. If formatting references separately from the résumé, they should be contained to a single page, and the applicant’s personal information should appear at the top of the page. Each reference should then be listed with the first and last name, address, phone number, e-mail address, job title, and employer. Typically, three references are prepared. Bring a copy of this list to the interview.

While some individuals will include references on a résumé, some think that references should only be presented to a prospective employer when they are specifically requested. The purpose of this is to limit potential calls to one’s references that may become irritating. Keep in mind that some employers don’t contact references until after an employment offer has been made.

The following are characteristics of a good reference:

  • Someone who can speak highly of the applicant and answer questions regarding the applicant’s résumé
  • Someone who supervised the applicant’s work—this can include professors or psychologists that one has worked under who are able to speak to the applicant’s skills
  • Someone who can speak about the applicant from different perspectives—individuals other than current employers and supervisors are acceptable, and if the applicant has performed volunteer work, a reference from someone in a supervisory role in that organization would be sufficient
  • Someone who is not a family member or friend who knows the applicant only socially
  • Someone who is easily available by phone or e-mail
  • Someone who can speak to the applicant’s current skills

Above all, make sure those individuals listed as references have been asked permission to serve this purpose for the applicant and that they are willing to speak well on the applicant’s behalf. Do not assume that a good relationship with someone will translate into an automatic positive reference.

When applying for a job in psychology, references can be an important component to finding a job. They serve to describe the applicant beyond what the prospective employer can glean from a résumé and interview.

Internships

In order to become a licensed psychologist who sees patients, one will likely need to complete a doctoral degree and accrue many hours of practical experience under a licensed psychologist. This practical experience provides a hands-on environment where one can learn the science, business, and patient interaction components of being a psychologist.

Because state licensure requirements dictate a certain number of work hours be performed, all psychologists seeking licenses will need to complete internships. Applying for an internship occurs fairly late in the training process because one cannot apply for an internship until the clinical practicum component of one’s doctoral education is completed.

In addition to students completing doctoral degrees, practicing psychologists who wish to change specialties may be required to complete internships.

A division of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), is responsible for issuing internships to applicants based on a match system. In the match system, prospective internship sites and applicants rank their preferences for each other. When a match is achieved, both parties are obligated to honor the match.

After interviewing at prospective internship sites, applicants and internship sites submit a rank order list to the APPIC. This occurs in early February. Roughly two weeks later, the results of the match are revealed. Individuals who have not matched are offered opportunities to enter a second phase of the match process whereby they have the chance to rank programs that still have spaces available. Applicants have roughly one month to complete this process, and the results of the second phase of the match are distributed one week later. After two phases of the match process, if an individual still has not found an internship site, he or she can utilize the APPIC postmatch vacancy service, which runs from the end of the match period until October.

APPIC’s statistics indicate that from 2000 to 2010, more than thirty-seven thousand students entered the match program, and close to 75 percent of them had internships at the conclusion of the program. Certain schools appear to have much higher percentages of students matching internship sites. For instance, less than half of the students at Northern Arizona University received internship matches, while over 85 percent of students from Stanford University matched.

Internships will vary significantly depending on the specialty and the internship site. The overall goals of an internship are to provide additional clinical experience to psychologists and better prepare them for practicing on their own. Skills in interviewing patients and providing psychotherapy are honed during the internship period.

Internships are a required component of an education toward a psychology career. They provide necessary experience to further train psychologists and prepare them for state licensure.

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