As a counselling psychologist in training, I know first-hand the challenges of academic commitment coupled with the pressures of work and placement life. It can be difficult; however, I cannot express the worth and enjoyment I have found in my studies in psychology, both personally and professionally. In addition to continual academic progress and skills development in psychology, there are numerous additional opportunities that I recommend any psychology trainee to consider if they plan on growing in the field and expand their opportunities.
What I would say first to those psychology trainees wanting to expand their opportunities is to do your research. By seeking out potential networking avenues that have previously gone underutilised in psychology, you can make yourself stand out. For example, I found that YouTube would be a potential source of developing my name. I therefore started my channel GetPsyched, even after a short while I connected with psychologists and individuals who offered me some wonderful opportunities. YouTube is also useful if you want to hear tips from practitioners.
Furthermore, you might want to find out more about the psychologists in your area, both geographically and those within your specialisation. Talking to them about what it is like being a psychologist in their chosen field might highlight some opportunities for you. You never know where showing initiative such as this will get you.
It’s vital that as a psychology trainee you take advantage of the opportunities available to you. Attending conferences and facilitating workshops might be options (If you are attending conference on your own, here are some useful tips). However, seeking out opportunities or developing your own can set you apart from the highly competitive field. Utilising social media to develop your name in psychology, connecting with other psychologists and posting quality content that interests you and is applicable to your field of study, can really enhance these opportunities. Indeed, there are many ways to find people to collaborate with in psychology.
One of the things I did when I started out training was I contacted all the psychologists and counsellors I could find in my area that worked in private practice (a vested interest of mine). Many never got back to me but the ones that did gave me invaluable advice in the demands, expectations and opportunities of working in private practice. One contact I made even ended up offering me paid part-time employment. I cannot stress enough the initiative that needs to be shown when networking and increasing your prospects in psychology. Don’t just take advantage of the opportunities available to you, seek new ones out.
As a trainee psychologist, or if you are considering it, you may already be aware that your future employment could lead you down a variety of paths throughout your professional career. Considering this, it can be really beneficial for you to develop contacts and network within numerous fields. That could be private practice, schools, universities, prisons or hospitals. My advice here would be to not just focus your networking efforts in one field, learn more about the requirements and expectations of psychologists working in different sectors, that way you not only establish what interests you better but also develop contacts within that area.
It’s vital that as a psychologist trying to get ahead in this competitive world that you do not lose sight of what is important: developing your skills as a practitioner. The most important factor in this that I have found is to understand the importance of being reflective on a daily basis. This is something I found particularly challenging at first, but have really found the benefit of. Whether on placement, writing an academic piece or reading numerous articles, being reflective of your development in practice or study is imperative for you to become the best psychologist you can be.
The world of psychology is fascinating, for me it is not only my field of employment and study, it is my passion. I hope that you become a little more aware of the power of developing your skill set and your own opportunities in the field. It’s something I focus on daily and cannot stress the impact it has had on my life, both personally and professionally.
Fraser Smith is a counselling psychologist in training and a psychology seminar tutor. He is the host of GetPsyched, a YouTube channel which explores numerous topics in psychology relevant for psychology students and graduates. Fraser is also the Counselling Representative at PsyPAG. You can connect with him on Twitter @FSmithCPsy