How to... find your first job as a Business Psychologist
By Maria Gardner
As a niche but growing industry, getting a first job as a Business Psychology practitioner can be a challenge. The following 10 hints and tips sets out about how to find work and make you as attractive as possible on the employability front.
1. Start thinking about what kind of Business Psychologist you want to be
There are a surprising number of career paths open to you as a Business Psychologist so a good first port of call is to get a sense of which direction you might be interested in going. Whilst not a definitive list, the following outlines some of the options available to you:
- 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
- Human factors/ ergonomics - usability, environment design, health & safety, etc
2. Explore what connections your university tutors might have
Some university tutors are pretty well connected and take a sense of pride in helping their students find work. If you are coming into the industry via completing a relevant MSc course, then have a word with your tutors and find out which ones have connections in areas that you are interested in.
3. Attend conferences and networking events
Attending events not only helps build up your network but will give also you insight into what’s relevant and important for our industry as well as our clients. The ABP, BPS and CIPD all hold both annual and monthly events.
4. Read more
As you start going for job interviews it will become increasingly important to understand what is going in the industry and reading relevant non-academic literature will help significantly. Checking out any Top 10 business book lists are a good start. 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
Start thinking carefully about what information about you is out there in the public domain. Research suggests that more and more recruiters are using information from social media platforms to help them screen in and out prospective employees.
This does not mean that you have to engage in a frenzied phase of purging any information that suggests you occasionally like to go out and have fun. However, 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 Business Psychology.
As a suggestion, keep 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: practice, practice, practice
The majority of employers now use psychometrics in their recruitment processes as a sifting tool and the bit that brings most people out in a cold sweat is the ability test.
However, with practice the experience and gradual decreasing of nerves gets better and there are lots of both websites and books out there to help with this. So, if you know you have to complete an ability test don’t wait until a couple of days beforehand to start practicing. A well thought out sustained attack on any apprehension you might have will work much better.
7. Do your research and start identifying the ‘movers and shakers’
Start to build your list of potential employers sooner rather than later so you know who to target. It is impossible to list them all here but some key categories to get you started are:
- Test publishers
- Business Psychology consultancies
- Civil Service, e.g. the larger police and fire services all employ internal Business Psychologists
- Management consultancies
- Recruitment agencies
8. Look out for internships
Some Business Psychology consultancies have internships for recent MSc graduates for 6-12 month periods. The pay isn’t always great but it provides an experience and a name on your CV that under other circumstances would be very difficult to achieve.
Internships aren’t often widely advertised so get into the habit of regularly checking prospective employer’s websites and with your university, to see if they have any useful contacts. Note, competition for these positions is likely to be high.
9. Dont be too fussy
Good first time jobs with proper well respected Business Psychology practice 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, so focus in on what you need to do to get relevant experience on your CV. 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 potential employers know this
Getting your first job will be the toughest one to get and it is advisable to consider being prepared to move location. Employers of Business Psychologists can be based in some wild and wonderful locations so be open minded to moving and let them know this is the case.