How to... make the most of a Masters
By Maria Gardner
Finding a great MSc course that will aid you on your journey towards becoming a Business Psychology practitioner can be a great reward in itself. However, there is more that you can do, to not only make the most of the course, but also put yourself a good position once you have graduated. The following 6 hints and tips will help you do this to maximum effect:
1. Pick a commercially relevant thesis topic
By the time you come to choose your thesis topic you may be tempted to do whatever will be quick and easy, with a large body of research to help you get through the literature review. You may ever consider the feasibility of replicating an existing study. Resist.
If you are interested in being a consultant then any potential employers will immediately be scoping out your commercial awareness. Hence, searching out and seeking to answer a real world problem will make you stand out. In addition, when attending interviews you are likely to be asked to present your thesis, so picking something that you are genuinely interested in and passionate about will also help.
2. Approach potential organisations prior to submitting your thesis proposal
Carrying out the research for your thesis is likely to involve needing the support of at least one organisation – where you can ask people to complete questionnaires, analyse their data, interview incumbents, etc. As it can be a challenge to find willing organisations, do everything you can before submitting your tender proposal to gain a firm commitment from at least one company. Preferably more.
The advantage of taking this more strategic approach is that it can be a good way of finding a potential employer, particularly if you already have an idea about specific sectors or companies you would like to work for. For example, many test publishers are always looking for validation studies to be done on their ability tests and personality questionnaires, so this can be a good way of putting you on their radar.
3. Build relationships with your tutors
During your masters it can be easy to fall into just having a transactional relationship with your course tutors. However, by proactively building this network it can increase the level of support they will provide you during the course, whilst writing your thesis and potentially afterwards. Business Psychology is a niche area and there is an element of ‘everyone knows everyone’ being on good terms with your tutors will give you a head start.
4. Get involved with industry events
There are a number of key business psychology events every year – organised by the Association of Business Psychologists (ABP) and the Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP). The former is very popular with practitioners, where as the latter tends to draw mainly academics and researchers. The good news is that they both use student volunteers in organising and running their events.
Offering your service to the ABP or the DOP as a volunteer is an excellent opportunity to build your network of fellow aspiring Business Psychologists, as well as developing your relationship with experienced practitioners. Remembers also that this is an opportunity to show off your skills to potential employers, so if you sign up as a volunteer take it seriously, demonstrating your commitment and professionalism.
5. Start working on your public profile
There are many tools to help you do this, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, as well as Facebook. Employers are increasingly using social media platforms to screen potential employees so start thinking seriously about what information about you is out there in the public domain.
Tidying up your public profile doesn’t mean you should stop having fun. However, if there are any pictures of you drunkenly wearing a traffic cone, or a superhero outfit, save it for Facebook and update your privacy settings.
Once this is done, start thinking about how you can proactively set yourself apart and make a positive impression. For example, rather than silently stalking your business psychology heroes, or acting like a groupie, interact with them and comment on their posts in an intelligent way. Even better is to post links to interesting articles of your own that you’ve found.
6. Read outside of the ‘academic’ box
This final tip isn’t particularly popular, due to the amount of reading students are already asked to do, but it is absolutely necessary if you want to break into the field of Business Psychology. Many business psychology courses are still very academically focused, and as a result what you are learning often fails to translate into addressing the challenges organisations are really struggling with on a day-to-day basis.
To address this, and put yourself in a good position upon graduation, as a minimum, join relevant LinkedIn groups and use Twitter to find out what is current. They are a great way to find out what are on practitioners and potential clients’ minds, as well as giving you access to the very latest research and industry news.