Staying Competitive in the Psychology Job Market as a New Graduate

I got the inspiration to write this post after reading this piece of morning news "As graduate numbers grow, a hard truth: Not all degrees are equal" from Channel New Asia (CNA).

It is very true that the psychology job market is a very tough one to get in.  From the very beginning, it was already mentioned that getting into the Honours/Masters programs is going to be tough.  After your graduation from your diploma / Bachelors / Masters, the types of jobs also tend to be restrictive as a result of your academic level.

Most psychology students have the dream of being a psychologist.  However, that is only one of the three type of  careers that psychology students can embark on.  Not everyone is so fortunate.  Other than having a postgraduate degree (see here for the training pathway), you must possess the required training to be qualified and registered with the SRP.  Lastly, you will have to get through the job interview with the company in order to become a psychologist there.  If you are unable to reach that final point, the question to ask yourself would be:
"Are you okay not being a psychologist but having a job in a psychological-related field?"
As mentioned in the CNA article,
"Underemployment occurs when highly-skilled people work in low-paying or low-skilled jobs, as well as when part-time workers prefer to be employed full-time.  Internationally, underemployment is hard to define because of the subjectivity involved — such as a worker’s preference and whether qualifications equate to skills and performance."
Does not being a psychologist after achieving your Master's degree being equivalent to being underemployed?  That is really a matter of how you look at it, and what you wish to achieve in your career.  Having a psychology degree is just a stepping stone to a start of many careers;  it is what you wish to become that is the final goal.  Keep that in mind!
"humanities and social sciences (5.3 per cent) had higher unemployment rates than the norm."
These are the two reasons why psychology students have issues finding jobs:  1) psychology degrees are general social science degrees, and 2) lack of experience in the field.
So how do we resolve this? The answer was also in the CNA article, as said by the MOM spokesperson:
“We need to help individuals equip themselves with the skills needed to take on the quality jobs of today and tomorrow.”  “Overall, we have to create a culture where workers are motivated and able to continually acquire relevant skills and experience that will help them advance in their careers,”
Jobs of tomorrow are not as simple as those of the past. A quote from a previous post:
We are in a society that wishes to improve all the time (due to our ability to find faults in everything).  Hence there is the thought that we need to be well-rounded in different skills;  however, are these extra skills the skills we personally want to have?  Will these extra skills help us in our ability to be a better psychologist or employee in our line of work? 
We may not see the value in these extra skills, but sometimes these are what is required in these new-age jobs.  Here are some tips to stay competitive in this degree-filled environment where everyone is competing with you for the same job:

1.  Understanding your strengths and weakness (by evaluating your KSAOs)
We need to see what are the current KSAOs we have, and how we can improve ourselves to make sure that we do not only have the minimum KSAOs for the jobs, but overall above and over the minimum criteria. One good way is to find volunteering or internship opportunities so as to improve your experiences, as well as developing your skills and abilities.

2.  Make yourself famous! (or at least your name known to prospective employers and supervisors)
This is the POWER of Networking!  As mentioned before, having good networking skills and knowing people may lead you to your future employment opportunities, research or postgraduate opportunities, or even knowing people from other related field.

3.  Having the thirst for knowledge, curiosity, a positive mindset
Having these three conditions will lead you to reducing the fear of new opportunities and experiences, and hence increasing your chances to learn new things and skills, which might be useful one day!

So remember: This thinking of "Good grades = Having a degree = Good job / career = Good life" does not apply to our modern world any more, and hence always try to stay competitive and improve yourself!

5 Things Students can do during the Holidays

With most students finished or almost done with their exams, this is a good time to discuss and think about what you can do during your holidays.  Most of our holidays are spent resting at home relaxing or out with friends and famÄ«ly.  However..

What have you done during your school holidays that is productive towards your future career as a psychologist or in the psychological-related field?


It is all in the hope of building your KSAOs (if you have yet to know this, read this post) for your future career!!  Now is a good time to plan this, such that you can have a productive holiday, either for this time round or your future holidays!  Here is a list of things you may consider doing to buff up your resume or expand your skills:

1.  Volunteer at volunteer welfare organisations (VWOs)


Volunteering to work at VWOs (during your free time and school term periods) may tell a lot to your future employer about you.  It is a good reflection of having initiative and empathy.  You may also use these stories previous volunteering experiences to further illustrate your KSAOs.  Your choice of VWO may also exhibit your interest in a certain area of psychological-related field.  If you wish to volunteer but do not know how, I would advice that you send the VWOs an email to state your interest or volunteer at SG Cares.

2.  Finding and doing short-term (or long-term) internships


If you find that volunteering is not your thing as you are not being paid for that and might not learn a lot from it, you might consider doing an internship.  Internships are good places where you may learn skills and knowledge that are really beneficial for your future work.  However not all registered psychologists may wish to take in interns; some are not even allowed as they are not registered supervisors.  If you wish to do an internship, here is a list of SPS-approved supervisors with their respective fields of expertise.

3.  Attend local psychology talks or symposiums


Some of these might be free and some for a nominal fee.  Some might be interest to you, and some might not.  But attending them will be to your benefit, as you hear from the experts in the fields regarding specific matters.  Some venues where you might find these talks would be from the following pages:
Singapore Psychologists Facebook Page
Association of Mental Health Facebook Page
Singapore Psychological Society (SPS) website

4.  Chat with your professor or lecturer (that you are more familiar with)


This is really good if you are able to have a really in-depth chat with the professor/lecturer about your strengths and weakness in your psychology skills and abilities.  This will allow you to have an understanding of your present KSAOs and those which you might need more practice and training in.  However, do note that your professor/lecturer might not be so free to offer you a discussion at a time of your convenience, so make sure to email them to make an appointment if you wish to see them.

5.  Brush up your APA style or SPSS skills


During the holidays, other than having it as your desired resting period, it is a really good time to practice and hone your skills in your APA style (1 / 2 / 3) and SPSS.  These are skills that you will definitely need throughout your psychological academic training as well as your future career.  So why not try to get very proficient at them as early as possible??

No matter which one you wish to do, make sure you have some rest during your holidays!  As they say:  "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"...

Miss Psychobabble: How To Create Better Study Habits Through Reinforcement

Image Credits: carlocanyougo.tumblr.com
All of us have habits we would like to break and other habits we would like to develop, whether it is excessive smoking, spending countless hours online, or not studying, etc.  People often blame these unpleasant behaviors to laziness or unhealthy personality.  Behaviorism dictates that if all habits are learned then, learning too can alter them.

Learning, in psychology, involves modifying behavior through experiences.  B. F. Skinner pioneered a form of learning called operant conditioning.  The central component of operant conditioning is reinforcement.  Operant conditioning influences one’s behavior depending on its consequences (i.e. punishment or reward) (Feldman, 2012).  To support this, Robert Williams and James Long wrote a book called "Toward a Self-managed Life Style" (1983) that explores the possibility of changing various areas in one's life by effectively reinforcing a positive behavior and not rewarding a negative one.

With this principle in mind, how can you modify your behavior to create better study habits?  Here are 4 tips you can use:
1. Goal setting
It involves two things: (a) identifying your goals and (b) knowing the resources you may need.  It is not enough to say that you want to study more; you must make a quantifiable and realistic goal (e.g., 3 hours of study time daily).  In order to keep your brain stimulated, you may need to study in a suitable environment such as the library or a quiet corner in your house.  Be ready for this.
2. Taking action
Since your goals are clearly set, you must bravely take your first attempt.  It might be too much to drastically start with 3 hours of study time a day, so start with at least 45 minutes daily.
3. Monitoring
Monitoring involves tracking your progress and altering your goals based on the reevaluation of your current situation.  To illustrate this, have a study log to know if you have been studying more than or lesser than your intended study time.  You can also analyze the factors that hinder you from studying, such as distractions from external noises or too much texting.  Then, add another goal that is fit to counteract these distractions such turning your smartphone off for 3 hours.
4. Rewarding
You must figure out a well-deserved reward for successfully studying during the allotted amount of time.  Go out with your friends or indulge in your favorite dessert.  For optimum results, keep the reward scheme consistent each time you reach your goal!

Surely, positive reinforcement such as fun or monetary compensation can increase the repetition of the desired behavior. This is why different companies such as Coke and Volkswagen used positive reinforcement to change the community's behavior for the better.

May these simple steps help you to create better study habits in the future! :)

References
Feldman, R. (2012). Understanding Psychology (11th ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill.
Williams, R., & Long, J. D. (1983). Toward a Self-managed Life Style. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Interactions of Psychology Students in Singapore

The main question for this post is:

What is happening now in Singapore for psychology students here?  Are students of respective schools interacting with each other??


The answer:  Nothing much and No...

Seriously, since the beginning of this year, there is actually nothing much happening.  From what I known and have heard from, there have been little interaction between students of the different universities or educational institutions.  It might be that for most institutions,  this period is the 2nd semester, and hence the exams are coming (which is really soon for some universities!)


Why it is so important that students interact, even if they are from different institutions?  


I have mentioned the main reasons for networking in a previous post (Power of Networking):
  • Employment / business opportunities - You never know; you might just find your next boss / customer just by talking to them. 
  • Opportunities to knowing new associates from similar or different fields - Support for your clients often tend to be holistic, rather just from the psychologist (yourself); hence often, you may need the help or support from others from a similar or different line of work, such as psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers, etc.
  • Research opportunities - Through knowing others in the similar field or area of research, this may open up your chances of working with others in research projects in your area of research.
  • Social networking - Just purely for the reasons for making friends and acquaintances in psychology and your psychological speciality/area of research.
Even though the first reason of employment opportunities may not be applicable, the other three reasons of knowing people from different fields, research opportunities and social networking is very possible.  You never know how these friends and acquaintances that you know from the other universities may actually help in your career in the very near future, in terms of asking for advice, work opportunities, or even close friendship!

How is there a chance for students from the different institutions to meet and discuss students, when everyone has very busy academic schedules and our own matters that take up most of our time?


Each respective schools has their own talks, such as the SIM PsychWeek and the NUS academic talks and post-graduate sharing sessions, which are held annually.  NTU has some talks that are held periodically, which is not at any fixed period.  It is not enough to only interact with students in your own institutions, as there is only a small amount of people that you will meet considering the number of students studying psychology in Singapore.

The only two events that happened as a result of collaboration of universities were the PSY2010 in May 2010, which is Singapore’s first-ever inter-varsity career talk jointly organized by NTU, NUS, SIM and SMU, and NTUxSIM Psychology Societies Spring Talks 2014 that happened in March 2014.  Events like these are wonderful as they really bring the different institutions together for the overall learning of the students.

My recommendation to increase the interactions for all students is to:
Attend events or find chances to meet up with the others as much as possible.  
In the most recent event, ARUPS Congress 2015, that happened in Singapore, I managed to associate with MY Psychology, a group of Malaysian psychology students who are promoting psychology.  We are currently in the process of planning some form of collaboration.

Another method would be to participate in the SPS Student Research Award, where students submit their research works for the awards and come together during the presentation.  This is a very good chance where students can come together to interact and discuss about their own works and thoughts.

Always remember this phrase from Jobs (Part 8):
Expanding your network  =  More (future) job opportunities

Miss Psychobabble: 5 Perks Of Earning A Psychology Degree

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Image Credits: Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography via Flickr
Psychology is the study of mental processes and human behavior.  Those who diligently pursue this discipline are able to apply their understanding to various events in their everyday lives.  On that note, here are the 5 perks of earning a psychology degree:

1. Deeper understanding of the self

Majoring in psychology allows you to understand the reasons behind your actions and personality in general.  Various theories such as psychodynamics and social learning theory can guide you to determine the trigger behind unwanted emotions (e.g., guilt or jealousy).  This deeper awareness helps you to deal with difficult emotions and situations effectively.

2. Enhanced understanding of others

As I was studying psychology, I realized that there is a combination of factors affecting one's behaviour.  People do not act merely by instinct - they are complex.  We as psychology majors must understand the power of biological, psychological, and social factors.  Applying these principles, you will be able to comprehend and empathize with others with little to no bias and judgment.

3. Better skills to resolve conflict

Since everybody perceives the world uniquely, conflict is inevitable.  When you study psychology, you begin to realize the reasons behind one's actions and his/her possible reactions.  By knowing so, you are able to predict how a situation can occur.  Conflict resolution skills that help you handle different situations are handy especially in the workplace and relationships.  Personally, after earning a psychology degree, I began to see people's behavior in a more logical manner.  Hence, I deal with conflicts by analyzing the issue first and picking out the best solution possible.

4. Psychology degree can enter various career paths

As long as man is involved, Psychology is present.  There are various career paths to choose from including the fields of sport psychology, clinical psychology, school psychology, forensic psychology, and so on.  Furthermore, you can choose to work with kids, youth, or elderly.  And, you can even further your studies in areas such as medicine or law.  All you have to do is search for what you are passionate about.

5. Your journey can be challenging yet fulfilling

Earning a psychology degree and pursuing a career in it allows you to solve practical and theoretical problems.  It may be challenging and stressful at times but it surely is rewarding.  Remember that you are able to help others and make huge impacts in their lives.

Want to produce a positive change in someone's life?  Get a Psychology Degree!  It is worth it! :)