SGPsychStud: 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!

2 comments :

  1. I would like to add some points which you may find helpful to this post:
    1. Those who wanna know more about their KSAOs may find the talk "Map your career with your strengths" in the upcoming NTU-NUS Psychology Symposium to be useful. But it's already sold out... sobz =\. I guess we can still network with Mr. Stephen Lew, the speaker, to find out more?
    2. Networking is one way to become famous, but another way is to seek out a mentorship. Both have their pros and cons of course, and it's difficult to conclude which is better. But one thing is for certain... even if you have an established network those in it may not be particularly invested in you enough to open doors for you. But a mentor is obliged to do so, and a capable mentor in the field which you want to be in can open many doors and guide your journey with all its bumps and lows. The problem is that 99.99% of Singaporeans will not dare to seek out a mentor on their own, so there's mentorship programmes like the NCSS one... which has very limited slots. All in all, this ensures a somewhat fair level playing field for all psychology students no matter how book smart they are.. so students from private institutions may want to take note. The best way probably to get a mentorship is to take initiative - like I told my classmate, this world belongs to the determined and courageous, not the intelligent but cowardly. Otherwise there's always the networking option but it still isn't easy either, at least for introverts like me...
    3. I'm not so sure about the requirement of having to be registered with SRP. Sure, it is assumed that most likely big institutions and hospitals will prefer those registered psychologists, but I don't know how true this is in terms of the big picture. However, there's this news or rumour going on that SPS/SRP is intending to regulate and enforce all practising psychologists to register with them some years down the road. I've contacted the secretariat of SPS about this and about the new registration requirements implemented last year but they only said that the new registration requirements (i.e. postgrad degree must have supervised practicum) only applies to the fields of educational, clinical and counselling psychology currently. Don't know how they are going to enforce or change the rules for other fields and they have not replied to my question on whether they would regulate the psychological scene..
    Anyways, Gambateh fellow psychology students! I'm also at a crossroads now..

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