In this article, we’ve listed 10 creative ways to get your foot in the door and beef up your personal statement.
1. Register your interest for Springpod’s Psychology Virtual Work Experience
It would be silly not to start with what we think is the BEST and EASIEST way to get psychology work experience. Springpod offers a two-week Psychology Virtual Work Experience programme that takes place at multiple points during the year. In the programme, you’ll be able to view live webinars with leading industry professionals where you can ask questions, and you’ll also need to complete work and assignments to receive your certificate. You can register your interest here to be alerted when the programme opens for applications.
2. Speak to your school or college
One of the easiest ways to get valuable work experience is to speak to your existing contacts and use your network. It’s easy to overlook the contacts that you already have or not consider them as contacts at all, but teachers, careers’ advisors or other students are all people that should be in your professional network as you start out! Try speaking to your school as it’s likely that a teacher at school has a contact that may be able to offer you a placement. Remember, it’s a careers advisor's job to build a list of contacts that can help their students, so it’s a better place to start than you think!
3. Charities and volunteer work
Lots of charities and voluntary organisations offer some form of therapy for a variety of issues. Below we’ve listed a couple of charities that offer counselling that you could volunteer with. The benefit of becoming a volunteer therapist/counsellor is that you’ll be able to get a lot of experience speaking to a lot of people in a relatively short period of time. These charities usually have helplines and the call volume is quite high. A negative of this is that callers may be under high levels of stress, which means that a lot of the therapy is about de-escalation rather than ‘typical’ therapy where patients will book appointments and arrive ready to do some introspection.
By working for a charity that focuses on a certain type of healing you could build up your skillset and interest in a certain field; this could be an area you want to develop your career in or something that could help your personal statement stand out.
4. Counselling in offices
Not all counselling takes part in a therapy practice or clinical setting! As the world becomes more aware of the impact of mental health and how it can affect other areas of our lives, we’ve seen therapy and mental health roles becoming more prevalent in the workplace. Ask your friends and family members who work in an office if their workplace provides some form of counselling, whether it be having mental health first aiders or mental health workshops. See if you can take part, or if the training can be filmed so you can view it later. With this work experience, you’ll likely be able to learn some techniques that help boost productivity, concentration and motivation!
5. Speak to psychologists
You can gain a huge amount from simply speaking to psychologists; if they’re unable to offer work experience they might still be willing to give you 15 minutes of their time, and either over the phone or virtual chats can be very helpful. To make sure you get the best out of your conversation, be sure to make a list of appropriate questions beforehand and reflect on what you’ve learnt afterwards.
6. Private psychology practices
It’s worth noting that the majority of therapy in the UK is not free and that the NHS has a particularly long waiting list. So, it’s worth getting experience in a private psychology practice as well as a practice that offers NHS treatments so that you can see the difference. Private psychology or psychotherapy will usually include patients who wanted faster treatment than they could get through the NHS or patients who want a treatment that isn’t covered by the NHS. During your interview for your psychology degree or placement, you’ll be able to discuss the differences between the private and NHS sectors and use it to answer questions about the value of the NHS.
7. Hospital placements
If you’re able to get work experience in a hospital then this will look fantastic on your university application. It will also give you an idea of whether there are any other roles based within a hospital that might interest you. It’s difficult to get a sense of quite how many jobs there are within the NHS - there are literally thousands of clinical and non-clinical roles. Your best options are to try to secure the opportunity to shadow a hospital psychologist or see if there are opportunities to do voluntary work within a hospital. Voluntary work within a hospital often involves talking to patients, welcoming people at reception as they enter or guiding patients through the hospital. The good news is that we can help! Springpod offers a number of different NHS Virtual Work Experience programmes so it’s worth taking a look at the medicine, nursing, allied health professions, support services and introduction to healthcare programmes.
8. Use LinkedIn
In this article we’ve spoken a lot about reaching out to any psychologists you may have in your network, but what do you do if you don’t know any? Use LinkedIn to reach out to psychologists and join groups for psychologists so you can be up to date with the latest news.
9. Find local psychologists
This is similar to the suggestion above; it's worth your time to look at websites like the UK Council for Psychotherapy or Psychology Today - both sites contain lists of psychologists who practise all over the country. Another great thing about each site is that most therapists list their specialities and who they treat (ie, whether it’s in groups, couples or individuals); so if you’re looking to find out more about a specific treatment, or looking to specialise you’ll know who to ask for help!
10. Join the British Psychological Society
The British Psychological Society is a registered charity which acts as the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. It is responsible for the promotion of excellence and ethical practice in the science, education, and application of the discipline. It’s worth considering becoming a student member as you’ll get access to:
- their student magazine
- their online community
- automatic enrolment at your local branch (so you can meet with other local psychologists and expand your network)
- dozens of events each year
- discounts on textbooks and publications.