I want a job as a consultant: Skills and behaviours needed to work in OP

By David Biggs

Getting a job in occupational psychology is tough as most of the people reading this article will know.  It is a brilliant career and gives you privileged access to organizations large and small, public sector and private sector, profit or not for profit.  And the list goes on. So why a job in consulting?

Before answering this question, I always like to draw up the distinction between internal and external consultancy.  Many people do start their route as an occupational psychologist in an internal consultancy, which has its advantages and disadvantages (Biggs, 2010). Indeed, I was no exception to this, so post MSc I worked for an internal consultancy in 1994 with the MFI Furniture Group Ltd.  I then moved on and worked in another similar role for Barclaycard in 1995.  And then both of these companies became my clients when I worked as an external consultant for Paradise Computing Ltd. 

This experience taught me that there was a definite difference between working as an internal and external consultant. However the skills learnt as an internal consultant can translate into the skills needed as an external consultant (Sturdy, Wylie, & Wright, 2013). Interestingly enough being a previous employee of both MFI and Barclaycard gave me a fantastic insight into how these organizations ran.  This learning could also be applied to other organizations that were clients of mine. One of the main learning points here is that the client consultant relationship is key (Fincham, 2012).  Even through meticulous planning and project management, lots of things can go wrong in a consultancy assignment.  If things do go wrong then this is where the client consultant relationship matters as everything can be sorted out (Biggs, 2016).

An example of a situation where the client consultant relationship led to improvements and increased sales comes from this period of time in my life. The consultancy I worked for ran an unpopular course on MS Project.  Additionally it was not rated particularly high by those few delegates who attended the course. Utilising the client consultant relationship in building up rapport with some of my clients I could get to the bottom of this matter. On talking to my clients, it seemed the course was about how to use the software itself rather than why would you use the software in the first place.  There is obviously a big difference.  So the consultancy paid for me to embark on project management and planning training.  This knowledge was then incorporated into the MS Project course.  The course then became one of the consultancy’s most popular courses going from being run once every two to three months to being run at least once a week.  So having a good client consultant relationship, not only helps you solve any issues that may arise.  It may also, as in this case, lead to increased sales.  A win win for everyone involved. The other way of getting into consulting is to set up your own consultancy. This is not an easy route by any means and is filled with difficulties. But selling your own expertise does not conform to the normal rules of production and can be done (O’Mahoney & Markham, 2012). Indeed, I am proud to have seen some of our own students at the University of Gloucestershire flourish setting themselves up in their own companies offering their expertise as consultants. Cash flow, directors reports, end of year accounts as well as building client rapport and legal concerns are all part and parcel of running your own firm.  So it is challenging setting up your own consultancy but rewarding at the same time (Biggs, 2010).

Skills and behaviours needed to work as a consultant occupational psychologist

As occupational psychologists we are trained to be able to identify the skills and behaviours needed in a role for it to be performed effectively.  The skills and behaviours needed for a consultancy role are also essential to know, acquire and then develop further to be effective as a consultant (Appelbaum, 2004; Biggs, 2010).

Skills can be taught and can range quite widely in consultancy practice also dependent on what type of role and work that a person wants to achieve.  Identifying skills needed is essential in this process.  This can be done fairly simply using a tool such as a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats Analysis (SWOT) as Biggs (2010) suggested.  This can be further augmented by learning more specific skills sets which may drive a person all the way through to qualifications in consultancy such as those by the Institute of Consulting.  Indeed the CMI/Institute of Consulting has Level 7 qualifications, so at doctorate level, which progress areas of skills and competencies such as:

  • managing consultancy interventions
  • building and sustaining client consultant relationships
  • effective project management
  • tools and techniques for effective consulting

Behaviours are also essential in consultancy. There are a number of competency frameworks around. But it is always useful to stick with one and use it to explore your own behavioural repertoire. Two of the frameworks I would recommend include my own (Biggs, 2010) and the CMI/ Institute of Consulting’s professional behaviours framework. 

My own competency framework (Biggs, 2010) has been used for many years with MSc students at Gloucestershire to map their past achievements onto a behavioural framework. The framework uses unpublished job analyses performed in a large international consultancy and boutique firm and also considers a meta-analysis of competencies completed by Woehr and Arthur (2003) so it is comprehensive.  It includes the following competencies: Communication, Influencing others, Organising and planning, Problem solving, Teamwork and consideration of others, Leadership, Drive, Tolerance for stress/uncertainty.

The CMI/Institute of Consulting also has a competency framework, which includes: Professionalism and Ethics; Analytical and Proactive Thinking; Complexity and Responsibility; Interpersonal Interaction; Delivery; Effectiveness; and finally Personal Growth (IBC, 2007).  The CMI have a three level approach to their competencies rather than the normal 5 point assessment centre rating adopted by Biggs (2010), these levels are: development, independence, and mastery. Either of these frameworks can be used to examine a potential consultants development needs.  Biggs (2010) is probably more apt for entry level consultants and concentrates on issues such as building up resilience in its Tolerance for stress/uncertainty competency.  However the CMI framework is good as it develops through stages all geared towards improving consultancy competence through initially developing a client focus, through to delivering achievable and sustainable results.


The world of consulting is a fascinating one and offers a stimulating career. There are skills and behaviours to learn and develop in this role.  Identification of these is the first step to take. Once identified behaviours and skills can be developed leading to growth as a consultant. Hopefully in this short article, I have managed to demonstrate that work needs to go into developing these skills and behaviours. However, this work is not without reward.  The reward of getting a challenging role in consulting is well worth the effort put in, especially for occupational psychologists.

About the Author

David Biggs is a HCPC registered Occupational Psychologist and chartered through the British Psychological Society (BPS). David’s background is in academia (lecturing and management), business development and consulting. He jointly heads up the Division of Occupational Psychology Training Committee for the British Psychological Society that accredits MSc’s and doctorates in Occupational Psychology in the UK.  David assesses and supervises on the Qualification in Occupational Psychology (DOP) that gives chartered status and HCPC registration for successful candidates. David’s research interests are in consulting, non-traditional work and artificial intelligence.


Appelbaum, S. H. (2004), Critical Success Factors in the Client-Consulting Relationship. Journal of American Academy of Business, 4(1/2), 184-191.

Biggs, D. M. (2010). Management Consulting: A guide for students. London: Cengage Learning.

Biggs, D.M. (2016) Consulting. Chapter in P.Grant. (Ed) Business Psychology in Action: Creating flourishing organisations through evidence-based and emerging practices. Leicester: Troubador Publishing ltd

Fincham, R. (2012), The client in the client- consultant relationship. Chapter in M. Kipping and T. Clark, (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Management Consulting. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Institute of Business Consulting (2007) Management Consultancy Competence Framework. Retrieved on 02/05/2017 from

O’Mahoney, J and Markham, C. (2012) Management Consulting 2nd Edition Oxford: Oxford University Press

Sturdy, A., Wylie, N., and Wright, C. (2013). Management Consultancy and Organizational Uncertainty: The Case of Internal Consultancy. International Studies of Management & Organization, 43(3), 58–73.

Woehr, D.J. and Arthur Jr., W. (2003) The Construct-Related Validity of Assessment Center Ratings: A Review and Meta-Analysis of the Role of Methodological Factors. Journal of Management; 29(2), p231-258

Blog Piece

Using LinkedIn for OP Job Searches

By Nikita Mikhailov

LinkedIn is a very interesting platform connecting the professionals across a variety of fields in one place.

So when it comes to Occ Psych job search, here are some steps you can take to make the most of it…

1. Connect

If you have a particular application of Occ Psych in mind e.g. Psychometric development, coaching, etc… Just search for people already doing this and send a connect invite (you can also customize the invite). You can use something along the lines of:

Hello Joanna,

My name is Steve and I am just starting to explore the job market to put my degree to good use. I find what you do fascinating. It would be great to connect, and if you have some time for a quick call, I would very much appreciate it.

With best wishes,

Nikita (no wait I am supposed to be Steve)

There are many reasons to connect! You can develop a wider network, learn from people already in the field, and also a lot of jobs are advertised internally within a company before made public, so if someone in the company knows you are looking, they might send the info about the opportunity your way (usually they are encouraged with a referral fee for finding a candidate for a position).

2. Update your profile

One of the things that really surprises me is how BSc and even MSc seem to downplay their strengths, previous achievements and experience, just because they might not see it as applicable to Occ Psych job. So Please please good people your previous experiences, knowledge are likely to be brilliantly transferable to the world of Occ Psych, so please highlight them accordingly. Things to keep in mind:

This is your page and it is about you. So write what you are genuinely interest in, even if it is as general as how we experience our human condition or as specific that you find factor analysis of psychometric items beautiful. It is all good, because as I said it’s about you.

When you have a role in mind, such as consultancy, look through the job descriptions and competencies required. then you can edit your past experiences, be it part time jobs, experiences, placements, volunteering to best illustrate the demonstration of those competencies

e.g. Instead – Working in a shop selling perfume – Working in the shop selling high end fragrancies, I helped my clients explore the offering available and find just the right perfume for them.

I was particular proud of the ability to build trust and long-term relationships with clients.

3. Search for Jobs

Ok, LinkedIn has a great job search function, it is the little toolbox icon at the top of your page. Here you can search for specific roles e.g. Occupational psychologist but also for key words e.g. Psychometrics. You can also set up notifications which notify (as the name suggests) so you are kept updated about the recent roles

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Many Occ Psych related jobs don’t even have psychology in the description so search for the keywords (Psychometrics, assessment, development etc…) so you don’t limit your search by role titles.

When applying, most job descriptions have the person who posted this from the company. Reach out to them and ask if you can have a chat to understand the role better. Also if you already know people in the organisation, reach out to them, and maybe find people in the organisation already doing the same job (e.g. Consultant) in the organisation and reach out to them for a chat. This will help you stand out from the rest of the applicants as someone more interested in the role and taking the application process seriously.

Follow the hashtag #psychtalent which was created for people to highlight the jobs in Occ/Industrial Psych, and sort out the posts by date, so you can see the most recent ones first.

4. Share your knowledge, discuss, and engage

There are loads of posts and comments. Engage with them, comment, engage with everyone. here are some tips:

First if you think should you contribute, the answer is ‘yes’, even if you are not yet working in the field, you already have a view on it, and you are also likely to have knowledge and experiences to contribute.

When answering a comment use the ‘@’ sign to highlight the name of the individual you are replying to, as it will allow you to gain more visibility.

Ask questions from your connections with regards to your field e.g. “What we need to improve about how psychometrics are used?” and when people answer make sure to answer them back 🙂

It can be quite fun so when it becomes a bit too serious, take a break.

Oh yeah and don’t be rude to people, because it looks worse on you than on them 🙂

About the Author

Nikita Mikhailov is a Psychometrician, his mission is to share the goodness of psychology. He is Business Psychologist, and a member of the British Psychological Society. His clients include Fortune 500 companies, start ups, individuals and couples. He specialises in supporting companies in recruitment and development of talent through a combination of psychometrics and coaching. His particular interest lies in how personality assessments can be used to increase self awareness and to help people make practical steps towards being more effective leaders and living more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Blog Piece

Finding Your Role

By Nikita Mikhailov

It can be tough submitting application after application and getting rejections and or not hearing anything at all, I have been there. Though here are some tips that might make it easier for you:

“I am passionate about psychology”

Is that your opening line? Well I have some news – about 95% of cover letters start with that. Here are some alternatives: “I am psychological about passion” (thank you Wendy Lord for that one) “I find ……. particularly interesting in Psychology”.

Sending an application without a message or a call first

I know that you have hundreds of applications to send, but take your time to have a call or even pop down for a coffee to the office to have a chat about the role. To find out more about the role and the company and to see if it really is for you.

The job title might not have the word psychologist in it: Maybe looking at job sites for “psychologist” is not the only way to go. Identify what you are particularly interested in about psychology and search for that, it can be “Psychometrics”, “personality assessment”, “culture change”, etc… and you might be surprised of what job title of a role that is a perfect for you Ok, what about going passed job boards all together.

LinkedIn and networking

Not only is LinkedIn a great source for job ads but it’s also a brilliant place to network, even with people you have not yet met. So after you have identified what you really find interesting, however specific it may be (e.g. “Personality assessments” “psychological well-being of firefighters”) go and search LinkedIn for people who do exactly that. After you find them message them with an invite saying how you find there are of work to be fascinating and you love to talk more about it. You already have a shared interest in common and maybe there is an internship opportunity, shadowing etc. When you have a chat ask them “is there anyone else they think that you should meet?” This might give you the opportunity to meet some fellow colleagues.

Have fun. Go to events, meet people one to one (public places and all that). Skype people who you think are ace in the what they do. The world is full of very interesting Psychologists doing some great stuff that they would be happy to talk about.

Psychology is a fascinating field where getting paid allows you to do what you love! Wishing you the very best in your career dear colleague! Anything you would like to add as far as finding the job in Occ/Business Psych? Drop us an message!

Job boards

There are many good job boards: indeed, totaljobs, monster and many more, search them as well. Here are psychology specific ones that we know of in the UK:

BPS British Psychological Society runs this great website, where you can find jobs not only in Occ Psych but also in other branches of psychology

Association for Business Psychology You can look for jobs: And volunteering opportunities:

Other resources that might be useful: Uzma Waseem from ABP has written this brilliant article on how to look for a job during lockdown

About the Author

Nikita Mikhailov is a Psychometrician, his mission is to share the goodness of psychology. He is Business Psychologist, and a member of the British Psychological Society. His clients include Fortune 500 companies, start ups, individuals and couples. He specialises in supporting companies in recruitment and development of talent through a combination of psychometrics and coaching. His particular interest lies in how personality assessments can be used to increase self awareness and to help people make practical steps towards being more effective leaders and living more meaningful and fulfilling lives.


Let Me Count the Ways: 9 Reasons to Attend DOP2020

Hosted in the birthplace of Shakespeare, the Division of Occupational Psychology’s flagship conference is fast approaching, and the conference committee are working overtime to match, and exceed the quality of previous years. Our goal is to deliver more and better content and build on the steady year-on-year increase in delegate numbers that makes us the largest and most successful member network conference in the BPS.

Our theme for the DOP 2020 Annual Conference is ‘The Practice of Science: Occupational Psychologists at Work’. Pertinent to every area of occupational psychology, the theme celebrates a core characteristic of our profession that unifies academia and practice.

The strong reputation of the conference has resulted in offers to contribute and collaborate from both national and international communities united by our interests. Programming so much content into three days is a year-long challenge for the committee resulting in an extensive and growing list of reasons to attend. With this in mind, we’ve picked just nine aspects.

1. Keynotes

The DOP 2020 annual conference has assembled a selection of internationally renowned experts to provide engaging keynotes across the three days. United by both their relevance to Occupational Psychology and the overarching theme of the conference, each speaker will give thought provoking presentations in key areas of importance.

Professor Frederik Anseel – King’s College London Frederik Anseel is Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Vice Dean at King’s College London. He serves as the President of EAWOP (the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology) and is a Fellow of the International Association of Applied Psychology. His work has been published in journals such as Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management, and Psychological Science. Given that the DOP has taken on the challenge of organising the next EAWOP congress in May 2021, to be hosted in Glasgow, we look forward to welcoming this important keynote.

Professor Gillian Symon – Royal Holloway, University of London Gillian Symon is Professor of Organization Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Co-Founder and Co-Director of RHUL’s interdisciplinary Digital Organisation and Society Research Centre. Gillian has been a leading voice on the best practice of qualitative methods, and has written numerous publications that have guided academics, practitioners and student alike. Gillian has used her research expertise and fostered inter-disciplinary working practices to further our understanding into important and contemporary issues facing our profession, including work-life boundaries, technical development and change in organisations.

Professor Brian Nosek – Center for Open Science Brian Nosek is co-Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Open Science that operates the OSF, a collaborative management service for registering studies and archiving and sharing research materials and data. Given how much our science has been suffering from the replication crisis and from serious deficiencies in our evidence base, this is a fascinating opportunity to hear from one of the world leaders in the Open Science movement. Brian’s session will be our first ‘Open Lecture’ and we look forward to welcoming academics across a range of disciplines.

Professor Gabriele Oettingen – New York University Gabriele Oettingen is a Professor of Psychology at New York University. She is the author of more than a 150 articles and book chapters on thinking about the future and the control of cognition, emotion, and behaviour. She received her Ph.D. from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Seewiesen, Germany. She also just happens to be a German Princess, which we assume must be a BPS first.

Professor Mark van Vugt – Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Mark van Vugt is Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Director of the Amsterdam Leadership Lab ( He is also a Research Associate at the University of Oxford. We rarely hear enough about evolutionary factors influencing occupational psychology so Mark’s contributions will be very helpful indeed.

2. Programmed Sessions

The conference will be crammed with sessions on a breadth of topics reflecting the diversity of our industry. This variety also extends to session formats. Delegates will experience high-energy Impact papers, more focussed Standard papers, multi-presenter Symposiums, and visual Poster displays. We are also developing and expanding the Careers support stream in a range of ways and introducing joint sessions pairing academics and practitioners.

Every submission has been assessed using a rigorous double-blind two-reviewer process to ensure quality. Reviewing criteria include originality and methodological thoroughness, in addition to the submission’s contribution to both science and practice. Dozens of reviewers from academia and practice have provided their expertise to help ensure the conference is able to present the very best of Occupational Psychology. Visit our website to see the conference programme.

3. CPD Workshops

Running on Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon, these 3-hour skills-developing CPD workshops will provide an invaluable opportunity to develop your knowledge, add to your skills and potentially gain accreditation that would otherwise only be available at commercial rates. Yes, workshop places are free, but also limited, so you must sign up at the time of registration in order to attend. Check the website for available workshops and booking instructions.

4. New extended and extensive Careers Stream

Due to the popularity of the 45-minute careers session last year, we’ve increased this to a whole diverse stream running across Wednesday and Thursday. This includes speakers talking about their own, often varied, careers, information about job roles, and also development workshops that will benefit delegates at various stages of their careers. In addition, we have scheduled additional short in-programme workshops running over the three days. These will be run by national and international thought leaders and experts and will develop skills designed to give delegates an edge in their careers. For example, our Keynote Gabriele Oettingen will offer a student-focussed workshop based around her iPhone and Android App called ‘Woop’.

5. Networking and Support Programme

What was previously titled the Ambassador programme has been revamped and re-energised for 2020! Your new Networking and Support Programme (NSP) will offer real benefits, especially for those of you who are new to our events.

However, whether an experienced veteran or relative newcomer, the NSP can increase your conference enjoyment and enhance your professional network. The NSP will use information garnered from a brief questionnaire to pair delegates to ‘Conference Champions’ who can be a valuable source of information, reassurance and networking contacts. The conference will also provide several opportunities for NSP participants to meetup and engage.

What is in it for you if you become a Champion? How about the enjoyment of new contacts and the warm glow of giving something back to your society and your profession? You might even get a special badge. What’s not to like?

Getting involved in the NSP is easy! Just indicate your agreement to take part as either a Champion or Delegate when you register or drop the conference team an email ( Visit the website for more details.

6. DOP Awards Dinner

Keeping abreast of the valuable contributions made by psychologists in our industry is no easy task. Luckily the DOP Awards Committee is here to help!

Adjudicated by a panel of expert judges, winners from nine categories will be announced and receive their prizes during Thursday night’s Awards Dinner. This glitzy event will involve plenty of food and drink and conclude with a live band.

Presentation slots have also been allocated to 2019 and 2020 award winners, providing delegates with the chance to experience the work of DOP award-winning presenters first-hand.

7. Location, Location, Location

After receiving very positive ratings from our post-conference feedback, we have decided to return to the highly popular venue that hosted us in 2018. Situated in the heart of Shakespeare country, the Crowne Plaza will provide a welcoming atmosphere that is just a short walk from the historic town of Stratford Upon Avon. Should you be able to come along in time for Tuesday afternoon or evening, we will be arranging a guided tour of Shakespeare’s town by a local actor. Following this, you can enjoy Psychology-in-the-Pub with a highly interactive format.

8. Networking Dinner

Be it touching base with an old friend or building bridges with new contacts, Wednesday night’s Networking Dinner will provide you with food and drink in a relaxed and friendly setting. We have been lucky to secure a very entertaining and informative after-dinner talk from Matthew Syed who when not writing books and running a very successful consultancy also contributes to The Times on leadership and on performance in sport.

9. Posters

Striking a balance between informative and visually striking, posters offer presenters a distinctive format to communicate their research. The A0-sized posters are visible for the entirety of the three days, enabling delegates to peruse the displays at multiple points during the conference. There will also be a more formal Poster Viewing session during Thursday lunchtime, where presenters will be able to receive questions from delegates.

Each poster presenter also gets the chance to speak for one minute about their research in the pulsating Poster Snapshot session immediately following Thursday morning’s Keynote. Prizes for the best posters will be judged by a panel that includes BPS President Elect Dr Hazel McLaughlin, with winners receiving their prizes at the Awards Dinner.

The reasons to attend are too numerous to do justice here, so we’ll be posting frequent updates on social media over the coming weeks. Follow our DOP ‘company’ and group pages on LinkedIn, along with the hashtag #dopconf on twitter to avoid missing out. Given its impending hiatus in 2021 to make way for EAWOP, the DOP 2020 Annual Conference will be an unmissable highlight of 2020! We look forward to meeting up with conference regulars, returners and newcomers to the warm, friendly and engaging event that is our annual conference.

About the Authors

Dr Simon Toms is Co-Chair of the DOP Conference Committee and Principal Research Psychologist at Psychological Consultancy Ltd

Dr Ian Bushnell is Co-Chair of the DOP Conference Committee, former Chair of the DOP, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow

Occupational Psychology

Lessons from the PCL Student Sponsorship Programme

Recent weeks have been hectic for MSc Course Directors. Tasked not only with assessing final dissertations submitted by students from the previous year, they have also been putting plans in place to welcome and induct new students into their MSc programmes for the 2019/20 academic year.

From the student perspective, a fresh cohort of MSc graduates has been released on the job market, keen to begin recuperating the investment of their education. Yet for some, the feeling of elation experienced by graduating may soon be replaced with a sense of disappointment as the exciting range of employment opportunities they expected fails to materialise. This is a situation I am all too familiar with; the gap between graduation to early career placement can feel like a chasm.

After starting work for Psychological Consultancy Ltd (PCL) over 4 years ago, we began considering ways in which I could help graduates minimise some of the difficulties I faced when breaking into the industry. These methods benefited from hindsight, and not only included things I had done, but things I had not. Any actions not only needed to help future graduates, but also to provide a return on investment for PCL.

As an assessment publisher, we have an ongoing responsibility to demonstrate the validity of our tools. Research cuts to the core of this. The insight we generate serves to inform product development and improve the education and training of our test users. Reflecting on ways of generating this insight led me to consider the work students engage in during their courses. The dissertations of MSc students not only form a key component of programmes; they represent a potential conduit for obtaining essential validation data.

This led me to conclude that our goal was to create and develop a process that facilitated a win-win outcome for both students and PCL, and the MSc dissertation represented the best vehicle for this.

The Role of the Dissertation

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

A dissertation is likely to be a student’s greatest academic achievement for a single piece of work. The culmination of months of effort, it encompasses a range of skills including (but not limited to) review of the evidence base, writing proficiency, research methodology and project management. It also provides insight into a student’s interests and the directions they may want to take in navigating the profession. In short, it represents a foundation stone of the personal brand students will cultivate over the course of their professional career.

To some, a dissertation is viewed solely as a constituent part of their overarching MSc. The goal of completing it is to receive a score that combines with those of other modules to create an overall grade. Whilst this is true, an MSc dissertation can represent so much more than that. The goal of our involvement with students was to help them consider untapped opportunities generated by their MSc dissertations in a manner that justified PCL’s support. The result of our efforts to achieve this led to the creation of the PCL ‘Student Sponsorship Programme’ (SSP).

PCL’s Student Sponsorship Programme

The SSP is a competitive process involving approximately 20 UK-based universities running MSc courses in occupational psychology and related fields. Students interested in taking part are invited to submit a short 500-word application by the 11th November. The lynchpin of the SSP is the MSc dissertation, so students’ applications must demonstrate consideration for how PCL products could play a role in their research.

Applicants are informed of the status of their application several days after the deadline, and unsuccessful applicants are offered the chance to have a Skype or phone call with a consultant to discuss their research projects.

Our support starts in mid-December when we welcome successful applicants to our offices in Tunbridge Wells. This ‘Professional Skills Event’ is crammed with content that includes introductions to our assessments and sessions on consultancy, research skills and marketing.

The following months involve ongoing remote contact where we help the students pinpoint and flesh out their research ideas into actionable projects. Once these are identified, the next step is data collection. A significant obstacle for all students, PCL can provide support through our professional contacts and social media presence. Our help extends through to the analysis and write-up stages, with PCL staff on hand to respond to any questions the students may have.

Students have frequently noted the benefits of the programme. PCL staff represent an accessible source of expertise that can respond to students’ questions and concerns, thereby supplementing the support provided by academics. Working with a test publisher also provides the added benefit of enabling students to remotely and automatically deliver bespoke feedback reports to their participants.

Working with a consultancy can also provide opportunities for professional development. This relationship helps the student develop a practitioner mindset that encourages them to think about how academic research can be applied to the client-focussed services offered by consultancies. PCL represents another stakeholder in their project, and the student must reciprocate the support they receive by providing us with the insight resulting from their research.

Submission deadline day for dissertations typically represents the culmination of a student’s MSc journey. However, this is not the case for our SSP students!

Beyond Submission

After a well-earned break from their efforts, communications with the new graduates resume with discussions about next steps. The former students will have developed a range of skills and knowledge during their MSc, so the next goal is to make these as visible as possible. Networking and engagement forms part of this visibility, with the former students encouraged to continue applying the lessons introduced during the professional skills event.

This leads to the most significant next step in the context of the SSP: content dissemination. Students are strongly encouraged to make the most of their research beyond the dissertation. Luckily, disseminating content from dissertations is easier than ever! There are various platforms capable of hosting and distributing content that can be seen by peers, the wider public and potential employers. The SSP graduates can also benefit from uploading to PCL’s online ‘Knowledge Bank’, which hosts a range of freely accessible content.

Outputs emerging from the SSP include white papers, industry publications, blog pieces, video content and conference presentations. Translating an MSc dissertation into each of these formats requires the student to develop a more diverse skillset and cements the benefits of ongoing learning that all psychologists should engage in throughout their careers.

Lessons from the SSP

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

We have learned a great deal as facilitators of the SSP but feel many of these lessons are equally applicable to students, recent graduates, and academics. Recommendations include:

  • Do not view your dissertation as a single piece of work. Instead, look to break it up and disseminate it across various platforms using different formats.
  • Consider approaching your research as a consultancy project in and of itself. Engage with organisations and offer feedback on what you find, even if it’s for free!
  • Create and foster habits that improve your personal brand. Engage with posts and thought leaders relevant to your interests during and after your research.
  • Aim to use your research as a vehicle for engaging with the industry and community. You’ve developed MSc-level knowledge on a specific topic, so use it!

The list of achievements by SSP alumni is extensive and growing year on year. For students, we believe the SSP provides unique insight into the industry that enriches their knowledge and increases their employability. For consultancies, we believe the SSP represents a replicable framework that bridges the academic-practitioner divide and generates win-win outcomes for all involved.

Call for Applicants

Are you or someone you know completing an MSc in Occupational Psychology (or related field) during the 2019/20 academic year?

You can find more information about the SSP on the PCL website, including the SSP brochure, previous outputs, contact details and testimonials.

The deadline for applications to the next intake of the SSP is Monday 11th November 2019.

About the Author

Dr Simon Toms is a Principal Research Psychologist with Psychological Consultancy Ltd, and a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.