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Timon De Graaff on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

HRBP Go To Market & Leadership Development Specialist bij Unilever

By Amanda Lopes Pacca

Timon is so kind that just looking at him makes you smile. It is not out of purpose that he is working with diversity & inclusion. Humble enough to admit the challenges of human nature and the possibility of a biased position, he drives you into a conversation that makes you feel that you want to stay and learn more.

We talked through different topics, including employer branding, innovation, creativity, and Diversity & Inclusion.

When talking about employer branding, Timon expressed that it is all about how you stay true to yourself, what is your value and what do you stand for. Social commitment, for example, is an important topic, giving equal opportunities to everyone in a fair way. He talked about the expectations of the stakeholders and the alignment of your ideas with the people around you. The change will happen by getting everyone on the same page. Timon said that we are not there yet, and people may feel scared or uncomfortable with the unknown, but consciousness is the first step.

In his opinion, the important thing to think concerning employer branding is: What is the higher goal of doing it? And to give people the opportunity to share their ideas, also aligning those ideas with the stakeholders. It is needed to start slowly and then go further. 

Talking about psychological safety, Timon stated that it is possible to drive diversity but the company has to have an inclusive culture for both sides to stay together. With inclusion, people will feel safe to speak up, bringing more innovation, business growth and performance. Diversity always exists in the environment, however, will just take the place it deserves if the company opens space for inclusion.

Timon also spoke about policies to drive diversity & inclusion stating that it is necessary to foster equity, giving everyone the same opportunity. Timon reflected by saying that people are not the same, in this sense, “we all start from different points in life”, we have different experiences. This fact needs to be considered from an inside perspective of the company, looking at the process and questioning the equal opportunities depending on the background and history of people that work there. Timon emphasizes how this is an important topic to start right and then work on top of it.

He also touched on important topics surrounding human nature and psychology, how we are individuals that feel belonging to people that are similar to us, and how we have to be careful about our biased actions in what we are doing since this is the path to be an inclusive company. According to him, that is why it is so hard to drive diversity. For this concern, an important question to ask is: How can we address bias? He also talked about us finding our truth and values, being able to have a voice knowing what matters to us.

When we talked about making mistakes, Timon brought an essential reflection about the peoples’ intentions and the importance of questioning those. Where are these intentions coming from?

When I asked him about guidance for recent graduates that want to join this path of diversity & inclusion, he talked about learning how to be resilient, knowing your personal values and what matters to you, also being open to realising your bias and exploring your feelings of discomfort.

We perceive that it is not easy to be resilient, to get to know your inner voice, and sometimes to have the courage to share your ideas. The important thing is to start to practice, and this will just happen through action. We cannot change the way we put ourselves into the world if we do not change the way we act towards it. Therefore, listen, observe and act- consciously and actively to build the life and future you wish for yourself.

Timon is so thoughtful and manages to touch us uniquely, bringing a comfortable environment for us to express our opinion. I hope that if you want and when you see the interview you can also be touched and reflect on how you are including and accepting the diversity of the world and your own being.

Interview Link on the PsychologyAtWork.Blog YouTube channel: 

About the Author

Amanda is a final year student of the WOP-P Master in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology. Brazilian by birth, her journey into psychology began before she graduated, at the age of 17, when she came into contact with Psychoanalysis. From then on, her passion for understanding the human mind expanded, and she graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In her last year to become an occupational psychologist, her topics of interest cross all human nature, including leadership, psychological empowerment, emotional health, and mental problems. Her hope of contributing to the blog is that this vast universe of psychology could be accessible to as many people as possible through writing. Psychology has a long past but a short history. In this sense, psychology professionals owe it to the world of psychology and its precious knowledge to expand that so more people can think better about themselves, the world, and their desires.

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Amanda Potter on Internships, Networking and Founding a Leading Consultancy

Amanda Potter, CEO at Zircon Management Consulting Ltd

By Amanda Lopes Pacca

Getting to know Amanda Potter for the first time was like staying with a familiar. Her kindness, openness, and attitude bring a feeling of “home”. 

Amanda Potter is the CEO at Zircon Management Consulting and has vast experience in diverse areas of occupational psychology. Despite all her professional achievements, she stays human and humble with life, and she showed in the interview I made essential lessons and reflections for the “beginners”. 

The complete interview with Amanda is already on our YouTube channel, and you can find a link at the end of this post. Here I will touch on important topics and reflections that she gives to us. 

To start, we all know that the first steps of our professional careers are not easy. We need to apply for jobs, go through interviews, deal with our CV and cover letters. All challenges are the process of showing our best side to have a place, a space that we can show ourselves and be valuable to the company. 

This process takes a lot of energy- it is what we call the recruitment and selection process in human resources. But something changed through time. Before the company used to choose the individuals, they stayed more passive, waiting for responses and hoping to find a good job. Today, everything is different, or at least expected to be. Of course, for the ones who dive into this change. The company chooses the individuals, but they also choose the company. They are no longer passive individuals, but pro-active ones who can build their futures ahead of them and think, rethink and think again in what they really want for their lives- in this first path. 

The individuals have the possibility and facilities due to technologies to search the company, the culture, and they can really decide based on their preferences what they really desire. 

A difficult question that I want to ask you: What do you really desire?

As Amanda said, the important thing is not to find the correct answers but come up with questions. 

However, do you think all recent graduates, students, or professionals that really want a role go deeply through it? I am not so sure about it. Our generation is mostly short-sighted, anxious, and seeks success and quick results. We have a hard time dealing with failures and waiting.

Amanda Potter showed how it is necessary to have time and be dedicated to doing simple things, such as filling out a form or being proactive enough to know how you can contribute to a company, rather than expecting them to contribute to you. She showed how a relationship is based on a mutual connection, receiving and giving. 

Connection, reconnection, a learning life process. Are you ready for that? To learn, make mistakes, and face your own failures?

It is important to repeat that the essential thing is not just expecting but offering. Thinking about what you have to offer and the best way of doing it. 

Amanda also indicated how companies look for courageous and proactive people who show that they can contribute to them. She highlighted all these essential aspects and attitudes expected by an intern. It was possible to see through the knowledge she shared that in the end, what the company wants is not an expert- is a human being open to challenges, available to know how to work in teams, someone who knows how to communicate effectively, receptive to commit mistakes but more open-minded to learning how to deal with them in a responsible manner. An individual who is open to taking time, researching the company, understanding their desire, and filling a form until the end. 

Filling a form here could have a symbolic meaning. It involves being compromised with what you really want, being compromised with yourself.

This is a personal challenge in times like ours. We need to develop patience, waiting, and active listening. However, we can’t fool ourselves. We have to step up and see the world with prudent eyes: it takes time to build a career, it takes time to grow, it takes time to learn, it takes time to search for the right job, it takes time to think about your desire and really choose your life. 

It takes time. It involves frustration, committing mistakes, and facing your fears. And it is impossible to conquer the life you want without living it and going through the process. 

In the end, Amanda also said to interns to pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes and keep trying! Moreover, she reported on the importance of taking time to get to know people and build mutual relationships! Finally, she advised that if you send a LinkedIn invitation, include a message on why you want to connect to this person! In a sincere, open, and captivating way, Amanda reflected the reality of life. 

And now I am saying to you, dear reader, really keeps trying, without deceiving yourself. Try with your heart, and wait for life to show you the results of your actions.

Amanda finished sharing her lessons, throwing back to the moment when she was an intern: “Don’t feel like you need to come with the answers. As long as you are prepared to learn, to ask questions, and be open to feedback, then you will be fine”. 

Interview link on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEoWHeld8ug

About the Author

Amanda is a final year student of the WOP-P Master in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology. Brazilian by birth, her journey into psychology began before she graduated, at the age of 17, when she came into contact with Psychoanalysis. From then on, her passion for understanding the human mind expanded, and she graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In her last year to become an occupational psychologist, her topics of interest cross all human nature, including leadership, psychological empowerment, emotional health, and mental problems. Her hope of contributing to the blog is that this vast universe of psychology could be accessible to as many people as possible through writing. Psychology has a long past but a short history. In this sense, psychology professionals owe it to the world of psychology and its precious knowledge to expand that so more people can think better about themselves, the world, and their desires.

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Rob Robson on Organisational Change and Employee Engagement

By Amanda Lopes Pacca

Reflections, insights, questions, and mainly the reality of the practical world in the approach of complex issues is what emerged from the interview with Rob Robson about change, employee engagement, and feedback, ending with a question about leadership: after all, what makes a good leader in the 21st century?

Rob Robson’s work areas include employee feedback and engagement, with deep experience in change and significant business experience. He has the most experience in leadership, engagement, and motivation.

Shall we reflect together, or rather, with Rob, on essential aspects of the career of an occupational psychologist? Read the blog all the way through to see the interview’s highlights, which are also available on our YouTube channel.

To start with the theme of organizational change, so recurrent in a complex and ambiguous world in constant alteration, we can ask: Would changing situations in the organization be an illusion? Should we talk about what to do in non-change cases instead? How to materialize, sustain and carry out effective changes?

We know that there are no magic solutions, rules, or tips for complex questions, not least because it all depends on the context and which individuals one should consider. Rob clarified that focusing on change alone can be misguided, as the focus should be on what you really want, on what is the target, behaviour, process, and not necessarily described in terms of change. In his opinion, people know that things change all the time, but why should you do it, how involved you are in the process, and the importance of letting people figure out and understand the importance of the change in their lives.

Rob was involved with extensive transformation processes in companies during his career. In his experience, he saw people with deep concerns about it, as they are involved in situations, which makes them see issues and things – and understand that working with people in Rob’s view really helps. The focus has to be where you want to go and how people get there, rather than focusing on the mechanics—building the interaction with people! “Get practical, with the models in the back of your mind”- as he said.

About the theme of engagement mixing with change, Rob pointed to the challenge object of engagement. He said that it requires interpretation, the data you have, and what you will do in practical terms. Interpretation in this sense is to ask the implications of the theories, surveys, questionnaires, and what it is tried to achieve in the real world and for people’s strategies. He said that it is an advantage if you have an engaged force to achieve change. However, on the flip side, changing badly is relatively easy to disengage and disempower people. Engagement is a process, in his view, getting people interested, removing fear, creating conditions, and going beyond traditional engagement!

Getting to people, allowing them to express themselves, and contributing to the design, all aspects of self-determination theory are crucial in Rob’s view. He also showed with these reflections that getting in touch with people as human beings, listening to them in the most profound ways. Still, dealing with people also has challenges and big ones. 

Talking about employee feedback, Rob showed others and exciting perspectives. He pointed out that no matter what kind of feedback, no one finds that an easy task, there is the giving part and the accepting partboth being challenged. He talked about reversal theory (dealing with what is motivating us right now) and the importance of feedback: doing with fear of the person not liking you or what you have to say, and whether or not this helps the other person. Self-questioning is essential. For him, if it’s not going to help, why say it? If it’s to make the person feel free to ‘get rid of it,’ that’s not really what giving feedback is about. 

Feedback in his view is not about “getting rid of it” in an individual logic of who gives the feedback, but about how much it helps who is receiving it. 

He also emphasized the difference between master and sympathy. Master is the want for improvement, and sympathy is the want to feel cared for and friendly. In his words, knowing that you will receive feedback could make you think: “what can I learn from this?” Considering more the master perspective, that no feedback could do any harm– or is to improve, or if you don’t think that way, it is also necessary to filter it. 

But Rob also showed that sometimes it is easy to say and difficult to do

We know that, right? When we talk about emotions, we know that we can control them (sometimes yes/no), but we cannot make them not occur. They come and happen, even though we don’t want to feel it. 

To write one more reflection that Rob introduced about feedback is the overplayed importance of it. And I ask you: Do you think that also happens? Or do human beings give the proper attention to the topic? 

With a tip for that, Rob showed that sometimes information is more valuable than feedback, and it is possible to get them everywhere. In the “unspoken,” many things are said and likely to be understood. Rob pointed out that sometimes feedback can only be a saying that is already in progress in the information available even before it is reported. 

To not give you more spoilers, as I can imagine, you will want to see the whole interview. Rob finalized with essential reflections about the leader’s role. In his own words “Being a leader is working in a discomfort area and accepting it”. 

But I will end on this point, with a not saying of the rest. So I leave you with the curiosity, reader, to see in full this interview with many crucial issues, sayings, and non-sayings of professional practice. 

Interview link on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yz7ZYiBXsy8&t=70s

About the Author

Amanda is a final year student of the WOP-P Master in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology. Brazilian by birth, her journey into psychology began before she graduated, at the age of 17, when she came into contact with Psychoanalysis. From then on, her passion for understanding the human mind expanded, and she graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In her last year to become an occupational psychologist, her topics of interest cross all human nature, including leadership, psychological empowerment, emotional health, and mental problems. Her hope of contributing to the blog is that this vast universe of psychology could be accessible to as many people as possible through writing. Psychology has a long past but a short history. In this sense, psychology professionals owe it to the world of psychology and its precious knowledge to expand that so more people can think better about themselves, the world, and their desires.

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Interview with Anton Fishman on Mentoring with the Emerging Occ Psychs Initiative

By Amanda Lopes Pacca

The interview with the HR & Talent Tech Start-up Advisor, AI Educator, & Organisational Consultant Anton Fishman went beyond the expected limits – it was an enriching dialogue for future mentors and mentees who want to participate in the mentoring program developed by PsychologyAtWork.blog team. 

With honesty and good humor, Anton Fishman brought an experienced and wise look at the process of being a mentor, especially with his experience with two mentees in the first year of the programme. Several points were emphasized, the positive and negative aspects, proposals for improvement, interpersonal relationships, personal and professional gains, and even advice for those interested in participating in the program, either as mentors or mentees. 

So … read the post until the end to find out if the programme fits you and why applying to it could benefit your career. 

Anton’s blending approach of moments acting as a coach and others as a mentor was a favorable mix. Through his coaching experience of over 30 years, Anton showed that although he is comfortable and prepared to perform this role, it is always very satisfying and enjoyable to be with new and diverse people. When I questioned him about what he could take away from the programme, he reported that he could say it was remembering the pleasure that is to exercise the activity of mentoring.

We know that we can learn in various ways in life, and we often consider that learning means gaining something new, which has never been acquired before, be it knowledge, experience, etc. We can say that Anton showed us in this case that learning goes beyond the new because in daily life and in the activities that one already has practice, it is possible to continue with the pleasure and the learning process. In the old, new looks and perceptions about the same situations can always arise. It is like reading classicals, in different moments of our lives we can always read them again and have new perceptions. 

In Anton’s case, the remembrance of the pleasure of the practice and the choice for a life was present in this process. It is the practice allied to a continuous process that can provide varied emotions even through the same activities. The beauty of life is really in this, in finding reasons and purpose in our choices. Feeling, as Anton said, that he has something of value to say, especially with the younger generation, was relevant together with the fact of feeling useful. I believe this is something every human being desires, being useful on what they do or to others. 

The world’s beauty is not in statements of right and wrong but in the conscious exchange between individuals and generations and the development opportunities that can arise from this process. 

Anton also reflected on the importance of knowing when to give advice that is propitious for certain situations, and when not, something that can only be learned through the practice of the profession and with the famous dose of daily effort. The awareness needed to know the right moment to act is something he brought to the reflection for the future mentors of the programme. 

Professionals will develop these insights, awareness, and the sensitivity of acting in the field over time. And our mentoring programme can help you with the development of some competencies.

Finally, Anton also left us with a challenge, the knowing process of integrating theory with the real world. Famous in the academic world, the scientist-practitioner model debate is present. The theory is essential, but knowing how to integrate it into practice becomes central to the sustainable development of society and the resolution of its problems and limitations. As Anton said, making the transition from knowledge and insight to knowledge application into working practices. 

He leaves these challenges for readers to reflect, think, and try to find ways to apply this complex action in their professional and real lives. I don’t know how you readers felt reading about the interview so far, but for me it was like a little taste of the mentoring sessions, and great reflections that can come out of it.

About the advice for mentors and mentees, Anton, in his own words, leaves the following message:

“If you want to be a mentor, commit to that, do it, because it is professionally rewarding, it’s about empowering and helping to establish the next generations of applied psychology.”

We created better conditions to think and develop ourselves also in contact with people and through having different experiences. Suppose you are interested in applying to be a mentor and mentee. In that case, I wish you a fantastic journey and a path that can provide you with learning, a solid and aggregating network of relationships. 

Note: The team PsychologyAtWork.blog would like to thank Anton Fishman for his interview and participating as a mentor in the first year of the Occ mentoring programme. The interview is available on the youtube channel of the Psychology at Work team. The links are below if you would like to join the programme as a mentor, a mentee, or watch the interview. 

Link to apply to be a mentor: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/EOPMentorYear2

Link to apply to be a mentee: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/EOPMenteeYear2

Link of the youtube interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi4UeXfp6ZA

About the Author

Amanda is a final year student of the WOP-P Master in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology. Brazilian by birth, her journey into psychology began before she graduated, at the age of 17, when she came into contact with Psychoanalysis. From then on, her passion for understanding the human mind expanded, and she graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In her last year to become an occupational psychologist, her topics of interest cross all human nature, including leadership, psychological empowerment, emotional health, and mental problems. Her hope of contributing to the blog is that this vast universe of psychology could be accessible to as many people as possible through writing. Psychology has a long past but a short history. In this sense, psychology professionals owe it to the world of psychology and its precious knowledge to expand that so more people can think better about themselves, the world, and their desires.

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Wrap up of the First Emerging Occ Psych Programme and Future Directions

By Amanda Lopes Pacca

Closing of the first cohort and what’s next?

Our session started with love, enthusiasm, and openness. Our team witnessed this: the frankness and honesty with which the participants gave us feedback and participated in our closing celebration.

Some of the positive feedback talks include the experience of meaningful connection with different individuals, networking, and fruitful discussion with professionals interested in your working life and how they can help you improve it.

All of the programme was developed with transparency and constant care to promote the best experience for young and older career professionals. I can state with certainty the mission of this team: to provide opportunities for human beings to develop professionally and humanly and to find new paths.

In this sense, the PsychologyAtWork.blog team celebrated. At the same time that we are closing a cycle – working with much “sweat” and dedication – we are opening the doors to a new time.

It’s time to grow and expand this incredible work, which already in the first edition influenced many professionals in many ways – in the middle of the pandemic.

We are living in confusing times – but our team is trying to bring hope again. With time, the path taken into the professional world demands the subject and gives him the most diverse experiences. But there is hope, and it begins with a dream. That’s why our “Emerging Occ Psychs” mentoring program is launching its second cohort – with the possibility to enjoy and learn from professionals in the field of occupational psychology work, bringing you hope and helping you with your dreams. 

Besides that, we will bring more structure, more dissemination through social networks, building interactions, and interviewing specialists about varied themes that you can also contribute. Furthermore, we will make improvements concerning our “Emerging Occ Psychs” mentoring program. Adjustments will be made based on the participants’ feedback to provide you an experience that pushes you into the professional world and enables you to improve yourself in diverse areas.

The expansion of consciousness happens through knowledge. It is the dissemination of this knowledge that motivates us to go further. We have considered all the feedback from the first year, and we will improve it thoroughly for the second year of this journey.

Are you ready? We hope that we can count on you. Look inside yourself and speak out. Our mission is to make you feel belong to the profession. Come share or teach in events, mentoring programs and help the world understand the richness of psychology for humanity.

We will soon put our news into practice! Contact us and seek in knowledge the possible choices to be made every day in your daily life.

About the Author

Amanda Lopes Pacca

Amanda is a final year student of the WOP-P Master in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology. Brazilian by birth, her journey into psychology began before she graduated, at the age of 17, when she came into contact with Psychoanalysis. From then on, her passion for understanding the human mind expanded, and she graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In her last year to become an occupational psychologist, her topics of interest cross all human nature, including leadership, psychological empowerment, emotional health, and mental problems. Her hope of contributing to the blog is that this vast universe of psychology could be accessible to as many people as possible through writing. Psychology has a long past but a short history. In this sense, psychology professionals owe it to the world of psychology and its precious knowledge to expand that so more people can think better about themselves, the world, and their desires.

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Psychological Safety in the Workplace: All we Need?

By Amanda Lopes Pacca

PsychologyAtWork.blog promoted a BeTalent session about psychological safety, exciting aspects, exercises, and breakout rooms that make the participants think outside the box about such an important subject. The session was hosted by Dr Amanda Potter, Tina McCarty and Cleme Lewis, and explored some of the unique challenges of driving psychological safety in a hybrid working environment. But for those who could not come, let’s summarise a little bit the main aspects of the event to give you the possibility of realizing this essential construct.

And as I know, this post will leave you with more questions than answers, which is ideal in the world of psychology – where there are no absolute truths, but attempts at a profound expansion of knowledge – in search of individual, collective, and world well-being. But in this case, we will deal with safety in the workplace, so what is psychological safety?

According to Amy Edmondson (1999), it is a climate at work where individuals feel comfortable and free to speak up, as they feel that the work environment receives their voice in a good way and there is permission for candour.

But looking to the real world, we realize that not all environments are conducive to interpersonal risk. In some cases, professionals are encouraged to expose themselves; in others not. However, the reaction to this exposure often does not make them feel safe to continue the action and do it again. In this sense, the climate that is generated is not safe.

According to Edgar Schein, Warren Bennis, and Amy Edmondson, psychological safety could be linked to business impact. Since it increases engagement and high performance, enhancing different learning and knowledge sharing mechanisms, innovation, employee well-being, problem-solving, error reporting, and a sense of belonging.

Imagine all these as positive consequences in the organizational environment of individual and group decisions, of human actions that promote the climate of psychological safety and allow everyone to benefit from that state.

As Psychological Safety is a climate, it is also related to culture, as the organization’s values and norms define the climate. However, changing culture is challenging, as it takes years to develop. It is important to think long-term and work every day to make changes in culture if necessary. However, it is also essential to think short-term, which comprises the climate- the employees’ perceptions or feelings about the work environment. In a way, long-term changes occurred through habits developed in the present and carried out every day in the short term. This dynamic of present and future time intertwines and works together within the organizational environment.

But as the climate is associated with people’s feelings, he could change quickly. That is the importance of psychological safety and an open environment where employees can feel that they have a voice to express themselves and that they are heard. This climate is not about saying what the employee wants to hear and being complacent. The truth is the real path and the best way to help someone- and sometimes are not “nice.” But they are necessary for the growth of the individual and the organization itself.

Sharing different experiences and communicating is important to understand how people feel and want to be listened to, the needed changes, and new ways of bringing this psychological safety at the workplace.

BeTalent is a management consulting specializing in Talent platform, products, and assessments with a model of psychological safety discussed in the event. In that model, with the division in teams where psychological safety exists and not, it is possible to realize different characteristics such as courage, inclusion, trust, and appreciation to each other versus seeking consistency, being nice all the time, having relentless expectations, etc.

The fact is that human beings are complex, and not everything is “black and white.” When we approach the universe of the human mind in psychology, we have to understand that nothing is simple. The creation of a psychological safety environment for the teams demands action. According to BeTalent, it comprises challenging your assumptions, asking why, and asking about the wider consequences.

That means that the individual has to act through it and have an open mind to learn and not be afraid of failure or even “asking silly questions.” The fact is: to express your feelings and be truthful with yourself and your beliefs; there are no silly questions- just important ones. And the first one to know that should be the owner of the questions- yourself. Also, if you ask, maybe more people will be encouraged to do so, changing the climate and consequently the psychological safety at the workplace. You can be an essential person to contribute. Don’t just sit back and wait for things to happen and for the company to offer you that climate of safety. Use the power of your action and your daily choices to help build an environment in which you can live in a psychologically comfortable way.

About the Author

Amanda Lopes Pacca

Amanda is a final year student of the WOP-P Master in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology. Brazilian by birth, her journey into psychology began before she graduated, at the age of 17, when she came into contact with Psychoanalysis. From then on, her passion for understanding the human mind expanded, and she graduated in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In her last year to become an occupational psychologist, her topics of interest cross all human nature, including leadership, psychological empowerment, emotional health, and mental problems. Her hope of contributing to the blog is that this vast universe of psychology could be accessible to as many people as possible through writing. Psychology has a long past but a short history. In this sense, psychology professionals owe it to the world of psychology and its precious knowledge to expand that so more people can think better about themselves, the world, and their desires.

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Being an Independent OP

Ever considered going independent? How about setting up your own consultancy? These are ideas and thoughts that cross most practitioners’ minds at some point or other. So, what are the top tips on actually doing so? Here are a few we gathered from a recent LinkedIn discussion (published with permission from the authors).

Steve Chapman

www.canscorpionssmoke.com

www.linkedin.com/in/stevegchapman

  • Work out what you are really, really interested* in.
  • Spend as much time as possible being interested in it.
  • Find and hang out with others who are really, really interested in it.
  • The rest sorts itself out.

* “Interested” means a real deep passion and insatiable curiosity. Not a vague subject. But something you’d run across a busy motorway to be interested in!

Martin Colinson

https://www.enablingtalent.com/

www.linkedin.com/in/martin-collinson-07b7974

  • Be really clear about how you can add value
  • Be really clear about how much that value is, and how much of it is rightfully yours
  • Be really clear in your messaging about both of those things
  • Look for people to collaborate with
  • Drop me a line

Gordon Curphy

http://www.curphyleadershipsolutions.com/

http://www.therocketmodel.com/

www.linkedin.com/in/gordoncurphy

As someone who has been independent for so long that they are no longer employable, here are seven thoughts about starting up your own consulting business:

  • Most people do not get trained on how to market or sell their services in graduate school, yet this differentiates high from low income consultants. Facts tell, but stories sell.
  • Understand it takes 12-18 months of effort before winning business with new clients. This time frame can be shortened if you have already established relationships with key contacts.
  • The bigger the net, the more fish you’ll catch. Use LinkedIn to make connections with potential clients.
  • New consultants spend too much time building relationships with “below the line” contacts. These individuals can say no to proposals but are not empowered to say yes. Identify and build relationships with those who control the purse strings.
  • Land and expand. Most clients have multiple needs, and a broad range of consulting skills improves the odds you’ll be given more work once you’ve delivered a project.
  • Cash flow is more important than revenues when running a small business.
  • Have a rainy-day fund. There will be times where there is little income, often due to no fault of your own

Hayley Lewis

https://halopsychology.com/ 

www.linkedin.com/in/hajlewis

  • Be clear on who your target audience is. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people.
  • Embrace your uniqueness. There is only one you. While we can learn from what others are doing, don’t copy them. People hire people so be open about what you’re about and why people should work with you. It’s okay to have a personality 😀
  • If you don’t have a strong digital presence, get that sorted ASAP. Write, draw, vlog, podcast – whatever works for you. Around 50% of my work now comes off the back of content I’ve shared online. Get posting!

Nikita Mikhailov

www.linkedin.com/in/nikitamikhailov

  • You can be independent and still continue looking for a full-time job
  • Minimal viable product – instead of going for the website, branding all that stuff before starting practicing go for what you really need – Updated LinkedIn and professional indemnity insurance ( soothes my Neuroticism) then you can build everything else as you go along
  • Its not necessarily about the new and shiny clients – make a list of 3 people you really enjoyed working with in the past and reach out to them for a catch up and at the end of the conversation ask if there is anyone in their network that it would be of benefit for you to chat to. Great, done that! now make a list of three more 🙂
  • Have working hours, sometimes it can get hectic and you never switch off because maybe there is an email or a LinkedIn message which will lead to the next project, and there might be but it can wait till tomorrow morning, and there are more fun things to do in evenings than Linkedin (well that’s what I keep telling myself)
  • Ask for help from your network and community cause no way anyone can make it right now on their own

Rob Williams

www.robwilliamsassessment.com

www.linkedin.com/in/robwilliamsassessment

Firstly be authentic. The freedom of working independently allows you the space to find your own voice 2) Whenever possible, favour those clients and projects you like best. 3) As soon as you can specialise in profitable business streams which you both enjoy and have a proven track record in. Good luck!

Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences and wisdom on this 🙂

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.

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Developing a Commercial Mindset

By Simon Toms, Nikita Mikhailov & Hardeep Virdi

Occupational Psychology is a fascinating and fast-growing discipline. It adopts a scientific evidence-based approach to help individuals and organisations alike. It exists as a longstanding academic discipline with a demonstrable positive impact that has helped identify and address an extensive list of workplaces challenges and opportunities.

Over the years, this has translated into a strong demand for OP practitioners and the services they can provide. The most common route to this role is completion of a master’s degree in OP or a related field. Yet transitioning between these positions can prove difficult.

One reason is that practitioners may potentially lack a commercial mindset. Developing a commercial mindset is an essential requirement for anyone looking to apply OP to the world of work, when working in any sector, industry, private company or public organisations. Commercial mindset can simply be defined as “the knowledge of the business and industry your role operates in. When applied to work it shows if you have a deep understanding of the commercial models and strategies that underpin the business, product or service you provide” (CIPD, 2018).

As practitioners, we’ve decided to put our heads together and create a short blog detailing how this mindset can be developed and cultivated to become one pillar of your success as a practitioner.

We’ll begin by focussing on early-career OP’s, before discussing the importance of a commercial mindset more broadly.

Starting your journey

Whilst some MSc graduates will begin PhD’s soon after, the vast majority will not. Instead, graduates will find themselves job hunting in an extremely competitive job market. OP has a breadth of applications, so the ‘next step’ could look like a great many things.

Working as a practitioner – potentially in an OP-related consultancy – is one such step and is highly sought after by graduates. Yet moving from academia to a practitioner role represents a significant shift. One way to perceive this change is a move from research and theory to application and client service. A strong commercial mindset sits at the core of this shift.

This becomes clear when considering your prospective employer. As with any business, consultancies must adopt a commercial mindset to survive. It may seem crass to some, but revenue generation and business development will likely become part of your professional responsibility moving forward.

This isn’t to say that making money must always be at the forefront of your mind! But it should be a key part of your thinking. This may seem obvious to some, but this can prove difficult for others with limited employment experience outside of their education.

This lack of understanding in more inexperienced graduates can become apparent when they engage with prospective employers for the first time. Demonstrating your understanding of the discipline is important, but this is already well evidenced by your possession of a relevant degree.

Your qualifications have likely played a pivotal role in getting you to the latter stages of a recruitment process, but you’ll likely be up against individuals with similar achievements on paper. Prospective employers will be looking for more, and your chances of giving it to them will be improved by adopting a commercial mindset.

Interviewing for roles

A job interview is a great situation to demonstrate commercial mindset, even when you have limited or no experience. It’s important to discuss what you’ve achieved – interviews are not the time to display false modesty – but you also need to demonstrate why a prospective employer should hire you for the role. When putting forward your case, it’s helpful to consider some important questions that can help you demonstrate commercial awareness:

  • What products and services does the employer provide?
  • What is the science and literature underpinning these products and services?
  • What is the marketplace like for these services and products?
  • What are the typical clients of these products and services, and how do they decide which providers to engage with?
  • Who are the competitors of the prospective employer?
  • What is the client journey, and at which point will you be involved?
  • What skills, abilities and knowledge will you require to fill the role, and if you don’t have them, how will you attain them?

Questions like these will stem from a commercial mindset, so if they don’t spring to mind, you need to broaden your perspective as to how you perceive OP and your role in it. Doing so will raise your awareness of OP as a commercial enterprise that provides products and services to clients, and not just as an academic discipline.

If you are able to effectively communicate this to prospective employers, you will also be able to effectively communicate this to potential clients. That will make you valuable and desirable as a prospective candidate in an increasingly competitive job market.

This value will become increasingly apparent as you progress in your roles, none more so than in the context of consultancy projects.

Applying a commercial mindset to consultancy projects

The first step in any consultancy project is to listen to client’s needs. Truly listening is not always easy to do and for many is one of the most difficult things to do. It involves understanding the current situation the client finds themselves in and what challenges they feel they currently need to address, asking questions to better understand the options that are available to them and where most your skill and expertise can be utilised to work with the client for them to achieve their goals of the project. Some tips on listening:

  • Don’t interrupt (especially hard for the more extraverted of us)
  • Use open-ended questions to gain further insights than what is required
  • Before proposing a course of actions, just check you heard what the client said and giving them an option to add anything else
  • When asking is there anything else they want to add, or the “Is there any questions?” count to at least 10 inside your head before saying anything

As one of my colleagues says:

“If the client comes out of the meeting, feeling as they were heard, that’s half the task done!”

About the Authors

Simon Toms is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. In 2019, he was elected to Full Membership of the Division of Occupational Psychology. He is also a Chartered Scientist with the Science Council, Principal Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology, published author, and PhD graduate. He is a graduate of the Division of Occupational Psychology’s Leadership Development Programme.

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.

Hardeep Virdi is an established Senior Learning & Development professional who has built her career working internally within organisations as a Chartered Occupational Psychologist. Specialist in Leadership Development, Talent & Succession Development, Executive 1:1 and team based coaching, and development based Psychometrics. Mainly working with Executive Boards/Senior levels in global matrix, complex and diverse organisations.

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3 Ways to make the most of your MSc Dissertation

By Simon Toms

Achieving a Master’s degree is a massive accomplishment. It reflects a level of education few people reach and demands a range of skills and knowledge to be honed at a high level. OP-related MSc’s are no exception.

OP is a diverse field with a variety of applications. Areas include personnel assessment, organisational development, staff wellbeing, coaching and leadership to name just a few, and an MSc must provide students with insight into all of these and more.

Sitting within this diverse range of study is the dissertation. A culmination of many months of hard work, dissertations contribute a significant portion of your MSc grade. Whilst many people view their dissertation entirely within these terms, it’s important to note that the benefits of your dissertation can extend well beyond MSc course credits.

We’ve compiled a short list of tips on how MSc students can maximise the impact of their dissertations. But before sharing them, a couple of points must be made.

The first is that your dissertation says a great deal about you and your interests. Students would have received the same taught content as their course peers, and BPS accreditation ensures significant inter-university alignment in terms of OP course subject matter.

This means that the topic of your dissertation is arguably the strongest factor differentiating you from your peers.

The second point is to challenge the mindset many students develop throughout their education. At every stage, you have probably been surrounded by peers who were likely to be at a similar level to you, and your MSc would have been no exception. This is usually a great thing. You can share experiences with course mates and engage in mutual learning with others possessing similar interests.

But there is a downside…

It can serve to dampen your understanding of how far your education has taken you, and how much knowledge you now possess in relation to the general population. This mindset is exacerbated by your ‘graduation’, which can make you feel like you are ‘starting from scratch’ in the world of work.

Whilst continuing to learn, develop, and build experience is essential, you must also recognise that your educational achievements already make you a valuable resource.

The knowledge and skills you have built in the context of your dissertation are the strongest manifestation of this value and should serve as a focal point in the early stages of you OP career.

With these points in mind, here’s three tips for making you MSc dissertation go further.

Online Engagement

Developing an online presence is more important than ever. Starting is easy and should involve following anyone working in your areas of interest. This will not only help you stay connected to developments in your desired field of work but facilitate future engagement with important people.

Your dissertation represents a rich vein of content in which this engagement could draw from. Explore ways of disseminating the lessons you learned in your research. These can include uploading a series of short blog pieces that breakdown the key themes of your dissertation or engaging interested parties in online discussions with useful insight resulting from your studies.

The most important platform to engage through is LinkedIn, although twitter represents another option. You can even consider creating your own website. Trust us, this is easier than you think!

Whilst the benefits may not immediately become apparent, your online presence could be the most critical factor in furthering your career. Building your profile makes your achievements and expertise easily accessible. It can help the people you need to impress see you, and what you’ve accomplished, at the click of a button.

Present at a Conference

Conferences represent a great resource for psychologists at every stage of their career. They can facilitate hugely advantageous formal and informal networking opportunities, and allow you to hear from a range of thought leaders and researchers in OP and other related fields.

Your dissertation can also allow you to play an active role as a presenter. Events can offer a range of format options. Longer-form options like standard papers and symposiums are one option, but less demanding formats like ‘impact papers’ and posters are also available.

Keep an eye out for upcoming events, and if one takes your fancy, make sure you read the submission guidelines with a fine-tooth comb! Even if your findings will not be ready by the submission deadline, it can still be worth submitting, as reviewers may be flexible on this.

Recent restrictions resulting from the global pandemic have put a temporary hiatus on face-to-face events, but a huge growth in virtual events has filled the void. This removes one of the most prohibitive factors in attending events: the cost of travel and accommodation.

Ironically, this means that there may be no better time to maximise your dissertation’s impact by getting a conference presentation under your belt!

Publish!

Publishing your dissertation can massively increase its exposure. It can mean the difference between several readers, or several hundred. It’s obviously preferable to maximise your readership, but how?

There are several options for publication open to you. The gold standard for a publication would be in a peer-reviewed academic journal. This option will be reserved for the very best dissertations and may benefit from involving academics with expertise in your topic as co-authors.

Other, more accessible options are available. There are several OP-related publications you could consider; the BPS journal ‘OP Matters’ is a great example. You can also explore industry-specific publications. These will depend on the content and focus of your research and can help you engage with individuals who are best placed to implement lessons emerging from your findings.

Publishing your work not only builds your reputation. It can develop your ability to communicate effectively and professionally. The primary example is writing, which is not a linear skill. There are various styles, and improvements in one style are not necessarily mirrored in others. Your MSc will have trained you to write in an academic style, and whilst this has notable strengths, it may not be best suited to each situation.

When publishing your work, you must consider the requirements and style of the publication, in addition to the target audience. If you’re speaking to practitioners, provide recommended implementations. If you’re speaking to non-psychologists, reflect this in the accessibility of your writing.

Adapting your communication style is an essential skill for every OP professional, and writing for a publication is a great opportunity to develop it.

Conclusion

These are just a few examples of how you can make your dissertation go further. The OP field is incredibly popular, and this translates into considerable competition. This can be most keenly felt at the graduate level, so exploring ways that help you stand out is essential.

Given the dissertation will be amongst your greatest accomplishments, it stands to reason that it should be a key component of your early career strategy.

Good luck!

About the Author

Simon Toms is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. In 2019, he was elected to Full Membership of the Division of Occupational Psychology. He is also a Chartered Scientist with the Science Council, Principal Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology, published author, and PhD graduate. He is a graduate of the Division of Occupational Psychology’s Leadership Development Programme.

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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.

Conclusions

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.

References

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 http://www.exponentialtraining.com/Downloads/Resources/Competence%20Framework%20June%202007%20V1.pdf

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