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

  • 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

  • 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

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

  • 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

  • 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

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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