Students garnered useful tips on landing a first job in psychology during sessions at APA's 2005 Annual Convention and the preceding Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) Conference in August. Panelists encouraged students to start their job search while still in graduate school, consider how their skills are transferable to different jobs and to network to make contacts. They highlighted their own career paths to jobs in academia, practice and nontraditional settings as well as postdocs.
For example, psychologist Robert Molloy, PhD, spoke about his experiences as a transportation research analyst for the National Transportation Safety Board, where he pulls from his psychology background to write scientific reports for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aimed at improving transportation safety. Molloy was one of four psychologists who spoke at an AAPA nonacademic career workshop, sponsored by APA's Science Directorate.
"It's very rewarding when it comes to putting recommendations out that go to the FAA, and they make changes based on what I say to improve transportation safety," Molloy said. To land a nontraditional job, Molloy recommended students contact professionals who are doing the work they hope to one day do and ask them about what their job entails and the experience needed to get the job.
A postdoc might also help you carve out your interests in psychology, said Lisa Edwards, PhD, assistant psychology professor at Marquette University, during an APA Annual Convention session.
To find a good fit, Edwards recommends students consider who will be supervising them, whether the position meets licensing requirements and, if applicable, the research, clinical, teaching and publication opportunities. For position postings and more information on postdocs, she suggested Web sites such as www.appic.org/postdocs and www.nationalpostdoc.org/job_board.
However, if your career path leads you to academia, Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, PhD, an assistant professor in child development at California Polytechnic State University, recommended students apply for faculty jobs in the fall to be eligible for the following academic year. Pedrotti began teaching at California Polytechnic after her internship, which led to an assistant professor, tenure-track position. She suggested looking for academic positions in the Monitor on Psychology classifieds, at www.psyccareers.com and at http://chronicle.com.
During job interviews for academic positions, students should stress how they could fill a certain niche in the department while determining whether the job would fit their personal priorities, she said.
For students interested in clinical practice, Chalisa Gadt-Johnson, PhD, an independent contractor at a group private practice in Lenexa, Kan., said applicants should be prepared to answer interview questions about their comfort level and familiarity with disruptive or challenging patients, experience in working with interdisciplinary treatment teams, therapeutic orientation, case vignettes and previous experience that directly relates to the employment setting.
"Don't minimize the experience you've had," Gadt-Johnson said. "Be creative with the experience you've gained on internship and practicum and determine whether you can pull from and relate it" to the job for which you're applying.
-M. DITTMANN TRACEY
For information on APA academic workshops and about nonacademic careers, visit the APA Science Directorate Web site.