Gonzalo Lopez – Personal Profile How would you describe what you do? The short answer would be "translating psychology into simple and practical applications". The slightly longer one: I currently work as a Senior Consultant at BVA Nudge Unit UK, where we specialise in…
Our Manchester network hosted an evening of presentations about business psychology careers from members of the ABP Manchester Committee. Our thanks to Clare, Julia, Anna and Robin for their presentations. And to Richard Taylor for writing this useful summary of the evening.
Richard Taylor welcomed everyone to the event, and wished everyone every success in their careers. Business Psychology has become of age and now holds the middle ground of consultancy. It is business consultancy, but with the strong angle or “hook” that its primary purpose is the practical application of psychology to increase organisational effectiveness. Psychology is no longer regarded as “Dark” and is now increasingly seen as an important discipline by those using consulting services.
Clare described how she made the transition from an early career in Financial Services to psychology. Working in this sector provided an insight into demographics and behaviour. For her, finding the niche in Diversity was a natural process which “joined the threads” together from her work in the transactional financial services sector, providing that transition to a career as a business psychologist.
Not all career progressions are straightforward but the message is key: follow your vision, become a specialist and find a niche if you can. Find one which interests but maintain an interest in research and trends and be flexible with and adapt your niche as trends and your interests change.
Consider a Portfolio Career. Like many people working in Business Psychology, Clare admitted to creating a Portfolio career for herself. Alongside her D&I work, she is involved in workforce planning, coaching, consultancy, lecturing and her abiding passion for research. Because of a broad client base and skill set, having a portfolio career, to her, is less risky than working for a single employer because if the employer goes into liquidation you still have other work or skills you can turn to. Having said this, it is still possible to have a portfolio career even if you work for one employer.
Clare found working for herself allowed her to follow her career values and goals and she recommends exploring your own values which can provide anchors for your career decision. Her values are as follows:
- Creating a Work / Life balance that suits your life
- Continue to Learn and keep an open mind
- Be authentic – Being self employed enables you to be authentic, in that you know that you can be yourself
- Reflect on what you do and invest time and energy in self development
- Always try to enjoy work and have fun. Times will sometimes be tough but freedom and independence compensates.
Obtaining work as a business psychologist. Not all jobs are not advertised, and many jobs are obtained through referrals. Networking and getting known is therefore vital to developing your career as a business psychologist.
Consider different ways for starting your career. Talk to other Business Psychologists or look at their career on Linkedin. People reach their career through lots of different paths so it is worth looking into. There are lots of different paths into becoming a business psychologist: you have to decide which route suits you, whether that is in house, academia, consultancy or another area? Currently lots of organisations looking for BPs to do roles such as HR specialists, L&D roles, Safety and Health and Wellbeing experts, coaches and new roles such as ‘people scientists’.
One tried and tested route is to get experience through some branch of psychometrics, either testing, research or consulting.
Another route to getting established is winning influence. Here again the decision is yours: what kind of influencer do you want to be? Who are the influencers in the field and who is heading up the research in this area? Follow them on social media and you will find that eventually some of them may wish to follow you.
Get a Mentor. The context for psychology is that it is always changing As mentioned, keep focused and follow niches and trends and get help where you can. It is vital that you hook up with those who can offer mentorship. Clare has found that most psychologists she has met in her career are happy to share information and speak about their experiences.
Do a personal SWOT analysis, and be aware of your strengths and opportunities for you to find a niche for your career
In conclusion, building a career in psychology can be helped with the following tips:
- Share mistakes and setbacks with mentors
- Manage confidence and self esteem
- Manage your own motivation and goals
- Reflect on the current state of your career and be prepared to be “agile”
- Create a peer support network.
- Be accountable with your work and try to benchmark
- Experiment with different paths and
- Use social networks. Keep your ear to the ground and consciously build a peer support group. Other examples of networking groups in Manchester are:
– Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
– Pro Manchester
– CIPD North West Branch
Reading Recommendations for career transisitions
- Herminia Ibarra – working identity.
- Brad Harrington and Douglas Hall – Career Management & Work-Life Integration: Using Self-Assessment To Navigate Contemporary Careers
- Charles Handy – any of his books
- Keith Farrazzi – never eat alone
Julia works primarily in Assessments Centres. She works on back of house programmes involving Recruitment, Selection, Develop and Retention. She has to devise Role Plays, and psychometric assessments and reports.
However, the work inevitably involves related areas: these involve Competency Framework design, 360 feedback interview guides, in house coaching, along with associated in house management training.
How did she get into this work? After completing an engineering degree she preferred the commercial work and sold consumer products for several years, being in charge of a team of salespeople.
A career change took her along the MSc route to a psychology degree after which she joined SHL, a large profiling and psychometric testing organisation. After several years she turned independent and most of her work is now obtained through her Associate work or through referrals. Only 20% is as a result of direct contact with clients.
Building your own business requires getting oneself known and determination. The top nine tips are:
- Maintain networks
- Get chartered
- Get involved
- Be Good, Reliable Flexible
- Ask for Referrals
- Become an Expert
- Build Network when you have credibility. Need something to spring off.
- Speak at events
- Use Social Media
Anna Whitehead – A Career in Local Government
Anna has developed a career along different route. Most psychology jobs are in the Public Sector so this presentation was of particular interest. For Anna, in her work at Cheshire East Council, her priorities:
- Maintaining a healthy Work/life balance.
- Deciding and then being “what we want to be” at work
- What are our values at work and do these sit comfortably with the values of the organisation
Being more analytical rather than entrepreneurial, she has forged new roles within a local government framework, mainly in improvement and performance. Much of the work involves change management, systems thinking and services improvement.
Anna finds herself constantly challenging methods and assumptions. She looks at evidence, for example in the area of Public Health, which may have been gathered over time and then uses this evidence to design services and make informed decisions which best meet local needs. A set of desired outcomes are established and these are then measured using the evidence available.
Anna enjoys being part of a team. It is easier to figure out dynamics, and with the roles being internal it facilitates situations where people can be persuaded to change views or behaviour more gradually. It is a more secure environment, but the downside is that it is impossible to walk away from a problem.
Robin Hills – EI4Change
What will the world look like in 2028 and 2038? We predict growth in areas such as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality.
Similarly, we need to address what psychology will look like in 2028 and 2038, ten and twenty years from now. Twenty-five years ago, no one had heard of Emotional Intelligence, but even though it is relatively new it is now almost mainstream. A concept which was always an issue has now been formalised and buyers of consulting services identify it as a need.
Robin also developed a career in psychology by switching after a spell in a commercial career. When he left University he became a Medical Sales Representative in North and East London and then as a Hospital Representative working in the London Teaching Hospitals. He could influence, persuade and even change behaviour.
What was curious was that he found that applying for new jobs was tough, mainly because he “failed” the psychometrics. He came across as reflective, calm and low on neuroticism, whereas employers were looking for their view of “enthusiasm” and “overt energy”.
He concluded that he was using emotions to influence and was in fact using the new and developing activity called emotional intelligence.
When he set up his business specialising in emotional intelligence about 10 years ago, he developed a coaching toolbox through research which he now uses to showcase another new discipline – Resilience
He published two books to demonstrate authority in the areas of emotional intelligence and resilience.
– The Authority Guide to Emotional Resilience in Business
– The Authority Guide to Behaviour in Business
Online training courses focussed on emotional intelligence is a unique niche and is proving to be an important earner. There are a growing number of platforms offering online courses. One of the best known and best established is Udemy. Although slow at first, it is growing substantially with the online presence making it an international business, something remarkable for a discipline which 10 years ago did not exist.
He is now teaching over 12,500 students in 155 countries. He has over a dozen courses including
- Developing emotional intelligence in Teams
- Collaboration and EI
- The Emotionally Intelligent Leader
- Conflict Management and Emotional Intelligence
His message: Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid of trying something new and keep persevering.