Advice for New Grads: Themes from Career Services Week

Career Services Week (CSW) at MSP is a chance for soon-to-be grads to begin their transition from students to early career professionals.  This year, several themes emerged from CSW that came up during every session and pointed to the heart of student questions and concerns.  Top of everyone’s mind – how can I maximize my skills to get a job?

3 Themes for New Grads:

Specialize.  The need to find a niche in your clinical practice was repeated many times throughout the week, especially on our Alumni Panel.

How can you specialize?  First, select a specific area of clinical work (e.g. substance abuse recovery, sand tray therapy, DBT) on which to focus.  Go with what interests or challenges you.  Pick something that you really want to learn more about. 

Step two is seek opportunities to research, study, or train in your chosen topic.  If you are still taking classes, take every opportunity to read, research, and write about your topic for credit.  Take advantage of discounts to attend conferences and workshops at a reduced student rate.

If you’re out of school, get involved in your niche from as many angles as possible: seek continuing education training, join a professional organization, earn a certificate/credentials, or volunteer your time to gain experience with your (soon to be) specialty.

Focus on what you do have.  Okay, so you don’t have five years of clinical experience on your CV (yet).  Instead, consider what educational, work, or volunteer experience you do have that will appeal to potential employers.

When you prepare your CV and cover letter for a specific job, consider why you are interested in that specific position and what experience you have – be it coursework, at practicum, in research – that supports your application.  Employers want to know what drives you, what you’re interested in, and why you deserve at least an interview.  Impress them with all that you have accomplished so far.

Even past nonclinical or seemingly unrelated work shows value to prospective employers.  You worked for five years in your previous job?  Great – this communicates that you can be a reliable and dedicated employee.  Include in your cover letter all the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you do bring to the job, don’t focus (or even mention) what you lack.

Think about what you really want to do.  Not all of MSP alums follow the anticipated path to a career in clinical psychology.  Be open to other opportunities that may present themselves to you. 

Take some time in the post-graduation excitement to sit with yourself – your future, your potential, your bliss. 

Are you enriched and recharged by clinical work or will you prefer a mix of clinical work and maybe teaching?  Will you use your clinical skills with clients in therapy or as a hiring manager or copywriter?  Will you pursue a doctoral degree in clinical or research psychology?  You have options.

Cynthia Ransley, MA, LLPCynthia Ransley, MA (’15) is Communications Coordinator for MSP.