Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Tagged: Work

The winners of the 2016-17 blogging competition announced!

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📥  2016-17, Communication, Health, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Psychology

As our placement students are gradually returning back to Bath for their final year, it is time to announce the winners of our annual blogging competition!

The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences thanks all students who dedicated their time to write so many fascinating and adventurous blog posts throughout the year they spent on placements both in the UK and all over the world. Their stories are a true testimonial of how challenging, rewarding and life-changing a year on placement can be. As a recognition of our bloggers´ commitment to report on their placement expecience, the Faculty has awarded following students a number on departmental prizes, and an overall Faculty Prize.

The Faculty Prize of £100 as well as the prize for the Best Health Department blog of £150 goes to Emily Fallon (Sport & Exercise Science) for her captivating and exciting blog posts from the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI). She spent her placement year supporting Australian Olympic athletes and discovering new talents in Adelaide.

Photo of blue sky and placement student

Emily and the kind of view you only get on a placement in Australia with SASI.

Charlotte Harris (Psychology) receives the departmental prize of £100 for her dedicated work as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist with the Lifetime Service (and a Cyclist of the Year) in Bath.

The Department of PoLIS awards Zoe Amador Martinez (French and ab ignition Italian) a prize of £100 for sharing her experience from her teaching placement in Fécamp, France as well as giving her fellow students authentic report from her Erasmus+ experience in Siena, Italy.

Group of students with Erasmus+ flag

Zoe and her friends on the Erasmus+ programme during their year abroad.

The next awardee of the PoLIS department is Katy Wallis (French and ab initio Italian). Katy spent one semester studying in Aix-en-Provence, France and the second in Naples, Italy. Katy also deserves a Blogger Dedication Award for posting every single day.

Natasha Jokic (Politics with Economics) spent her placement at NBCUniversal International as a New Media Research Intern. She met Jamie Dornan on the red carpet AND also receives the PoLIS departmental prize. Where do you go from there?

London Pride bus

Natasha and her NBCUniversal colleagues taking part London Pride.

Last but not least, Maighna Nanu (Spanish and Politics) also receives the PoLIS departmental prize for her adventurous and colourful blog from Guadalajara, Mexico. If you want to know how to get on a university-organised trip involving testing tequila, then read her posts.

Congratulations to all winners and thank you to all bloggers for their authentic and valuable insight provided to our first and second year students preparing for their placements. Soon, we will be also getting new and exciting reports from our current third year students. Do sign up if you're embarking on your placement year!

Written by Julie Fulepova, placement student and Marketing & Events Assistant within the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

 

Saying Adieu to a Year of Placement

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

"Saying Goodbye doesn't mean anything. It's the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it."
Trey Parker

Saying goodbye to the city of Bristol

Saying goodbye to the city of Bristol

It's hard to find the perfect words in order to summarise the things I've learned and experienced over a whole year. So much so, that I can't even begin to write about how I'm trying to say goodbye to BSDAS. I could see it in crystal clear view as I emptied out my Bristol apartment, I'd hoarded tonnes of paperwork, books and notes... or as I liked to call it 'valuable knowledge'. Obviously, the year long learning experience was a success.

Though I've accomplished and contributed so much already (with the support of my dedicated supervisors), I can't help feeling that I could still learn that little bit more... but my turbulent and exciting time at placement has finally reached it's conclusion.

If there is one thing I can definitely say is that I feel empowered by my vast improvement, feeling fully transformed into an overall more mature, confident and knowledgeable person/ Psychology student than the amateur that I felt like stepping into the Bristol Drugs and Alcohol Service for the first time. Back then I was fumbling around awkwardly, eager to dive in, whereas now I have a deep understanding of how things function, how psychology plays into the real world, how to do my role professionally and where I fit in the grand scheme of things.

And if you can accomplish that in your placement year, then big supreme pat on the back, you've gone over and beyond the threshold of a valuable learning experience too.

Psychology isn't about 'the man and the therapy sofa'

With my naivety, that was probably the first thing I learnt when I started working. Considering the variety of roles and tasks I was heavily involved with during placement, I was able to realise the 'big picture' about the world of Clinical Psychology. It isn't about the client feeling so 'oh mon Dieu' sprawled across the coach and the therapist telling them what to do with their lives. It's about the therapist making a connection with the client, building a trusting relationship, validating their feelings and experiences, and helping the client to realise the solution to their own problems rather than forcing it down on them like the lightning of Zeus. As a client described so well, "Therapy is a helping hand up, not a hand holding experience'.

Therapy requires skill, subtlety and practice... and even being given the chance to learn this, as well as gaining the responsibility to lead my own individual and group therapy sessions over my placement, is more than any psychology student can dream of achieving a such an early stage of their education. I am one lucky girl.

And also, it isn't just about the therapy. It's about creating research to contribute to the body of Psychological studies and developing meaningful resources to educate others on basic Psychology, such as on how to tackle their own or their close others issues. I have been ever-thankful to be involved in administering measures to new clients in order to evaluate the existence of personality disorders, creating a detox information workbook which will be published and used across NHS detox services in the UK, and generating a piece of qualitative research on Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. No amount could describe the gratitude I have for BSDAS for giving me these outstanding opportunities to learn and to grow. With a fresh and clear mind, I can only hope to continue this level of success for my final year of University.

Change? What change?

If you feel like you haven't changed (even that teeny bit) over the duration of the year... then something must have gone wrong. Unless you were already the best person in the universe... which is highly unlikely. There is always room to improve.

Placement year really gives you the scope to develop yourself both as a person and a professional. You'll most likely feel like you've really begun to fill into your shoes and, hopefully, gained the proper practice to play into the remainder of your degree. What you've learned now isn't just about what you've read or seen in textbooks or in articles, it's also about what you've personally observed and actively practiced in whatever field you were involved in, and linking everything together... you'll definitely feel like those abstract theories and concepts have found their place in the real world and understand how they really contribute to it.

Personally, my experiences have allowed me to notice a drastic change in my sense of empathy - particularly in the way that I communicate with people. I have also, thankfully, developed a force-field of confidence in my abilities and a pleasant assertiveness in order to negotiate my demands with others... which has helped me a lot in my professional and personal life. See what changes can occur for you?

What did I do most of on placement? Read.

What did I do most of on placement? Read.

Something to take away

Overall, it feels like I've done everything and everything throughout this year. I've studied, slaved, become a budding therapist, created research, deprived myself of sleep, become a professional urban explorer... but if there is one thing that I'll never forget from my experience, it's the gratitude I unexpectedly received from my clients.

When you're so keen on learning and improving, sometimes you have to just take a step back and see what you've been able to accomplish. At the end of my placement, I received an unexpected visit from my clients who came to thank me for my work with them throughout the year. 'You have a fresh optimism,' they said, 'relentless dedication to improve our lives'. What greater indication of success did I need than this? Not only was I moved, but if I feel down, I remember the positive feedback I was told and that if I was able to motivate people to live their life to the fullest and to stay clean from substances... than I was surely capable of motivating myself to great things too.

So, in writing this all down I am in fact saying a proper goodbye to BSDAS and I can truly say that learning about the possibilities of what I could achieve through my clients... thatwas the biggest and the best thing I am taking away from this experience.

 

The Pros and Cons of having a desk to call your own

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

"It's a wonderful world. You can't go backwards. You're always moving forward."
Harvey Fierstein

marlborough hill (800x450)

Apologies, and many more apologies for my absence in the world of blogging. I have had, let’s say, a very busy period of my life. ‘But where have you been Valerie?’, I hear you ask. And even if you aren’t asking, I’m going to tell you anyway.

It’s nearly the end of the (academic) year and I have been busy with writing my end of year report and also, writing a research paper for the Bristol Specialist Drugs and Alcohol Service (BSDAS). These past few weeks, I have been running around (well, more like spending hours of my life on buses) to different bases and people’s houses to conduct interviews with women on their experiences of mental illness and therapy. Sounds like a rainbow of interest and easy sailing, right? Well, it is a gold mine of interest, especially for Psychology research, but to my disdain, it is far from easy. Not only do I have to conduct hour long interviews, but I have to spend a day or two transcribing the interview into Word-format… That’s a story for another day.

Other than that, our previous base at the Blackberry Centre in Bristol has officially been cleared out. Yes, we basically got ‘kicked out’ of our office. This is because of the entire NHS restructuring, BSDAS has been changed to Bristol ROADS (Recovery Orientated Alcohol and Drugs Service) and the entire organisation has been reformed and transformed. This means bases have moved, the structure of the service we provide has changed… and well, for me, I just have to find a new place to sit and do my work.

Our team has spent the last month clearing out the building to move to a variety of places scattered around Bristol. It was like we were leaving the coup. By the end of the entire process, the building was but a drab of empty filing folders, tea mugs and the ghosts of a hustling-bustling team. Well, we didn’t die – it was just a big change from when I first starting working at the office.

Luckily for me, while everyone had the tedious job of packing years’ worth of belongings and files into multiple boxes for porters to shift to new places… I left with a pen, a stapler, a notebook and one textbook, and found it to be an easy, stress-free move to the Colston Fort base.

Alas, I shall bore you no more about the boring details of structure and reform and work politics. Let’s look at a more jovial side and the pros/cons of me shifting my little self (and my shortage of belongings) to working in a new place.

The PROS (yo):

  • In the new base… I can sleep an extra hour in the morning.
    The beauty of sleep, oh how I missed thee. The best part of my new office is that it’s only 15 minutes’ walk from my humble abode. Well, uphill. But still, I’d take this walk any day than having the hour and a half long journey that I previously had to work. I can stroll, I can be more relaxed, I don’t have to take the bus anymore. Everything was working out sweetly.
  • In the new base… I actually have people to talk to.
    Numbers were slowly starting to dwindle in the old centre. Until the point where I was eating lunch alone, I was sitting in an office for 7 people ALONE and sometimes I went home without any social interaction with a human being (apart from maybe talking to myself on the odd occasion)… it was really starting to get silly. Here, I actually get to see people again, and talk to people again, and have lunch with people again. I better stop rambling before I sound too much like a Gollum.
  • In the new base… I actually get to see some sunlight.
    Located at the heights of Bristol, we get a lot of sunlight in the office and a lovely view of the rest of the city. Something which is a big plus for me. The office also has a décor of one thing that is at the topic of my most appreciated things – big windows, which go from floor to ceiling. The offices and the kitchen all have these windows, making it a lot more relaxed and pleasant for me when I’m doing my work in the warmth of the sunlight.

The CONS:

  • In the new base… I don’t have to use my ‘swipey’ card to get through doors.
    In the last building, I felt majorly 007 getting through each door with my touch card. I used to even experiment with different ways to open doors with showy hand gestures with the card in my hand – I’m a nerd, I know. Anyway, at the new place there are no more touch cards. Instead we have a code for EACH DOOR. Tedious. At least, I learnt 5 numerical codes when I was desperate for the bathroom and had to hurry through each door in order to arrive at my final destination. (Even the toilet had a code, so that wasn’t fun).
  • In the new base… I don’t get to take my ‘favourite’ bus to work anymore.
    I’m just kidding, this one is a MASSIVE pro. You’ve heard me complaining about this bus the entire year because it never used to show up! I’m just so glad I don’t have to see the sight of that horrible creature anymore.
  • In the new base… I don’t actually have a desk.
    Awkward, that they moved me over here knowing that I wouldn’t have anywhere to sit, or read my emails, or schedule my appointments, or do my work. Turns out, a few people are in the same position as there just aren’t enough desks for the amount of staff anyway. We poor soldiers were just going to have to come in each morning and hope somebody isn’t in. Then steal their desk for a day.
  • In the new base… I don’t actually have a desk.
    Oh, yeah. I already mentioned that.

 

'S' is for 'Stressitation'

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

 "If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance."
Ralph Marston
Yes, I'm procrastinating by sticking post-its to my face.

Yes, I'm procrastinating by sticking post-its to my face.

There is a terrible truth I have to admit to myself at this terrible time... and it is the fact that I am terribly behind with my dissertation. I am now where I should have been, let’s say, one or two months ago, and I feel terrible. Save the tears, save the shame, save me under this Everest of paperwork, signed paper forms and intense paper cuts, I may as well just share my ‘knowledge’ so that you won’t be living in my image this time next year. And I really don't mean to make myself sound like a wisdom-bearing God - because I'm not.

As a matter of context, I have actually completed all the hardships that I needed to have gone through at this point – extensive literature reviews, planning my research, my research design, my methods… my interviewees are just about rearing to go on about their viewpoints into my Dictaphone. But as a matter of misfortune, I face the biggest enemy which I have encountered in this placement year so far. Ethics.

Before any Psychology student can start on the turbulent journey that is the ‘Stressitation’, an amalgamation of planning, wild action and exploding brain matter must go into working out what exactly it is you want to study, and how exactly you plan to study it. Once that’s over with, you write up your cute, little research procedure and sail the innocent thing off away to get mauled (or approved) by the Ethics committee. I’m actually making it sound worse than it is, ethics really isn’t that hard of a process if you just take the time to plan to the ‘tee’.

My misfortune derives from a quaint miscommunication and people changing their minds last minute. Long story short, the University of Bath Ethics purposefully required a letter of approval from my work placement before I could submit my application to them, whereby I slaved to fill in the giant tonne of paperwork I had to complete for 'NHS Ethics' and the 'NHS Research and Development' committee. After pulling out my hair to the tether and submitting my application to Research and Development, I was told that actually they required a letter of approval from the University before I could submit my application to them. Oh, tragedy of my degree! Where do I go if everyone wants someone else to go first? I couldn't be relieving a childhood moment of asking my mom if I could go to a friend's house only for her to say, "Go ask your Dad" and when trotting happily along to my dad only for him to say "Go ask your Mom." I felt like I was 10 again.

Moral of the story, make sure you:

  • Communicate
  • Know what work you need to do
  • Start early
  • Give yourself enough time to do the work that you need to do

My life with the 'Stressitation' this far may have been somewhat of a setback, but yours doesn't have to be! I pose to you, a few tips I learned along the way to help you get started on the flow of your dissertation:

  1. Think about what topic you want to do for your disseration:
    It may be something you've always been interested in studying, or it may have just creeped up on you from the crevices of your mind. Either way, start thinking about a topic that you can handle and that you know (or think) you can tolerate for the next year and a half of your University life.
  2. Have a chat with your supervisor:
    Your supervisor may have some wisdom of their own to offer you about research or your chosen topic. In my case, my supervisor and other staff were very helpful to support me by giving me some top tips for research, as well as giving me a few materials they had to start reading on my project. Depending on where you work, you may also negotiate an allocated time for you to work on your dissertation during the week.
  3. Start to read those articles:
    It's never too early to start reading around your topic. This way you can figure out where there are gaps in the literature and where you can fit your research in. It's also best to organise what you've read as you go along, as it'll be 10x easier and less stress inducing when you come around to writing up your dissertation. Make a set of cue cards with the reference on the front and the main findings of the paper on the back ('Business at the front, party at the back'), so that you have some sort of a filing system of everything you've read. Alternatively, I made a table on Word doing pretty much the same thing.

    Table of research about 'Dialectical Behaviour Therapy'

    Table of research about 'Dialectical Behaviour Therapy'

  4. Give yourself a reality check
    One big mistake I made whilst planning my dissertation - I got way too ambitious. After reading around my subject, I got so enthusiastic about studying and interviewing people with personality disorders only to fall off the tip of the cliff when I realised that if I wanted to study this particular group of people I would have to add an extra 6 months of trials and ethics hurdles to my schedule. Time which I definitely did not have. Really think about your topic in a realistic way, make sure you settle for something interesting, simple, that can more reasonably fit into the time frame you have and can show off all your research skills in your final dissertation write-up.
  5. Get in touch with your personal/ dissertation tutor
    Never, ever feel too afraid to contact your tutor. They are there to help you! The amount of emails I've sent my tutor asking even the smallest or most stupid questions that I've been fretting over, and they have literally supported my ideas, given me the knowledge I needed and have generally been there to help whenever I ask. My tutor is becoming my hero. Your tutor is a valuable resource when it comes to planning your dissertation - so get in touch and stay in touch!
  6. Start planning your method
    Once you feel like you're just about rounding up all your brilliant ideas through your reading and your feedback from professionals. It's time to descend upon a reasearch method. Really think about what would be the best and most achievable way to study what you plan to study.. some may be easier than others. For example, I'm writing a dissertation on the views and understanding of staff working with personality disorders on the topic of self-harm, so it's no question that interviews are the way to go. I've never been a fan of quantitative methods (purely because SPSS still baffles me to this day), but reading up on your method and how to execute it is also useful to do at this point.

If you've gone through all these stages, hopefully learning from your experiences and perhaps having fewer hiccups than I did through the whole process, then you'll sure enough be ready for my favourite stage of them all - ethics. Trust me when I say (are these lyrics to a song?), all the organising and proper planning you do right now will make for easier sailing next year when you have to write your dreaded 'Stressitation'.

 

A Day in the Life of a Student Psychologist

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

"I think if I took therapy, the doctor would quit. He’d just pick up the couch and walk out of the room"
Don Rickles

Upon a coincidental bump-in with a friend when I was going about the town, our casual conversation, or 'smooze' took on a somewhat disheartening turn whereby (a) this friend was blissfully unaware that I was on a placement year, and (b) they asked, “What do you even do?”

As you’d have it, I graciously overlooked the minor mishap (on their behalf) of demeaning my entire existence as I became so insidiously pleased about having a ‘eureka’ moment on something to write a blog post about. Oh, the threat and the need to inform.

To start, what do Psychologists do?

If you’re thinking of a Psychologist, I’m sure no shortages of stereotypical imagery will come flooding into your brain. The electro-convulsive therapies, the horror-filmesque asylums, the Freudian couch, the ‘hmms-but how does that make you feeeel?’ – well, if you’re old fashioned. Nowadays, you may think of scientists in lab coats with Einstein hair-dos running about trying to explain the new phenomena, the manipulative’s who dabble in the reading and altering of the mind, the therapists who twiddle their fingers in the image of 'The Simpson's' Mr Burns, or maybe even Derren Brown (who, by the way, is not a Psychologist). Psychologists, these days, come in all shapes and sizes – working in Social Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology… you get the jist. The fields are a’plenty. The two most known careers in Psychology either fall into the category of research (conducting experiments just like any other scientist), or treatment (where the magic of theory goes in actively helping people with problems in their lives).

I, le grand Student Psychologist, am on placement for the Bristol Drugs and Alcohol Specialist Service, which essentially helps people achieve abstinence from substances and alcohol, overcome mental health problems and build the means for a safe and socially integrated life after treatment.

The service does this through an integrated approach of three key means: (1) Medication, such as substitute prescriptions, detox and stabilisation from drugs or alcohol; (2) Social, such as social work, support groups (e.g. AA) and providing access to education or employment; and (3) Psychology, through mental health assessments, individual therapy and group therapy sessions. If you haven’t already guessed, you clever little thing, I’m based and thriving (like a parasite of knowledge) in the Psychology department. The cherry on top of the cake.

So what is it, that I actually do?

Before I go into the nitty-gritty details of my job role, I shall first entice you with the words of a common student on placement, a day in the average life of a Student Psychologist:

Schedule

Note that the word 'hardcore' is apparently not a word?

So now I have gifted you with the insight into my fun-packed life on placement, whereby my daily routine is thwarted from time to time with random mishaps on the bus journey, or having a ninja showdown with a copier machine when trying to prepare my materials for therapy sessions.

Therapy sessions, I find, would be the most interesting part of my job to give you the know-how about, as it really has given the biggest boost in learning about the Psychology world and the way it works. Despite the wealth of experience I have gained from transferring the theories and mechanisms of Psychology from textbooks, to actually meeting and treating people first-hand, there is only so much I can tell because of the dreaded 'C-word'. That's right, you guessed it, CONFIDENTIALITY. I can only hope you guessed that correctly.

Now, back to the question: What am I doing on Placement?

My role as a Student Psychologist is split three-fold: running therapy sessions for clients with Bristol Drugs and Alcohol Services, conducting and completing research on Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, and doing bits and bobs for my supervisor and the Head of the Department. So, weekly I am involved in running three therapy sessions for clients working to gain abstinence from drugs and alcohol, two of these therapies are called, 'Seeking Safety' and the other, 'Dialectical Behaviour Therapy', both of which are cognitive-behavioural orientated treatments which aim to alter the maladaptive thinking, behaviour and relationships of the client so that they can overcome mental health issues, drug or alcohol addiction and also live a socially integrated life after completing treatment. For more in-depth information on 'Seeking Safety' or 'Dialectical Behaviour Therapy', follow these links to websites and PDF articles.

Secondly, I am involved in independently conducting a research-service evaluation of the effectiveness of the 'Dialectical Behaviour Therapy' programme that is run at the Blackberry Centre. This involves the full 'shabang' of doing a proper research project and journal article, which means doing thorough literature reviews, interviewing clients, transcribing interviews, writing up a journal article (which I'll eventually finish) and my 'favourite' part of the process (well, more like the LONGEST) going through ethical approval. As frustrating and as infuriating as it can be writing your own precious piece of literature that contributes to research in the whole scale of Psychology, I can at least say that it has really given me the practical experience to know how to do a proper piece of research in future, but also to feel a touch of sympathy anytime I begin to overly criticise the poor author of a research paper.

Finally, pertaining to my reference of 'bits and bobs' at work. I mean that I am working mostly on creating information leaflets or booklets for clients, for example, on medications, on the process of detox, on the effects of psycho-active substances, or community resources that clients can access outside from our services (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous) etc. An example of one of the information leaflets I created for people caring for clients suffering from drug and alcohol problems is shown below.

Info sheet

An example of an information leaflet, 'Information on Medication'

Apart from creating information packages, leaflets, booklets and the like, I have also spent my hardworking sweat on producing a 60-page workbook which will be given to clients entering a majority of Drug and Alcohol Services in the UK. This workbook, working very much like a more fun version of a young person's textbook, has everything a client will need to know before, during and after their detox from drugs or alcohol - this includes, information pages on the effects of drugs, the effects of withdrawal, information on substitute medication, it even includes, stories of other people's recovery, top tips on how to handle detox from peers, and a set of mind maps which I created with my Head of Department to help client's with a means to target problem areas in their life, set goals and develop themselves personally. Some pages can be previewed below.

mindmap

An example of a mind map I created as part of my workbook for clients

Anyway, I think I've rambled enough. That is the summary into the life and the works of a Student Psychologist, I've told you the things I do, the things I see, and oh, the things which make me struggle - but none of it makes me wish for a placement better than this one. Though I work myself to a thread and am challenged by the real-life situations I battle through whilst working here, I have really picked up tonnes of experience, knowledge and learning on all breaths of working in Psychology. By throwing in with the sharks in the deep end, I will undoubtedly leave my placement in June with a brain full of information, a body teemed with spirit and the means to use my experience to (hopefully) get me through final year and all time I have left training to become a 'not-part-of-your-stereotypical-idea' of a Psychologist.

 

Being a University Student for a day: The Placements Conference

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

I have missed the (somewhat) stress-free life of being a student. Oh, Bath you beauty. Oh, uni how I’ve missed you dearly.

Take two days off work to relive the life of a University student - who would say no to that? Those two days were a requirement from the University for students on placement to attend talks about the coming final year (wow, how my heart stopped at the thought of sightings of the end of my degree), to present at the Psychology Placements Conference, and to attend meetings with personal/dissertation tutors about work, life and dissertations galore. Without as much as a whim, I was definitely going to attend. Working strenuously at a 9-5 placement by no means meant that I was going to miss out on reverting to my 'go-with-the-flow' life as a University student… even if it just was for two blissful days.

The Morning

The University was untarnished, and as were the habits that I had learned to live and breathe whilst I was here - upon arrival in Bath, it was like I was barely gone. Hurrying along for the first of our talks from our Director of Studies at 10am, I had mechanically reverted to the old efficient-student way of being. By 10am I had caught the chugging, centipede-like 18 bus to campus, grabbed a coffee at the Student's Union and had called up various course-mates for a meet up on Parade (all so we could avoid filtering into the lecture hall and dawdle for seats like lone rangers) it was like these actions were so automatic, they were still part of my second nature.

Another thing, which I am ashamed to admit, that is also a part of my second nature and even after all this time playing the part of an independent, mature working lady… was the attention span that I still seemed to have when listening to lectures. Maybe I’m not as grown-up, or working-woman as I thought? Maybe it’s just these air-conditioned lecture halls? Maybe I just have a really short attention span? But once someone has been talking at me in university conditions for more than 40 minutes (without me moving, or without any need of my reciprocation), and no matter how interesting the topic, I tend to enter (what I call) the ‘half-doze state of mind’. This involves listening to what is going on, but not actually listening, and disillusioning yourself with the idea that actually this itchy-fabric seat is just as comfortable as your bed. This was really an issue considering the various talks from lecturers and students lasted two hours – by which at the end, I dashed out at sonic speed to shovel myself with coffee.

It was only then, when I was fueled with caffeine, that I was able to physically process the information that was thrown at me during the morning talks: (1) I really need to think about what modules I want to do next year (2) My dissertation is sure going to be hard-work (3) I’m really behind in the work I need to do for my dissertation (4) I think I have a concentration problem.

The Afternoon

Lunch was exactly like the good ol' days, and it was hugs all around for the first 20 minutes or so considering I had course-mates to catch up with whom I hadn’t seen in months, including a close friend who was back from the US of A for the day of the Conference. Lunchtime social interaction was more than just nice, it was missed, it was greatly appreciated - lunchtimes at work consisted of people eating lunch at their desks to carry on and concentrate on work, which though understandable, made eating lunch a little lonely. It was a welcomed and nice change to be able to chat to people whilst tucking into some (relatively) healthy campus grub.

After two hours cosying up at the Campus restaurant, protected from the turbulent rainstorm, and exchanging casual 'So how are you finding placement?' 'Are you enjoying what you're doing?' and 'You bought a snake?' (Yes, talk of a course-mates pet snake was hot topic), it was time to venture off and get a little lost looking for a building, though it is my third year as a University Student. I just don't think I'm very good with the names of buildings.

The Poster Conference, I have to say, was situated in the hottest room known to all of mankind - though I was quite proud with the look of my poster. However, this heat, and the fact that I had about 10 students simultaneously appear to listen about my placement, made me look flustered and super awkward with a bright pink face and sweat on my brow. Whilst I had no qualms chatting away about what I do on placement, how much I enjoyed it and answering any questions, I certainly was daydreaming about chucking cold water on my face to withstand the heating in this building - which, I have to curiously add, was blasting some estranged, minimalistic opera music from speakers in the corridors.

The poster I made for the Placement Conference

The poster I created about my Placement for the Conference

The Evening

Well I'm not saying that Psychologists love alcohol, but students and lecturers alike left the Conference pretty swiftly for the drinks reception, considering free wine and finger foods were at stake. I was undoubtedly going up for seconds with my little food plate, adhering to the saying 'If there's free food... I'll be there.' Our Director of Studies gave humorous speech and banter (wine in hand) pretending jovially to be a little tipsy before announcing the best posters from the Conference - though I didn't win, I did eye the top prize of a bottle of Champagne and chocolates... you could say I was a little envious. I did remember asking the course-mate who won to describe her poster to me as I hadn't got around to seeing it, to which she replied, 'It was the one with the giant brain in the middle.' Suffice to say, fair dues. I did think that my generic picture of pills from stock images may have put the judges off.  There was more time to catch up with old friends with the topic of the moment being 'the plan', meaning where would we continue drinking post-free wine session. I opted for going home to have a nap and meeting everyone at the desired location later on.

After a recharging nap, I went off on my mission to find a close friend/course-mate of mine in a bar in town, where she was determined to order her favourite cocktail instead of attending the rendezvous with all the psychologists in another bar on the opposite end of town. Knowing that I didn't share the same taste for cheesy, club music as her and for keeping her company I was rewarded with my favourite drink of Whiskey. At this point, I developed an inner conflict - though I wanted to stay with my friend as she only was in Bath for one night before going back to placement in America, I knew deep in my heart that the club she would soon be entering was one where I would rather have not entered even if it was a matter of life and death. I got in the queue to contemplate my decision, but as if a calling from the skies, the thumping bass of generic club music whistled out between the small doors between the bouncers, and the overly dressed clubbers towered tottering in their heels shouted over me to talk to each other... I apologized profusely to my friend and hopped out of the line before you could say 'Second Bridge'.

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Luck of all luck, by the time I reached the Psychology 'do' there were but a few dwindlers left as a majority had called it an early night and gone home. Maybe placement makes us old? Maybe it was the free wine? Or maybe, just maybe, waking up at 7 every morning makes us clock out by midnight dying for the comfort of a bed? I reckon it was my ingenious idea to have a nap. Though my night ended quite soon after a chat with the dwindlers before everyone headed home. At least, I was in top form to be able to meet my tutors the next day and get up to speed with my whole dissertation work process, getting a giant weight lifted off my shoulders. I left with ethics, ethics, ethics on the brain, drilling into myself that I really needed to make a move on, do I need to say? Ethics forms for dissertation.

Wrapping up the story that was reliving the University life was a little, to my disdain, mediocre. I bigged it up so much in my head, when in fact, we're all just people in the same position carrying on. I wasn't missing out on University, I was still technically a part of it. Only, I wasn't lazying around in the Student's Union or surrounded by piles of books in the library... I am now living, and practically doing Psychology on Placement, which I am more than grateful for when I get back to University in September to continue the fun.

 

Unpaid Placements: All Work, No Pay?

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

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The ever-growing phenomenon of the internship (also known as, a work placement) was but a mere child adopted from the USA that is now a fully living, fully integrated part of the UK’s market of employment. Internships and placements were virtually non-existent in the UK, combusting out of thin air until a few good years ago, and now they are considered to be a must-have on your personal CV or a necessity when applying for jobs in whatever your chosen field. And it’s not all making teas and photocopies either, most places offer a big, bright insight in the career that you hope to eventually find yourself in.

So here’s the deal: more and more internships and placements are becoming unpaid.

Previous statistics suggest that up to 1 in 3 internship opportunities are unpaid, providing not a single penny of monetary benefit, and a more recent survey states that 49% of interns are unpaid or are insufficiently compensated at work to be able to survive on a daily basis. According to the law, anyone ‘working a set amount of hours and completing certain tasks is considered a worker’ and thus, is entitled to at least the National Minimum Wage – so how the debate stands now are whether interns should be considered workers or volunteers in the hub of the job sphere. All is not lost, however, as most internships and placements live up to the standards of paying their interns for the gains that they, in return, provide for that organisation.

But why are so many of us having to scrape the dust in the hopes of landing a decent job?

  1. Currently, there are is a depressing shortage of jobs in the job market
  2. There are now just too many students and graduates competing for those said jobs
  3. Many organisations are having to tighten their belts due to budget cuts
  4. Said organisations are unwilling to hire inexperienced individuals (as they can’t afford to pay them to learn on the job).

Students have been protesting about their rights for adequate pay, labelling unpaid internships or placements as a form of ‘exploitation’, ‘damaging to young people and for society’ and being essentially, ‘not worth it’. But hold your horses - some students have no choice but to go into a placement that doesn’t pay. Students that major in some fields, for example which are more clinical or research based, are offered unpaid placements as the organisations are already struggling to scrape by on the money they have – so it’s either learn, experience and observe for free, or don’t bother at all. It’s hard to gain experience in these areas as it is, and with so many of us graduating and fighting for the few jobs that are out there, if any place is offering to give the time to teach you and give top-notch hands-on experience, then you can’t complain with the options you have and be grateful that you’ve made it one step higher than most up that skills ladder.

And the prospects of an unpaid placement really aren’t so bad either. The likelihood of having a better chance in future of beating the crowd and getting employed are actually pretty good. The High Fliers report says that one third of graduate vacancies will be filled by applicants who have worked for the organisation during their studies, and students without an internship to show on their repertoire ‘have little hope of landing a well-paid job with a leading employer, irrespective of the academic results they achieve or the university they’ve attended.’

But like I’ve said, most internships and placements do pay you for your value. Nevertheless, if you’re in a similar position where your placement is an unpaid part of your Sandwich course, or you are in an unpaid internship and are willing to ride it out for the experience, here are a few sure ways of keeping some pennies in your pocket till the ride is over:

  • Talk to your supervisor:
    This is often done at the start of your placement and is nice way to negotiate any expenses that you are entitled to receive. Most supervisors will empathise with the position that you’re in and you’ll find that travel costs (and maybe sometimes lunch, if you’re really lucky) can be reimbursed by your organisation. If you haven’t discussed this, or feel like you don’t want to burden anyone with this. DO! Be assertive and collect the cash that you are entitled to, in the end you’ll realise just how much money you will have saved from this.
  • Contact your university for financial aid:
    Some universities do offer bursaries, scholarships or financial aid to students going off on unpaid placements, so it’s worth ringing up to see if they can help you in any way. Likewise, local councils sometimes also offer financial aid to students.
  • Get a part-time job:
    Like I said, supervisors often empathise and will be willing to give you a day off around the schedule of your placement to support yourself through another paying job. From experience, restaurant and bar jobs offer some better little perks and flexible working hours compared to others. Café and restaurant jobs usually give you a free dinner or meal during your shift (meaning, a little less money spent on food); restaurant and bar jobs usually tip (meaning, you have a little extra cash in hand to spend on whatever you need).
  • Go the extra mile with your money:
    You may hear this a billion times, but budget, budget, budget. Recognise the situation you’re in, so don’t go splurging on anything you don’t need if you don’t have the money for it. Monitor you cash flow for the money you need to spend on bills, rent, food etc. Another way, perhaps, could be finding cheaper rent (spare rooms usually do that trick) or God forbid, live at home.
  • Save a little cash under your bed:
    In case of a dire emergency, keep a little bit of cash on you or in your room (you know, just in case you take a trot up to the ATM and are faced with a mortifying £0).

If you’re in a situation where you have a choice between internships or placements, make sure you make your choice carefully – assess the one which is more convenient for you, think about the location, the hours and expenses you may need. Most placements are paid depending on what field you are in, but if you find yourself confronted with the prospects of taking on an unpaid placement, really evaluate it . What gains will you get from this placement? How and what can it help you learn? Is this something you really want to pursue in the future? What other options are available to you?

Personally, I found that the benefits of practical experience treating people in a clinical mental health setting (a rare beauty of its kind) far preceded the downside of being unpaid – at the end of day, it was a really good opportunity for me not to miss out on. In my own right, one day I’ll be listening to the many students protesting about the legal rights of pay for work experience (and rightly so)… and I’ll just be sitting there. I’ll be sitting there and saying ‘You know, back in my day… I worked for free.’

 

Self-Esteem: Thinking You're Awesome, Makes You Awesome

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Buddha

We live in a world mellifluous of opposites, and a vast array of diverse people with different characteristics: the rich-poor, the lazy-active, the introverted-extroverted.

We, ourselves, are at a blossoming age where we are developing our sense of personal identity and our confidence about what kind of person we are. Our identity is important to us, as young people, as it is a way of outwardly expressing our individuality and developing ourselves into who exactly we want to be. Therefore confidence plays a huge role in how we handle ourselves, and conceptualise our beliefs about our potential abilities.

Narcissism has been found to be on a steady incline (30% in the last 30 years), with young people having the tendency to over-estimate their abilities and to love themselves… a bit too much. With the up-rise of the ‘selfie’, the extravaganza of ‘I’m clearly better than you’ and youth grandiose delusions, I can actually say, ‘I kind of saw that coming’. On the opposite side of scale, several young people experience a much lower self-esteem and hardly love themselves at all. Though I am not an avid fan of extreme narcissistic qualities and would like to pray that there is still hope in the expression of modesty amongst our generation – low self-esteem can undoubtedly be very damaging to a person compared to over-confidence.

So, as a topic that is both relevant to my personal journey and one that I frequently teach in therapy for individuals accessing mental health services, I ask - what is self-esteem

In a nutshell: Self-esteem is our ability to value ourselves and is not a solid, or fixed view.
It involves our beliefs and opinions about the kind of person that we are, which affects the things we do and how we go about doing them.
Positive(and of course, moderate) self-esteem is a route to better overall wellbeing, allowing yourself to do and try the things you want to achieve. Negative self-esteem can prevent you from reaching your potential (by making you more inclined not to try the things you want to do), as you focus more on your weaknesses or the mistakes you have previously made.
For an overview of self-esteem, refer to McLeod's article (2012).

The human self is, in my opinion, fluid. We have the ability to filter (or bias) information, especially about ourselves, and is subject to our reactions to experience. People form their personality and how they are from the reactions they’ve had to events – so, in the heart of life’s challenges, some people may have their self-esteem either strengthened or shattered depending on their reaction to that very event or a series of occurrences. Nobody is the same. Some people appear to have it easy, exuding an air of budding confidence and ‘having it all together’; whilst others’ view of themselves are as fragile and subject to change like standing on a frozen lake made of brittle ice.

As I’ve so often mentioned before, young people face a turbulent time of challenges and lessons, familiarities and exoticism in the big, fat world around us – and self-esteem is something that can change how we access our potential for great things.

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The gist of self esteem

Our self-esteem is governed by the thoughts we have in response to a given situation. For example, we could either have a positive or negative thought response when something happens in our lives.

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Obviously, our thoughts act as a buffer determining what actions or behaviours we have in these situations. Positive thinking is a more favourable and healthy method, as opposed to the above demonstrated ‘questionable narcissism’, which is… well, I’ll leave that to your opinion. More positive thoughts after a negative event are truthfully-made statements (not to be mistaken as an ‘excuse’ for your actions) which can pull us through to carry on after a tough situation and instigate us to be a lot more productive than we would have been after negative or narcissistic thinking.

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Negative (and yes, even narcissistic) thoughts can leave us demotivated and unwilling to persist or change our actions during these tough situations – and ‘low and behold’ these thoughts are often biased and inaccurate. So yes, to any narcissistics out there, I apologize… but you are probably not one of the most special people living on this Earth (unless you actually are, then this statement doesn’t apply to you).

Negative thoughts are a normal and understandable reaction to such events, as most people will feel down when the outcome of the situation isn’t comparable to the value of their efforts. The best way through this is to acknowledge that these feelings occur, are temporary and are often untrue, so that you can challenge your thinking in order to become more resilient and to be able to more easily get back up from the stresses of life.

The most common mistakes that people have to negatively bias their thinking is to:

  • Exaggerate:
    ‘Someone didn’t say ‘Hi’ back to me, maybe they hate me. Maybe they look down at me or think I’m stupid.’
  • Overgeneralise:
    ‘I failed this essay, I’m not going to get a good grade ever again. I’m never going to pass my degree.’
  • Ignore positive information:
    ‘Someone just complimented me on my looks, but they are probably just lying or being nice because they pity me.;
  • Seeing everything as ‘All or Nothing’:
    ‘If I can’t even hold a conversation then I must be a complete loser.’
  • Attempting to mind read other people or foretell the future:
             a) Mind reading: ‘My friend has been a bit quiet after coming back from work, did I do something wrong or upset them?’
             b) Foretelling: ‘If I try to talk to new people, they’ll make fun of me and I’ll end up looking like a fool.’

We experience cognitive distortions all the time, even when we don’t initially realise – for a full list of these thought processes click on this PDF.

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Changing your self-esteem

1.     Identify the roots of your self-esteem:

Obviously, not everyone has a deep set history of why they experience lower self-esteem… but we live in a high standard and judgemental world. The values and unspoken rules we run by is making it harder for human beings to achieve the ideals that are beyond realistic reach. Lower self-esteem can derive from the symbols and images in society that we see daily, dictating the expectations from us in relation to the desirable body image, appearance, social life, as well as educational and career achievement.

On a more personal front, negative experiences can threaten or damage our self-esteem, and can really knock us back when we are so feverishly trying to solidify our sense of personality and self-identity. Previous experiences such as, criticism from others, neglect, punishment, failure, being different, peer pressure, work pressure and hardship can all contribute to a sense of de-valued self-importance.

Figuring out the roots of your self-esteem via these experiences and accepting the conclusions that you have created of yourself are an understandable reaction to your personal life experience – the only thing to do is to challenge these beliefs. Become better from these experiences, learn from them, persist in spite of them.

Any judgements are not facts about you, and they can be altered. 

2.     Identify which areas you need to improve on:

Take a moment to imagine that different areas of life are represented by different bubbles in your atmosphere. The amount of self-esteem you have is not constant and stuck simply in the giant existence of your life, but fluctuates in intensity across these separate areas, as well as in different stages of life and for the different situations you find yourself in. As an example, I may feel more confident towards my friends, but clumsy and awkward around new people. I may feel competent regarding my educational achievements, but feel apprehensive in my job. Noticing which areas of your life you feel more concerned about can highlights key areas to focus your change in thinking – so if you feel like your social life is a problem area for you, it’s obvious to work on this area than applying your focus on an area you are already confident in.

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3.     Recognise the consequences of lower self-esteem:

So you know why you have the self-esteem you have and the reasons why they came into being, the next little thing to do would be to recognise the consequences of your thoughts so that you can facilitate proactive behaviour and change. The consequences of lower self-esteem can affect various areas that are particular to you, for example:

  • Personal relationships:
    Lower self-esteem can make an individual more inclined to form damaging relationships, rather than healthy ones. Some people feel as if they don’t deserve to be treated with love or respect, and enter relationships with people who have as a low a view of them as they have of themselves.
  • Social life:
    Lower self-esteem can cause an individual to be overly sensitive to criticism and rejection from others. They may not reach out to make friends with new people or avoid activities that can potentially expose them to judgement, eventually leaving them feeling isolated and frustrated.
  • Work:
    Individuals who believe that they are incompetent or unintelligent can struggle in the workplace as they avoid tasks or responsibilities which they don’t feel comfortable doing, or overstress trying to create the perfect piece of work. People who don’t think they are good enough are less likely to try for interviews or applications for employment.

Negative thoughts tend to keep you in the same position you are in now and can eventually confirm the negative views you have about yourself – this way, you create a direct consequence in response to these beliefs and have a less chance of coping with a similar situation the future. By expecting the worst, you tend to react badly to situations and intensify your low expectations over time. Please refer to the vicious cycle of negativity below:

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With a little thought, it’s easy to see how our own beliefs affect the way we behave – even small things like our posture, eye contact or excessive observation of details are all a result of the self-esteem we have in that situation. These parts of our behaviour, like not speaking up or trying new things, are ways of protecting ourselves from being exposed to our fears – focus on small parts that you feel you can tackle to change, and later the bigger change will fall into place.

If you are willing to try, making changes won’t be easy. You need to be open to take risks, step out of your comforts and perhaps, face some failures and disappointments. Accept these as a part of the learning process, keep on making small changes and begin to test out how to act differently in new situations. You’ll never know if the grass is greener on the other side, if you don’t make an effort to get there.

4.     Changing your beliefs:

So the final, and ever-existing part of my blog posts, are a set of top tips in tackling the little (and often unthought-of) niggling monster of lower self-esteem. Taking the small steps in challenging your beliefs can inevitably, motivate you to try and try again even in the roughest, toughest bad-boy situations that leave feeling down in life:

  • Take the time to think about your problem:
    In order to change your beliefs, you ultimately have to recognise and understand your negative beliefs. Think about what your weaknesses are, the consequences of these and why you might have started to feel like this in the first place. Knowing and accepting the path that formulated your negative views about yourself will help you target what areas need to be changed and how.
  • Challenge your thoughts, like a lawyer in a courtroom:
    When you have identified what negative beliefs you have, rationalise it and gather an evidence base to challenge the statements you make (like trying to convince the jury inside your own head). You could even write them down so that you have that list as solid proof when you are feeling in the dumps about your competency – for example, if you feel unattractive, note down when you receive a compliment, or if you feel like your work isn’t good enough, make note of all the great pieces of work you’ve made before.
  • Try a positive thinking exercise:
    Write down things that you like about yourself, or think about your best features. Think about things you’ve achieved, skills or talents you have (or others have noticed). Often when we are experiencing low self-esteem, we see ourselves in a blind sighted, one dimensional way and ignore any positive experiences we have previously had. These lists have been known to be helpful to look back on to boost confidence on a bad day or when you are feeling nervous about an upcoming situation.
  • Take up a good, old hobby:
    If said this way too many times, but taking up an old or even a new hobby can often open some things about yourself that you never realised before. It expresses some positive qualities which may have gone unnoticed before, and can challenge the thought that you don’t have much good qualities about yourself.
  • Be a ‘sweetie-pie’ to yourself:
    Using kinder language towards yourself is something I teach a lot during placement and is a really effective way of changing your mentality. Rather than putting yourself down and being harsh to yourself, imagine you are giving advice to a good friend or explaining something to a child – but using the same words for yourself. You wouldn’t tell a friend or a child that they were ‘stupid’ or ‘incompetent’ if they were having a bad day, so why should it be any different for you? Though it may sound silly, this kind of self-talk often provides reassurance and motivates positive action, as opposed to keeping yourself in a dark hole you don’t want to be in.
  • Bask in the glory (a little):
    Don’t just brush off or ignore any praise you get, and then live in a little cave of feeling worthless and unvalued. Accept the praise you do get, remember it when you aren’t feeling so great and also, give yourself praise for the things you have achieved to spur you on when you think you’re down in the mud.
  • Dump the critic:
    Look at the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis and how they make you feel. If there is a particular person who constantly makes you feel rubbish about yourself, then why should you have to spend so much time with them? If all they do is judge you in a negative (and not constructive) way, then they probably don’t care – and you shouldn’t care too. Spend more time with people that make you feel good about yourself and support you to be better. In the event that you are your biggest critic, try to dump the part of you that isn’t very helpful in letting you do the things you want to do and guess what, you may be more willing to do the things…you want to do.
  • Be assertive:
    Set yourself goals (small, realistically achievable goals that can fuel-start you and have a meaning for you), these will eventually lead up to you being able to step out of your comfort zone and confront situations that are fearful to you. By communicating these to others, you will find you are often treated with mutual respect by taking the steps to do what you feel is right for you.
  • And of course, the staple ‘don’t forget about your physical wellbeing’:
    Regular and healthy sleep, eating and exercise goes undetected but can drastically change our mood and how we function in a short space of time. On the plus side, a healthier lifestyle, can also improve the image you have of yourself and will boost your sense of self-esteem.

Your personal sense of self, can be partly moulded by others judgements and perceptions of you. Remember that you can’t please them all and not  to dwell too much on the negatives. Your self-esteem should be able what makes you feel better about yourself and how can use this to tackle with more difficult situations you come across in life. Nobody is happy and self-assured 24/7 – but creating the foundation for building your confidence will open the gateway for more successful outcomes in your relationships, social life and work experiences. Positive self-esteem promotes better emotional health, as you learn to cope better and are more willing to take life by the antlers (yes, I was trying avoid another cheesy saying) when you’re feeling the struggle.

Hopefully, you feel these tips are helpful in creating an improved resilience in the troughs and turbulence of student and working life – and that my tips aren’t so effective, I turn you all into a gang of narcissistics.

 

Getting on the Job Wagon: Writing your CV

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

As I am coming steadfastly towards the halfway marker of my work placement as a student psychologist, leaving a trail of paperwork, articles and bags of experience as I run down the path… I think back in retrospect about what I was doing this time last year. Thinking back to the ‘wee-little’ one year younger me; I was juggling a part-time job, having an internal panic about the end of semester deadlines, whilst also, sending off a plethora of CVs and cover letters in the hopes of acquiring a placement for 2013. How I managed to do it all is even a hazy mystery to me!

No matter what you’re up to right now, whether you’re hoping to snag that amazing internship, work placement or job (post-graduation), there is no less relevant or big of a task for any student than tackling your professional CV.

Bagging an internship or a work placement in your area of study can no doubt, set you apart from other potential candidates in the future world of work. You may have heard this a million times from a million mouths, but whatever you invest yourself in right now will only contribute to the upper hand you’ll get after finishing your degree. As such, I am truly grateful for the opportunity of the ‘Sandwich Degree’ which the University of Bath offers (which somehow only makes me think of lunch?), that allows me to graduate with a degree in Psychology and also, have a whole year’s experience in Clinical Psychology in my hands.

No doubt you will soon find yourselves entering and foraging in the urban jungle, in the hive of employment, in the big, tough world of the job market – well, I’m not sure with the animalistic imagery, but finding a job requires tact, game and sophistication.

Having had an early start in employment through part-time work in retail and a collection of volunteering work, I also found myself having an early start on learning the ways of the CV (said in a mysterious, spooky tone of voice) and getting employed. With a couple of years of decent working practice under my belt, I’ve managed to summarise a few tips and the play of cards for making your CV writing a more bearable task and one that will 'oh-so-strategically' prick your potential employers’ attention:

  • BOLD Headings:
    Bold headings keep your CV clear, organised and easy to read, but is likely to be used as a sneaky filter or so-called ‘contents overview’ by your potential employer. Imagine just how busy your employer really is… and trust me, looking at the heap of job applications on your desk is more likely to induce a staggering yawn than a fit of excitement. Though employers want to do a thorough job at hiring a new employee (which could be you!), their first point of action is to condense the masses to as few candidates as possible. So the trick of the bold headings is to allow your employer to skim your CV, to pick and choose what to read in more detail, and to hopefully save just enough time and interest from your employer to chuck your CV into the ‘yes’ or ‘hmm, perhaps’ pile for further reading.
  • Anything Goes:
    This cannot be reiterated enough times! But anything and anything can go on your CV as long as you relate it to showing some key skills, a sense of learning and development as a person – but remember to be concise as your CV should be 2 pages long. So that means anything (obviously don’t take this tip too literally or to the extreme): charity work, volunteering, blogging, playing an instrument, travelling, learning a language, a competition or award you won. This suggests to your employer that you are a well-rounded and enthusiastic person that is also interested in the vast, wonderful world outside academia… which is usually a plus!Employers will be less inclined to hire an avoidant, anti-social workaholic (no offence intended) and are more keen to meet a candidate who presents themselves as animated, involved in activities, motivated and dedicated to all their various tasks.For example: Being involved in a sport
    Shows skills and qualities of commitment, cooperation, team communication and team building skills, a sense of discipline, and efficient time management.
  • Get Involved:
    If, in the case that you feel that you don’t have a lot to put on your CV (or what you’ve done just doesn’t cut the mark for you), try to get involved with some new activities that can bulk up the text on your CV.But joining activities, clubs and societies isn’t just about making yourself look good to future employers, it’s also a great way to meet people, do something that you’re interested in and get the most out of your leisure time. Some students would say, that in between studying and trying to survive life, there just isn’t enough time to participate in any extra-curricular shenanigans. In my opinion, whether it’s that book or film club, that quirky society, or that random sport you’ve always wanted to try, finding time to participate will give you that nice break from the textbooks and will, with no doubt, help you develop yourself in a positive way.
  • Play yourself up:
    Whilst helping a friend of mine with their CV once, they said: ‘I don’t want to show off on my CV, I’ll look too arrogant and cocky.’ Though I understand that most people are modest about their skills and don’t want to boast – this is not the time to play nice! (And anyway… tone of voice doesn’t really translate through writing as much as it does in person, so you are more likely to come across as confident, rather than big-headed).Play your quirkiest personal features into some professionally strong qualities… and by the way, this next part isn’t lying, it’s just about changing the wording of the truth to make yourself sound better, more suave, more sophisticated (repeat: this isn’t lying).

    For example: People think you’re a total weirdo. BAM!
    You are an innovative, creative person who is good at taking the iniative to generate new ideas.
    People think you’re too shy. ZAM!
    You are a self-motivated, dedicated person who is especially skilled in working independently without much need for supervision from others.
    How about a cracker? People think you are too anal and compulsive. WHAM!
    You are a person who has a knack for high organisation skills, proficient time management, the ability to keep up with all given tasks and completed at a comprehensive level.

See? Seems fun, in a way. So give it a try on your own CV. For more advice and lists of personal skills for your CV, look up the ‘The Community Employment Service’ website.

Think back to the image of a vast mountain of CVs your employer will have on their desk, you need to make yourself stand out from the masses. Though I advise you play up your skills, also ensure that you highlight your room for improvement. It’s best to suggest that you can offer something to the company but can likewise, learn and improve with them - which is usually the best condition they could ask for.

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The Structure:

Now this should appear to be the easiest part of the entire CV making process, but actually when I hadn’t figured out how to lay it all out… I found myself sitting there for hours fiddling with the fonts and dividers, trying desperately to avoid making my CV look like a pre-schooler’s first time on Microsoft Word. Keep it looking clean, professional and concise (don’t use more than two pages, unless you really have to). If your CV is too long, the employer is less inclined to read through it all, so even if you feel like you have a lot of relevant skills and experience, you may have to trim it down to the most important or eye-catching points. Don’t worry about losing valuable material either, you will usually be given the opportunity to discuss other experiences during the interview stage.

Below I have made a sample CV to help you with the structure and information for making/tweaking your own. I’ve put some generic text in there where your own details should be filled, and I provide more detail per section underneath:

Practice_CV-page-001

  • Personal Details:
    Keep this at the very top of your CV, as mentioned before, in BOLD. Include your name, your email (preferably a professional one like your university email or a decent personal email... basically not iluvcatz43va@email.com). Though some employers do ask for your age and a photo, this is not necessary for your generic CV. And we’re talking about applying for professional work experience and jobs here, so there is really no need for a photograph of your beautiful self… this isn’t Hollister or a modelling job.
  • Education:
    List your educational history in reverse chronological order with your most recent educational position first, then going backwards down the list. So if you are a university student state your University, degree, modules you have taken with your results and your overall result for the year. Then state your high school or college, with your A Level and GCSE results (or equivalents like the International Baccalaureate). Any other vocational or national qualifications should be stated here as well… these could be the extra touch that your employer wants to see, so don’t cop out and leave them out of the equation.
  • Work Experience:
    Using reverse chronological order again, state your most recent employment history or work experience (including volunteering work) and simply go backwards. Likewise to your educational history, make sure you give the dates you were there, the name of the company and the town where they were situated – do this in bold, so the employers can see an overview of the work you have previously done and can read in detail underneath the heading if they wish to do so. Afterwards, provide a brief description of the responsibilities you had and the skills you were able to develop – promote the positive qualities you have and can consequently contribute to the team if they were to hire you. (see the sample CV for brief example).
  • Other Skills:
    Though most people may think this section is irrelevant, it is actually very beneficial to include for most professional jobs. Keep this section short and relevant, on my CV for example, I indicated my IT skills using Microsoft, as well as other media editing software such as, Final Cut Pro (movie editing software) and Adobe Photoshop.
  • Activities and Interests:
    In this section, which is usually optional on most CV guidelines, list any hobbies, interests or exemplar activities which you have been involved in. For example, winning the nobel prize (if you actually have), climbing the Mt. Everest, being part of a club, society or sport - here, I wrote about being a student journalist for a newspaper (so, like I said 'anything goes').  This demonstrates that you are a well-rounded person, who hasn't got their face stuck to a textbook all the time... this also gives the interviewer some more discussion topics during the interview stage to help break the ice and showcase your awesome qualities as a person.
  • Referees:
    Most people write : ‘Can provide referees on request’, but it looks more professional to provide two at the end of your CV and to be able to supply more if your potential employer asks you to do so. Here, place the names, positions and contact details (telephone and email) of two people who are willing to vouch for your experiences and the qualities you have mentioned in your CV – usually one relating to your education (lecturer or personal tutor) and another relating to your work experience. Notify and ask for permission from your referees before you place them on your CV... otherwise, your referee might get an unexpected call from an unsuspecting employer, and when they ask about you, your referee says 'Wait, who?' Avoid this embarrassment where possible.

On a final note, most people send the same generic CV to every employer… so that just means printing out the CV ten times and then skipping about the town, chucking in a CV through every shop door. The CV that will get you the most points, especially when applying for a job relating to your degree like a work placement, is tailoring your CV to the employer so that you fit the job requirements that they are advertising.

Make sure you proofread your CV before handing it in and keep yourself a safe copy so that you can come back to it and add more information for future applications. 

Hopefully this has been helpful on giving you some tips on how to write a decent CV, feel free to contact me for any queries regarding writing your CV as I am always glad to help: vma21@bath.ac.uk

 

Stress: A Chill Pill and an Empty Bucket

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."
Aesop, Fables

Often, many people look at us young people and envisage us as carefree, frivolous creatures with not a single problem in the world. These people are blissfully misinformed.
Other people tend to forget that young people also have a million things to do, things to think about, people to see and a mountain of problems seeming to resemble the Everest. This is because more young people these days are taking way too much on their plate trying to balance school, employment, and internships due to the demands of the unforeseeable future. Do not underestimate the younglings, they have a big bite to chew!
And so I will be talking about another everyday matter relating to the ever-engaging topic of mental health – stress.

It can be extremely easy for individuals to forget about looking after their mental health just as much as they care and nourish their physical health. And no, I’m not talking about the full-blown ‘shabang’ like hearing voices, estranged thoughts, or complete voluntary solitude due to severe social anxiety… I’m talking about the small, nit-picky stresses in everyday life which could eventually overload you, and take a toll on your mood and functioning. If people are able to commit to eating healthy, maintain their fitness and  get regular exercise, then attempting to sustain a positive mental wellbeing should just be another branch from the tree.

On a basic level, mental health concerns how we think, feel and behave. So, relatively positive mental health can be thought of as:

  • Feeling good about yourself and your sense of identity
  • Having confidence in yourself and your abilities
  • Being able to express yourself and your emotions
  • Being able to learn and develop
  • Having good, trustful relationships with people
  • Being able to function positively in everyday life
  • And, being able to cope and recover from stressful challenges in life

I’m not saying that you have to be overly optimistic about everything on a 24-hour basis, like life is a frolic through a meadow picking daisies, because everyone is bound to experience a challenge or a down day which could leave you  feeling like you’re struggling to pull through. To put it one way, a university student, or heck, a student going on work placement/internship can procure a multitude of stressors from academia, work, finances and relationships, and can lead to a seemingly terrible existence if they do not engage in some simple coping strategies to chill out once in a while.
*Take a tip from the underdog’s handbook (of which are lessons learned from a clumsy life): if you do not manage your workload effectively or give yourself way too much to do, stress can inextricably affect your physical health by bringing the function of your immune system down to critical mode and you will inevitably get sick. In my case, I had taken on far more than I could handle in one go and was left in yet in deeper waters when I became bedridden with the flu, living in the foetal position under my duvet.
Another lesson learnt.

To all the budding students, interns and young people out there – it is important to watch your internal stress gauge.
As aforementioned, stress can derive from so many factors. At a reasonable level, stress can positively affect how we work by motivating us to achieve our goals and tasks; though on the flipside, if stress becomes vaster than our ability to cope, it can hinder how you feel and how you accomplish what you want. As a visual representation of dealing with stress from Ross, Neibling & Heckert (1999) Sources of Stress Among College Students and Carver, Scheier & Weintraub (1989) Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach, refer to my rendition of the Stress Bucket diagram below:

Stress bucket

Imagine that in this hypothetical bucket lies your personal capacity to handle stress and manage your negative experiences, and if each stressor contributes to your level of stress, this can lead to downbeat effects on your personal, work and social life if your stress contaminated waters overflows the brim. Also, ignoring your stress level or not coping with it effectively (e.g. through excessive drug and alcohol misuse) can cause your stress to increase and recycle,  rather than to liberate it.

The demon of stress is inevitable, but can be tamed by taking time to yourself to relax and chill out. I pose you some simple top tips to keep you in top form to battle the beast of stress:

  • Recognise and take time to think about your problems:
    Simply pushing your problems as far into the back of your mind as possible can cause it to fester and increase your stress levels over time, and is essentially redundant in making the issue go away. Taking the time to find solutions and ways to tackle your problems are far more beneficial in helping you overcome whatever you feel is bothering you.
  • Talk to a friend:
    Sometimes, it’s just good to have an old vent or a bit of  rant to release your stress. It usually helps you to feel a lot better, see the problem more clearly, and a friend will (on many occasions) provide a nifty piece of advice on how to solve your problems.
  • Dude, chill out:
    Everyone is different in what helps them relax, whether it is reading a book, listening to music, drawing or doing some meditation by romantic candlelight, a constructive, short term distraction or some time out from your stressors can help you come back to it with a much clearer head afterwards.
  • Turn up the volume:
    Apparently, it has been deemed extremely helpful for people to listen to their music super loud in times of stress. Again, this creates a blissful distraction and an instant stress reliever… however, most people I know have neighbours that probably won’t appreciate this gesture, no matter how impeccable you think the track is in all its melodic glory. Maybe watch out for this one?
  • Organise your day:
    If balancing work and personal life, or keeping up with your workload is enough to make you want to run away into the beautiful sunset, the simple act of planning the day ahead (try making schedules, to-do lists or drawing time graphs) can help you to manage your tasks rather than feeling like you’re drowning under a sea of papers, assignments, textbooks and the latter.
  • Do something spontaneous:
    Or just try something new? This can give you a nice break from your repetitive routine and open up your mind to new things or possibilities… which may, in fact, help you to think about your problems from a completely new point of view.
  • Treat yourself :
    Now, treating yourself doesn’t always involve having to spend the dosh, especially if you have limited finances. Treating yourself can involve finding something that’s a bargain, spending a relaxed day at home, taking the time to have a nice bath... the possibilities are endless!
  • Watch that body:
    Like I mentioned before, physical and mental health are interlinked. This means that involvement in regular exercise, a balanced diet and a good amount of sleep are actually beneficial to help you unclutter your mind and can naturally boost your mood to help you tackle your problems better.
  • Smile:
    As cheesy as it sounds, smiling is one of the top things that occur on people’s stress busting tips. And hey, don’t get smart with me, I’m not talking about a cheeky grimace or a mischievous smirk that you make when you’re getting a little bit ticked off, I’m talking genuine smiles! If you’re feeling down, make sure you dedicate some time to have fun and have a laugh. Well they do say, laughter is the best medicine.

Moral of the story: ensure you keep a delightful balance between your work, personal time, social life and taking time out, or having fun. This way you have multiple outlets to reduce and release all that stress, and it didn’t even hurt a muscle (unless, of course, you're the crazy, extreme sports kind of person... then maybe). Working for days on end on that essay or a work assignment without seeing the sunlight, without any proper juicy nutrition, or that you forget basic English due to chronic separation from the human species is definitely not the way to go. Do not be afraid to take that break.