Careers Service wants to thank our Bath alumni for this great interview and wish them all the best in their future career. If you would like further information about careers in mental health, have a look at our sector video briefing and our careers in mental health careers helpsheet.
Can you tell a little about yourself and where you work/study?
To begin with, it's important to highlight that I am a European National and I arrived in the UK before Brexit. This was very helpful because I was granted a Pre-Settled Status, which means that I didn’t need sponsorship or visa for employment, education or housing. I have international friends who came in the UK and found it tricky to get a job because of their immigration status, so I would advise anyone who is planning to stay in the UK after graduation to look into their options and opportunities.
I am currently working as a trainee Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Practitioner (CWP). This includes learning and practicing therapy and assessment skills at a University some of the days and apply them in the workplace the rest of the week. I provide early intervention to young people presenting with low mood, anxiety and behavioural difficulties and supporting their families according to evidence-based therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is a 1 year training which leads to professional accreditation, registering with BPS or BABCP after successful course completion.
My academic background includes a BSc in Psychology with a First Class Hons degree (UK University) and a MSc in Applied Clinical Psychology (University of Bath; UoB). In the past, I have worked as a Childcare Worker and Psychology Intern in an Adult Inpatient Mental Health Service in my home country. I have also been employed as a Health Care Support Worker (HCSW) in a CAMHS Inpatient Unit after completing my MSc and before I start my current training. I am also a graduate member of the BPS.
How did you hear about and apply for your role?
I found out about the roles through the Careers Department, doing my own web search based on my interests (e.g. prevention in mental health) and looking on what is available on job sites (e.g. indeed, NHS jobs) and applied online. Job application forms include professional and academic history and are accompanied with a statement of purpose.
What were the challenges applying for jobs as a student/ new graduate?
Applying for jobs as a new graduate was very challenging for me. The pandemic had just appeared and brought employment and financial uncertainties. Coming from another country, searching for a job in the UK was very new to me as well, and I struggled with my mental health being away from my family and friends during this time. It was hard learning how competitive “gold standard” jobs were, like Assistant Psychologist (AP) posts, and seeing application portals closing before I had a chance to submit my application or receiving rejection emails, alongside having to discover different employment routes, made it harder. Furthermore, my academic programme did not prepare me for job applications or interviews relevant to applying for NHS roles. Trying to apply before my studies were complete was tricky as well, and I ended up applying more regularly after completing all of my coursework.
What are the reasons you think you were successful in getting a job as a new graduate and later on?
First and foremost, remaining ambitious, hopeful and dedicated. Acknowledging that the process can be slow and discouraging but always trying my best and allowing time and space to myself to get there has always been the key. Having my goals, dreams and priorities straight is something that has helped me the most in my journey overall to keep pushing until I reach my objectives, one step at a time.
Seeking support, forming connections and practice is at the top of the list as well. My thesis Supervisor and Clinical Psychologists I met through my academic programme kindly gave me feedback on my applications. I will always be thankful to the UoB Careers Service for their time and support as well, reviewing my application statement again and again, giving me advice and tips, and practicing interviews. My best friend was also very emotionally supportive which also helped in preparing for interviews.
Finally, having previous experience in an inpatient ward and working with children gave me an advantage of being able to demonstrate transferable skills beyond my studies.
Going back to job-hunt after 10 months in my HCSW position was a lot easier and faster and had high success application rates. I had already learnt how to write a good application statement, I had UK work experience and drew examples that the recruiters could relate alongside showcasing my passion for prevention and knowing all there is to know for the role and the interview through extensive research and practice (e.g. interview role-play).
What are your top tips for students interested in a career in mental health?
I would encourage people to research a role VERY WELL before they apply. For example, a lot of people don’t realise how difficult being a HCSW in inpatient units can be, including taking part in patient restraints during incidents, working long hours and shifts including nights. Routes like these in mental health can be very rewarding but people should be very well prepared to deal with highly emotive environments and be aware of the work they might do, to avoid burn-out. On the same note of knowing your role, jobs such as trainee CWPs are currently NHS funded and people can apply to other Government funded positions (e.g. DClinPsy) only 2 years post qualification.
I would also prompt students to be open-minded and curious, allowing themselves to explore the market and grow, gaining as much insight in the healthcare system as possible. Being well-rounded and gaining transparent skills is much more important than “this AP role” and can lead to greater discoveries about themselves and the world around them.
A couple of practicalities that I would urge students to consider include job location and full UK driving license. I have missed on a LOT of job opportunities because they required a driving license, but I am willing to relocate and use public transport. Career progression is not impossible without a license, but it makes it unnecessary more difficult.
Last but not least, I would advise students to get as much support from people who already have the experience and/ or knowledge that they are seeking. For example, I have connected with qualified CWPs and newly graduated CWPs and asked for their top tips!
What are your career ambitions?
When I first started my journey in Psychology, I was thinking of eventually becoming a Clinical Psychologist and working in Inpatient Units. Having had just a few years of experiencing the healthcare system, I have now become very passionate about prevention and early support in mental health. After qualifying as a CWP, I would like to gain further skills to support the development of future trainees by managing relevant facilities alongside working as a Supervisor and a Senior CWP, in order to enhance the workforce and support a successful service transformation.
Take home messages:
- Be open-minded
- Do your research
- Always be prepared
- Use the support
- Be kind to yourself
- Stay focused