The benefits of internships
The British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology has a ‘Job Board’ at www.pow-bps.com, where you can advertise or seek voluntary experience (and paid positions that have appeared in The Psychologist). In particular, the site is designed to advertise internships for recent completed MSc graduates and students looking to get initial experience.
To illustrate the benefits for employers, as well as for applicants, we meet three people who’ve been making internships work for them.
At Sainsbury’s, Veronika Solloway describes how an internship has helped launch her career as an occupational psychologist, whilst Peter Burnham outlines the benefits from the employer perspective. Inga Pioro at PDI Ninth House has also used the Job Board to support sourcing three interns this year and describes how this helped the recruitment process.
Postgraduate Occupational Psychology Placement, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets plc
I started with Sainsbury’s Supermarkets as a volunteer assisting on a Situational Judgment Test (SJT) validity project.
I then joined full-time as an Assistant Occupational Psychologist, working alongside Sainsbury’s in-house Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Peter Burnham. Much of my experience has fallen in designing, validating and analysing SJTs. In doing so, I got the opportunity to apply my knowledge of research methods and statistical analysis taught on the Psychology BSc and Occupational Psychology MSc, and this has been invaluable in preparing me towards chartered status and supporting me in my current job search. I also learnt a number of new skills including:
I critical incident technique job analysis;
I interview and assessment skills;
I conducting longitudinal research; and
I applied statistical techniques.
I have also developed a number of assessments for the graduate scheme and HR Shared Services (including interviews, coaching exercises and group exercises). Lastly, I have designed a team-building exercise based on the Belbin team roles for the team I was working in. This placement has given me an invaluable insight into the world of occupational psychology in commerce, a vision that was not so clear from the lecture hall. I have gained a number of new skills and sharpened others that have enabled me to design valid and fair assessments. In terms of career progression, this placement has brought me a step closer to being a Chartered Occupational Psychologist.
Where possible, organisations running occupational psychology placements should explore incorporating rotations so that postgraduates could get experience across the HR business functions (health and safety, selection and assessment, organisational development and change, training and development etc.) Rotations will provide much of the necessary experience to become a chartered occupational psychologist. The return for running a placement will be an occupational psychologist who has been trained for your organisation, who understands your culture and priorities.
Occupational Psychologist, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets plc
After attending a meeting at the BPS conference, I was reminded of a need for postgraduate training schemes in occupational psychology. The meeting was made up of psychologists from all of the big consultancies, but only a few who represented psychologists who work ‘in house’. A few months later I was approached by Veronika Solloway, an MSc student at Birkbeck College, University of London. She offered to work for free, three days a week, to help me gather and analyse data for a paper I was writing.
I was so impressed by her determination; I decided to offer Veronika a one-year paid, postgraduate placement. This was an excellent opportunity for Veronika, who gained experience in job analysis, assessment design, test design, statistical analysis, executive recruitment practices and large-scale project management. This was good for her, but even better for Sainsbury’s. The insight and academic knowledge that she brought kept us all on our toes; it was refreshing to be challenged.
I would definitely recommend this to other ‘in-house’ psychologists, but also to the consultancies.
There were of course challenges in employing a trainee psychologist, who had excellent academic knowledge but limited practical experience.
It took time to show Veronika how to do some of the basics, and the challenges the consultancies face when putting trainees in front
of clients, are no less pertinent for ‘in-house’ psychologists. However, with some careful coaching and explanation, I felt comfortable letting Veronika ‘loose’. In light of this, I still feel strongly that it was worthwhile. As a society we cannot expect MSc graduates to magic experience out of thin air, without offering them the opportunities to learn a profession. Veronika will be finishing her one-year placement in September and we fully intend to be recruiting another intern before then.
PDI Ninth House
PDI Ninth House is a global human resources consulting firm who partner with the world’s leading organisations, enabling them to make consistently effective talent decisions about leaders. PDI Ninth House have an established intern programme in Australia, and wanted to experience the same level of success in their London office.
The London programme has been running since January 2009, with interns working on a flexible basis depending on their commitments and the business needs, but typically around three days per month. They get involved in administering assessments, supporting and shadowing consultants, candidate care, and ongoing projects or research.
From our point of view, it’s a win-win situation – interns get intensive experience in a professional environment, and get the opportunity to work toward their chartership, and PDI Ninth House get to work with and learn from highly motivated individuals. In Australia it’s already created a pipeline of talent for future roles, and early indications are that we can achieve this in the UK. We used the DOP Job Board to find suitable candidates, and found the process straightforward and quick, and appreciated the fact that it was free to use in the current environment. We received numerous applications from a range of qualified and high-quality candidates and are very happy with the five successful interns.
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