Psychology – a start or end?

My decision to pursue a path in psychology wasn’t an accident. After majoring in microelectronics in 2001, I was caught in the midst of a manufacturing crisis, which landed me in Singapore Airlines working as a flight stewardess for five and a half years. Working in a ‘person-centred’ organisation, I loved observing people’s body language and behaviours in particular. I was trained to use ‘reverse psychology’ to deliver customer service with a softer touch, and I realised a potential in me to offer an excellent listening ear. My non-judgemental advice seemed to attract a lot of people for a second opinion in times of crisis.   

This discovery led me to sign up for a correspondence degree in psychology with the Open University. Upon completion of my undergraduate dissertation, I had a sudden and overwhelming interest in learning more about sexual offenders. I completed an MSc in forensic psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, simultaneously gathering voluntary experience with GAMH and Victim Support.

With soaring hopes, I started applying for jobs at least three months before graduation. The only reply to the endless amount of applications – ‘Rejection’. My desire to be a forensic psychologist undiminished, I continued volunteering and applying for jobs.

More than a year has passed since my graduation; currently I am employed full time with Geeza Break as a project administrator. Geeza Break is a voluntary, ‘person-centred’ organisation providing family support and respite services to families with 0- to16-year-old children (or up to 18 years for children with disabilities) with addiction, crisis, stress and isolation issues. It aims to provide positive support primarily to children and families located in the East/North East region of Glasgow, via respite services such as care, sitting and Toffee Club (which runs during summer holidays). In addition to the three respite services, Geeza Break provides respite services throughout the Glasgow area to grandparents and extended family members who have care and responsibility for a child through parental drug and/or alcohol misuse. Geeza Break works collaboratively with Family Addiction Support Service (FASS), to provide support to families in various ways, such as one to ones, group work and person-centred support plans. The aim is to assist with preventing or reducing statutory involvement by working with clients to develop and encourage parenting skills and personal social development.

As a project administrator, I support respite coordinators with all aspects of documentation from setting up files, making appointments, organising team meetings and training sessions, to supporting respite providers with general information. In addition, I undertake assessments/reviews and unannounced monitoring checks of service users with a respite coordinator, and I am responsible for the database input and extraction of statistical information and reports. Currently I am involved in the development of competency-based assessment for the carers and sitters. The research skills that I have picked up from university have helped in this process, and being involved in the task has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the service providers.

I might not be in my desired job at the moment, but meeting vulnerable families and children in the course of duty has forced me to think out of the box and reflect on the perspectives I have learned in psychology. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to see the difference the organisation is making in families who need them the most. I enjoy working with carers and sitters, who display immense passion for what they do. These are different people who share one common goal, which is to contribute to society. No one day is the same for them. Similarly, I am learning every day in my job, handling various unforeseen emergencies.

While the administrative function of the role can seem mundane, the challenges in the job coupled up with experienced and professional colleagues who make my learning process much more lively, makes it all worthwhile for me to remain in the job for a while more.

Have I lost touch with psychology? Definitely no. Have I lost touch with forensic psychology? Tragically, yes! I have applied my skills and knowledge to work, but it’s not quite the same. I have still not given up applying for jobs; in fact, I have opened up my choices to other aspects of psychology, such as in clinical settings. The outcomes are still the same.   

Recently, I was offered a voluntary role as Assistant Psychologist in Crewe, but relocating to England with no guarantee of a job has stopped me from taking up the position. When should I give up my career search? The advice I receive most of the time is not to give up; whether that is practical, only time will tell. I am hoping not to end up switching fields again due to lack of choices.

Optimistically speaking, this is not the end for me: this is my passion and I have been working really hard towards it for the past eight years.

- Nisa Shahul Hameed
[email protected]

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