Put Psychology in Practice: How to Be in Charge of Your Career

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Too many people are reactive instead of active when it comes to their careers, slogging back and forth to work each day and watching the clock tick every too-long minute by. If you’re studying psychology, you know for a fact that a person’s attitude can make the difference between happiness and unhappiness, between getting a promotion and getting stuck in one place. If you want to get more clients, own your own practice or work in new locations, you have to be active when it comes to taking charge of your career.

Get a Graduate Degree

A graduate degree is a requirement for some positions in the field of psychology, but not in all of them. However, if you hope to get ahead or to one day own a business, you need a master’s degree or even a doctorate. Improve your hireability or your credentials for opening your own practice with a master of science in applied psychology.

Experience is only half of the equation when it comes to getting promoted and attracting clients; the better educated you are, the more qualified you are to work in positions with greater responsibility. With an online degree program, you can fit coursework into a busy day, in the morning, at lunch or late at night — whenever you can find the time.

Psychology in Practice

Network Every Day

Even when you’re not actively looking for a new position, it’s a good idea to present yourself professionally and to network every day. Get to know colleagues and other psychologists in the area. Join industry groups and attend conventions and meet-ups. The more people you know in the field, the more secure your future.

For example, if you want a promotion at your current office, if your partners hear that other offices might be interested in hiring you, they may feel they have to offer you a promotion or you’ll walk. If you want to work at a new place, your network connections may pay off more directly through a job offer. If you plan to open your own practice one day, you might find future partners among those you come to know.

Balance Talking with Listening

It’s a no-brainer when it comes to sessions with clients, but remind yourself to balance talking with listening with your colleagues and supervisors, too. Many professionals feel they have to be heard if they want to be promoted, and to a point, that’s true. However, it’s just as important to hear what others are saying to you — and to follow through with what they’ve asked of you.

If a supervisor knows she can rely on you to put her ideas into practice, she’s more willing to work with you as a team leader or fellow supervisor. If you’re persistent about being heard rather than listening, you’re going to step on some toes.

Set Small Goals

Don’t tell yourself the goal is to own your own practice one day or work as a supervisor and then get disappointed when the months and years tick by without you being any closer to making that goal reality. It’s important that you break down large goals into small goals. Work toward your big career change in increments. For example, you might focus on:

  • Earning a higher degree
  • Getting one more client per month until you’ve filled your schedule
  • Participating in more office-wide projects
  • Asking for more responsibilities

Tackle each small goal one step at a time. Eventually, you’ll achieve the larger goal without even realizing all of your daily work has paid off in the long term.

Schedule in Relaxation Time

It may seem counterintuitive if you want to get ahead, but don’t let yourself work too many hours. Make time for relaxation every single day, even if you have to write it down on a schedule and cram it into a short lunch break. Dwelling on your career goals constantly will lead to burn out, which will make achieving your goals more difficult. Remind yourself why you wanted to be a psychologist in the first place and have fun at your job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are over 174,000 psychologists in the U.S., and a full 34 percent of them are self-employed. Psychology is one of those fields tailor-made for people who want to own their own businesses and actively participate in what the businesses do each day. However, with so much competition out there, you need to set goals and learn how to achieve them so you stand out from the crowd.

About the Author: Makoto Rollins is a psychologist with a practice of her own and over twenty years of experience.