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Friday, September 27, 2013

Undergraduate Competencies

There has been lots of talk in the national news recently about choosing a major.  Some of these discussions range from: career paths taken by students, satisfaction in their career, cost of major vs. salary after graduation, popular majors, (Of course, we all know the answer: PSYCHOLOGY!!), male vs. female dominated fields, etc…  (I digress, back to our scheduled topic)  What are some competencies that all students need regardless of your major?

Many PSY students start out with the premise that they are studying to become a clinical psychologist.  With this assumption, the next logical path is attending graduate school.  However, research has shown us that only 4-6% of graduating psychology students continue and enter a graduate program in psychology.  Of course, many choose to pursue other graduate degrees: MA, MSW, MBA, JD, etc…  However, these numbers still remain somewhat small.  These facts are not to discourage, but rather to inform you of the reality of your chosen academic path. 

The question then becomes what happened to the majority of these graduating psychology students.  (I am so glad you asked.)    Many graduating seniors don’t have much of a choice.  With the reality of the final cost of an undergraduate degree (bill statement in black & white), most students will need to be gainfully employed and start paying off these student loans.  Others may be unsure about where their interests lie, want to take some time off, or are not interested in a post-graduate education.  Whatever the reasons may be, looking for a job is the next step. 

There are certain competencies that are essential whether you are applying for a graduate program or a job.  These are some ideas for consideration:

What you can do in psychology is determined not just by completing a PSY degree but also by the following:
KSAO – knowledge, skills, abilities, & other characteristics.  Many companies are looking for students to have gained some major competencies while completing their undergraduate degree.
  • Academic skills – you can show academic excellence through your major courses as well as other areas.  You have excelled academically in all types of courses.  Varied academic background in courses such as; logic & reasoning, language, physiology, culture, etc….
  • Technical skills – the ability to use all Microsoft Office programs installed on your computer. (If you can not name them, then you have a problem.)   Proficient with using various technological and social media tools (professional not just personal usage) to get the work done: email, presentation, data-excel, etc…
  • Communication – effectively communicate verbally and in written formats.  Know and understand how to write in full sentences.  Learn and express yourself using the proper grammar and the correct syntax.
  • Problem solving skills – Demonstrate the ability to learn new tasks and to expand on knowledge given and received.  Working independently to research and solve problems that consistently arise. 

Who you know – networking
Networking is essential in making connections to different people and opportunities.  Networking is found to be the #1 source of finding a good job.  It is also the top source for job leads.  A person’s network can include but is not limited to friends, family, co-workers, professors, internship supervisors, etc…

What you are passionate about
Research and have a deeper understanding of what and why you want to pursue a particular field of study, or career.  Most employers are not looking for an emotional response on: “how or what you feel”.  This verbalization should be very factual and informative.

Professionalism – Show that you can function in a “work” setting.  What does this mean?  Punctuality - be on time, dependability, flexibility, self management, attention to detail, etc….  Your attitude and behavior indicate your aptitude to work in a diverse environment and group.  Body language can say much about what we do not say aloud….  As a soon to be graduate, think of the organizations that you are involved in.  Leadership roles are excellent ways to exhibit many of the above competencies.  Also do not forget to join professional associations and attend local or regional conferences.  These opportunities allow you to interact with experts in the field.
Stay tuned, maybe next time we will tackle, what you should know and do when opportunities come your way.


KSAOs as well as most of the above subject areas are covered in many HR books such as:
Your Career: How to Make it Happen. Lauri Harwood
Staffing Organizations, 7th edition.  Heneman, H. G. III, Judge, T.A., & Kammeyer-Mueller, J.D. (2012). 
Graduate Statistics from: American Psychological Association website.

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