My Warts & All Journey to Becoming an AP

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psyched2Bhere
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My Warts & All Journey to Becoming an AP

Post by psyched2Bhere »

Hello,

After lurking on this page for quite some time, I have decided to post. I have recently received an offer for an Assistant Psychologist job. I have always found it helpful to read about others journeys, so here is my warts & all confessional…

My BA was in Anthropology, and I managed to get a 2:1, which was fortunate as my early 20s were a lively time, to put it mildly. After this, I worked in a café to save up some cash and volunteered at a local counselling service once a week. My MSc was Psychology of Mental Health (conversion), it was hard work, but I managed to get a Merit. The pressure of the degree, combined with some unfortunate life events, hit me. When I say I was stressed, my periods just stopped (yes, this a thing!). Thankfully, I discovered the gym that year to help me regulate some of that stress, and I got abs...whey! A long-lost memory following lockdown.

After graduating in Psychology, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology. I saw myself doing nothing else. Zilch. Nada. Nowt. So began the countless streams of Assistant Psychologist applications and rejections.

After my MSc, my first relevant role was as a Project Worker in a homeless hostel in a "Psychologically Informed Environment" to support men with severe and chronic trauma history. I learnt a lot, particularly the importance of working with a supportive team. After this, I carried out a PgDip in Mental Health Practice, which involved two placements as a Graduate Mental Health Practitioner with the NHS, on an inpatient ward and community mental health setting.

I am not proud to say this, but there were times that I would think I am "better" than my roles. I treated them as a stepping stone until I become a fancy, genius, Psychologist. This attitude makes me feel ashamed, as I am aware that support workers are undervalued and under-supported, and I do not want to internalise these views. Regardless, I found myself over idealising psychologists' work and undervaluing other essential practitioners in my scramble to get an AP job. Again, not cool - and not rooted in reality either.

Another little habit I developed was feeling bitter about my peers' success (She got an AP jo?! Ew, a stroke of luck, I guess). Of course, becoming the Regina George of Aspiring APs didn't help me get any closer to my goal. We should celebrate and support each other every step of the way.

Reflecting on my previous roles, I did not make the most out of my experiences. Don't get me wrong; I was good at what I did. I enjoyed my jobs, worked hard and learnt a lot. But I would spend a lot of time thinking about why I was not an AP, sending off AP applications and preparing for AP interviews. The feeling was that of longing after a sexy but disinterested man. Much like an unhealthy love interest, I let my self-worth get tied up in this process and was a bundle of nerves in the odd interview I had.

Contributing to the pressure, I come from a family who thrive in their jobs, and my parents both have wonderful careers in research. While I recognise this as an immense privilege, it led to an urge to meet perceived expectations and a feeling that I was "letting others down."

After this, I got a job in a charity, where I was responsible for developing and delivering a project supporting women and children of colour fleeing domestic abuse. My role energised me, and it aligned with my values and interests perfectly. Whilst a career in Psychology remained at the back of my mind, I was able to "switch off" from my long-term goal and carry out my job with focus and passion. Four months in, I received a call from a Trust who placed me in their talent pool following an interview and decided to turn the role down. If someone told me I'd do this during my AP obsession phase, I'd laugh in their face.

A year later, I applied to some AP posts, with a lessened sense of niggling anxiety (it was at 5/10) instead of a 9.8/10); this came from the freedom of knowing that I am capable of excelling and "getting a buzz out of" work that is not an AP role. I got invited to an interview (1 interview out of 9 applications) with that same Trust. Whilst there is a lot of information of the "interview" section of this website, here are some things that helped me get the job:

- I researched NICE guidelines relevant to the client group
- I brushed up on my knowledge of legislation relevant to the client group
- I read and reflected on a couple of relevant papers that I felt I could confidently chat about
- I prepared for three inevitable questions (my experience of research, a scenario-based safeguarding question and how my skills and experience make me a good fit for the role)

ALSO:

- I meditated for 10 mins before the interview and avoided any caffeine that morning; my normal pre-interview game consists of coffee, fags and frantic note reading

Probably most importantly:

- I was genuinely interested in the people interviewing me, the Trust and the work carried out by the team.

I still have a long way to get on a doctorate, and there is no guarantee I'll ever get there. But my experiences so far have taught me not to undervalue any jobs I have had along the way, to enjoy the journey and to be less of a bastard along the way

:wink:
Last edited by psyched2Bhere on Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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miriam
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Re: My Warts & All Journey to Becoming an AP

Post by miriam »

Thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy your new post.

It is better, as you say, to be realistic about AP posts being just another type of job and not the holy grail, but also to make the most of every experience and opportunity as there are many routes to clinical training and not all of them contain AP work. I think the way you approach applications and interviews is absolutely critical. As I learnt from recent shortlisting, far too many people think of it as as numbers game - they just click send on the same generic application for anything mentioning AP in the job title. I only look at applications that show interest in our specific post, and tell us how they will meet our requirements, so fulfilling that one simple requirement puts you straight into the top 25% of applicants. I'd absolutely agree about managing anxiety and doing your homework before an interview also. I've been amazed by how many people haven't really thought about what the job will involve, or what the obvious questions at interview might be (or that use psychological insights to help manage their anxiety). Again, its another area where you can improve your chances considerably!
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com
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Geishawife
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Re: My Warts & All Journey to Becoming an AP

Post by Geishawife »

I like this post very much🙂. I think it encapsulates what many of us have often repeated about AP posts not being "the be all and end all" and a wide variety of jobs can give people excellent and very valuable experience. I think it's brave of you to admit to having, in the past, felt "better than the job". Sadly, this is an attitude I've come across before - "I didn't spend 3 years studying to wipe backsides and make small talk with old ladies" is a memorable response I once received from someone wanting feedback on why they weren't shortlisted and I suggested they try care work or support work rather than applying for an AP post straight away! I think your post demonstrates how this attitude can be changed and how valuable self reflection can be.

Good luck going forward. It strikes me you'll forge a pretty successful career no matter what you end up doing.
psyched2Bhere
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Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2021 12:12 pm

Re: My Warts & All Journey to Becoming an AP

Post by psyched2Bhere »

Hey Geishawife,

Absolutely agree. I have supported service user's with personal care in the past, going into it with your nose turned up means you have undermined a person's dignity from the get-go.

Thank you so much for your kind words!
psyched2Bhere
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2021 12:12 pm

Re: My Warts & All Journey to Becoming an AP

Post by psyched2Bhere »

Hey Miriam,

Thank you for replying.

Yes absolutely. Tunnel vision can obstruct how valuable the experiences obtained from different roles are. I think it is important to turn your focus inwards (e.g. what can I do to make this a positive learning experience? why did I apply for this role in the first place?) when feeling negative/stuck in a job.

It can be tough to write a tailored application when you work full-time and only have a few days to get it done. So, I spent a few afternoons thinking about different services I am interested in (e.g. CAHMS, Community Mental Health) and jotted down some reflections on a word doc. I referred to these paragraphs to help me fill out relevant applications and it saved me a lot of time. I also had someone read over my applications for me because my spelling and grammar are not my strong point :?

Also - my job isn't in my city, and I will have to relocate/commute, which will be a faff! Not sure how common this is for AP jobs? I don't think I'd have managed if I were to only look in my city.
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maven
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Re: My Warts & All Journey to Becoming an AP

Post by maven »

Yeah, looking widely for jobs (in terms of the population worked with, the nature of the role, and the geographic location) helps, if you are able to relocate and don't have very strong preferences about the nature of the work.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare
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