Getting that elusive post

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maven
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Getting that elusive post

Post by maven » Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:53 pm

I thought I would share some insider information about how to get that elusive first foot on the ladder position, or to step up to your first AP position. This is based on many years of shortlisting for positions in various organisations, advertised in various places.

1) NHS jobs is highly competitive. It is easy for applicants to hear about lots of posts in the NHS and to apply for every single post that comes out by just tweaking an existing application, so the competition is super hot. Posts get 50 applicants in the first hour, 200+ if they are left open more than a day or two. So you need to look for posts outside NHS jobs to get your first foot in the door, and your first AP position.

2) Posts outside the NHS are more variable in quality, and in terms and conditions. Their pay is generally a little lower than the NHS, and they don't offer the same protections beyond the statutory requirements, such as sick leave, maternity pay, pension contribution or standardised pay increments. There is also variability in the type of organisation offering the post. They can be profit-making providers (businesses that make money for an individual, shareholders, or venture capitalist investors; eg Virgin, Cambian/Keys, Priory Group), social enterprises (businesses that have a primarily social purpose, but are also run as a business and can make profits within certain limits; eg Midland Psychology, MAC-UK, Just Psychology), charities (organisations that exist to further a cause and don't make profit for anyone; eg Brain Injuries Rehabilitation Trust/Disabilities Trust, Headway, Barnardos, TACT, Mind), and clinician-led small/micro businesses (eg supporting an individual clinician in their research or court work, or working in a business employing 1-10 staff; eg LifePsychol).

3) This means you'll want to do your homework about them, and get a feel for the quality of experience and supervision available. Ideally speak to previous post-holders in the organisation, and find out about their reputation as an employer. Get a feel for them at interview, and ask questions. Google the potential supervisor and check their HCPC registration and linkedin profile to see if they are credible and held in positive regard by peers.

4) However, posts outside the NHS get far fewer applicants for posts. Typically 10-50 in total, which means you get a much better chance of being shortlisted without prior experience in that job role. If you are in the top 20% of applicants then in a role with 200 applicants that puts you in the top 40, and still only gives you a one in ten shot at an interview. If you are in the top 20% of applicants for a job with 40 applicants, you are more likely than not to score an interview.

5) Put yourself in that top 20% by tailoring your application to show how enthused you are about that particular post, with that particular client group. Why not check out the supervisor or any named interviewers, or any psychologists listed in that organisation, and see if you can show an interest in their work, or read a paper they've written ahead of interview?

6) London jobs are generally highly competitive. Likewise burgeoning city centres like Manchester, Edinburgh or Birmingham. However jobs outside major cities seem to attract less applicants. So if you are prepared to relocate, or to do a longer commute to get that special job, keep an eye out for these. It could double or triple your chance of being invited to interview. Likewise keep an eye out for less traditional AP posts, those in niche roles (eg within a specific service delivery or research project, or supporting expert witness work), or those with less popular client groups. Working with people in later life, or with learning disabilities can give amazing transferable skills, even if this isn't the population you envisage working with when qualified.

7) When we get job adverts on the forum, we often get exclusive adverts that are not posted elsewhere, or advertisers who will only advertise in more expensive places if they fail to recruit by advertising here. That means that this is your chance to get an application in against the lowest possible level of competition! If jobs are not posted on NHSjobs or on commercial recruitment sites, then they don't have as high a profile on search engines. This is also true of jobs only advertised on the employer's website. I've known some AP posts that have received only 6-10 applications, meaning that more than half of applicants get the chance of an interview.

8) There is an incorrect assumption that jobs advertised on this forum would have more applicants or applicants of higher standard than adverts elsewhere. In reality many of our adverts are exclusives, and probably represent your best chance of getting called to interview. They also offer you a unique chance to tailor your application, because they are often open for a week or longer. So make sure that you find out about the post and give it your best shot!

9) Look for what the role involves rather than the job title. Any role that works with clinical psychologists, or with people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or brain injuries, or that involves research or audit related to these themes or in services for these populations is relevant. It might be that you can get great experience as a rehab assistant, or a residential care worker, or a support worker in an outreach team, or working within a charity that advocates for members of a vulnerable population. So widen those search terms, and read the job descriptions. And don't be fooled by a job that is predominantly administrative but dressed up as an AP role.

10) Finally, approach every opportunity with enthusiasm, curiosity and empathy. Reflect about what the experience of service users might be, and what the pressures on supervisors or staff might be. Find out how it fits into the wider picture. Gain the most you can from every experience, and you might be able to get that foot-in-the-door post that didn't seem all that relevant to grow into something that you love, that involves direct CP supervision and gives incredible opportunities for personal growth. I know someone that turned 1 hour a week of volunteering around a job in Costa coffee into a full-time AP post within a year, and got onto training a year later, just by being proactive and passionate about the work.

Good luck with it. And as we always say, enjoy the journey. Don't miss opportunities in the here and now by trying so hard to find the shortest way to clinical training.
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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