Things you can do to make yourself more attractive to employers

Regardless of your career path, you will need usable skills and knowledge-true competence. To have a successful career, it is not sufficient simply to graduate, or even to graduate with very good grades. You must acquire marketable skills and knowledge, and find ways to demonstrate your strengths to others. In courses that teach skills and knowledge that will be useful in your career, you need to put in extra time and effort to acquire the competence you need to do your job.

Most employers say they are looking for individuals who can

  • write clearly and precisely
  • speak articulately and persuasively
  • perform productively as a member of a team
  • handle data effectively
  • listen carefully and accurately
  • manage time effectively
  • handle conflict successfully
  • adapt easily to organizational rules and procedures.

If you don't already have those skills, look for opportunities to acquire and practice them. Skills, unlike knowledge, cannot be acquired simply by understanding. Skills are acquired by practice, with feedback that tells you how well you're doing. Instead of avoiding classes that require those skills, seek them out, and press the instructor to provide you with usable feedback about your performance. Make use of the Student Center for Academic Achievement. They can help you improve all of those skills.

To achieve success in higher level jobs you also need

  • the ability to read with a high level of comprehension
  • the ability to think for yourself and to analyze and synthesize information
  • the initiative to apply theories and methods you have learned to solve real-world problems.
If you don't have these high level abilities it may be because you haven't pushed yourself to develop them. You can't learn to read with a high level of comprehension if you avoid reading difficult material. Thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing is hard mental labor. Initiative takes energy.

Prepare to market yourself. To begin preparing a resume, write down the skills you already possess, those you are acquiring, and those you still need. Apply newly acquired skills and knowledge in everyday life so they become a part of the real you. Collect your best work. Invent other ways to demonstrate your competence to others.

Psychology majors have specific abilities that attract employers. Many psychology graduates are interested in learning what makes people tick, and figure out how to use the knowledge base of psychology to help people solve their problems. Competent psychology graduates also have useful scientific skills: they base conclusions on carefully collected data, rather than on common sense, deeply felt beliefs, authoritative sources, cultural wisdom, laws, or other sources of knowledge.

One important part of your education as a psychologist is to learn how psychologists locate scientific answers to questions, and generate new scientific knowledge by collecting and analyzing data. Training in research methods and statistics are gateway skills to many careers. Employers in numerous fields need the skills that psychology majors bring to collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data. Psychology majors know how to conduct opinion surveys, do market research, perform statistical analyses of data, and interpret findings. Even if you are not actively involved in collecting data, these scientific skills will enable you to critically judge the usefulness of new ideas about human behavior, new intervention strategies, new programs, and the like.

If you want to be an independent contractor, start early. Share your knowledge with others by working as a volunteer in various agencies, and by giving workshops where you work, at PTAs, at community meetings. Become known for your talent as a practitioner before you become a professional.

Future employers sometimes require letters of recommendation. Your professors can write letters for you.

List of career-relevant skills that psychology majors can acquire

Student Center for Academic Achievement

How to get a good letter of recommendation.

Grad school information

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