Psychology students cultivate numerous skills (e.g., information seeking, computer literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written communication) through courses, research experiences, internships, volunteer work, and other activities (Landrum & McCarthy, 2018). Yet, they often struggle to market (i.e., express the value of) these skills to potential employers. A crucial component to a successful job search is recognizing and conveying the relevance of these skills to a specific position. Thus, it is advisable to consider how your skills match a potential profession and tailor application documents and interview discussions to a specific employer.
As an example, many positions involve answering work-related questions or solving problems. These tasks benefit from the information literacy skills psychology majors cultivate as they learn how to find, evaluate, organize, integrate, share, and apply information in their courses and activities. A successful job search then hinges on showing the utility of these skills and providing specific examples of how you employed these skills previously.
Conveying the Value of Information Literacy
Finding information is essential to answering questions and addressing problems in any work setting. First, there is often a need to gather additional information from stakeholders and clarify the question or problem, which benefits from skills in observing, interviewing, and listening. Second, businesses increasingly want data-driven and research-based decisions (Bayamlıoğlu & Leenes, 2018). This requires accessing existing information or gathering new data. Students with computer skills and experience retrieving information from EBSCO databases, government resources, library documents, and other sources can be valuable assets in these situations. Furthermore, there are occasions when a company or organization encounters unique circumstances that necessitate gathering new data because existing data does not fully answer the question or address the problem. In these cases, experience with research techniques (e.g., surveying, testing, experimenting) is advantageous, and psychology students learn and practice these techniques in courses on research methods, experimental design, and testing and assessment.
Evaluating information is increasingly important in the current information age (Lanagan-Leitzel & Diller, 2018). Conflicting information often exists, and employees need to evaluate the validity and reliability of the sources. Courses in philosophy of science, statistics, and research and experimental methods provide critical thinking and numeracy skills that are useful in these tasks. These skills allow individuals to see the strengths and weaknesses of the information available to decide how much credibility to assign to each source.
Organizing material is essential in larger projects as individuals track their searches, eliminate possible sources, save related information, create notes about references, and prepare to integrate and synthesize the information into a useable format. These skills are developed through papers, presentations, and research projects. Additionally, students often develop active learning strategies through courses, and these strategies aid in organizing and acquiring new knowledge.
Creating a coherent and well-structured representation of the information typically involves integrating and synthesizing multiple sources of information or data. Learning to thematically organize material and summarize across multiple studies or sources provides a strong foundation in how to support an assertion and arrive at a novel and defensible conclusion.
Sharing the information with colleagues and employers relies on communication and interpersonal skills (e.g., perspective taking) to convey the material clearly and concisely. Psychology students practice written and oral communication through class discussions, papers, presentations, exams, and other activities. Students also learn technical writing (e.g., research manuscripts, assessment reports), which is crucial in many professions. Finally, tailoring presentations and discussions involves interpersonal skills (e.g., perspective taking) as engaging the audience and focusing on the portions of the material most relevant to the question or problem is more effective than providing all of the information acquired throughout the process.
Applying information to solve a work-related problem is often the last step in a project. This step requires problem-solving skills and collaboration as logistical issues present and the scope of the project necessitates buy-in and cooperation from stakeholders within and outside the company. Here again, interpersonal and perspective-taking skills developed in courses (e.g., social psychology, theories of counseling) help students understand what is important to the individuals involved and tailor presentations and meetings to address their concerns and interests.
Psychology students cultivate a number of valuable skills. The crucial component to a successful job search is using the perspective-taking skills provided to identify employers’ needs and match your skills to their needs.
Bayamlıoğlu, E., & Leenes, R. (2018). The ‘rule of law’ implications of data-driven decision-making: A
techno-regulatory perspective. Law, Innovation, and Technology, 10, 295–313. https://doi.org/10.1080/17579961.2018.1527475
Lanagan-Leitzel, L. K., & Diller, J. W. (2018). Teaching psychological critical thinking using popular
media. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 4, 120–125. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/st10000112
Landrum, R. E., & McCarthy, M. A. (2018). Measuring the benefits of a bachelor’s degree in psychology:
Promises, challenges, and next steps. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4, 55–63. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/stl0000101
Danney Rasco, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Sociology, and Social Work at West Texas A&M University. He is passionate about preparing students for the next stage of their academic or professional careers. Thus, he often engages students in research projects and recently presented with students at the International Convention of Psychological Science, International Association for Relationship Research mini-Conference, Southwestern Psychological Association Convention, and Society for the Teaching of Psychology Annual Conference on Teaching. Dr. Rasco teaches social psychology and the JOY of statistics. His research focuses on how interpersonal relationships can benefit individuals and improve their well-being.
Copyright 2019 (Vol. 24, Iss. 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology