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  • Psychology Majors: Classroom to Career

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    As a psych major, your career outlook is bright. According to the U.S. government, the demand for those trained in the field of psychology will increase over the next decade.

    But maybe your dream isn't to be a psychologist or counselor. Maybe you really want to be a pastry chef, Spanish teacher or CEO of your own company. Whatever your career goals, your college education has given you the skills to succeed. You will, however, need to tell potential employers what those skills are and how they'll make you a great hire.

    Here's how you can describe the expertise you've picked up as a psychology major:

    You are a people person.

    You've spent years learning why people do the things they do. Your degree has made you an active listener and a keen observer of others' motivations, worries and hopes. Now it's time to put that knowledge to good use.

    Good people skills are essential to success in any workplace. If you're writing an e–mail to a colleague, your knowledge of their personality will help you communicate in an effective way. If you're interacting with a customer, your study of psychology will make you a better salesperson. And understanding what makes your boss tick will help you advance in your job (although saying you can see into your boss' head may not be helpful in an interview setting).

    You have strong critical thinking skills.

    You may not have spent as much time in the lab as chemistry or biology students, but your coursework required you to develop hypotheses and carry out experiments based on the scientific method. Doing original research helped you develop critical, independent thinking – exactly what employers are referring to when they say they want employees who can think outside the box.

    Successful people are those who can come up with a great, original idea and put it into practice, or look at a proposal and find constructive ways to make it better. These are those "critical thinking" skills you've honed in your psych classes and other undergraduate courses.

    You are a clear and compelling writer.

    Most liberal arts majors learn to write well. But as a psychology student, you have special training. You know how to create a well–;structured research paper that brings in relevant data to reach a convincing conclusion. This means that you can do both data analysis and persuasive writing – key skills in many jobs.

    How will this skill come into play in the workplace? Let's say you work for a U.S. Congressperson who asks you how their constituents feel about global warming. You would need to analyze the data (e–mails and phone calls to the office), draw conclusions (constituents feel X about global warming) and present the final report in a format that can be easily digested by your busy boss. The good news is that you've already done this, many times, in your psych classes.

    You have these skills and many more. Now you need to know how to talk about them. The more you practice discussing your strengths (and we suggest making a long list of them), the better chance you'll have of winning your dream job.

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