Behavioral Sciences

3 Ways to Boost Psychology Undergraduates Confidence in Job-Ready Skills

3 Ways to Boost Psychology Undergraduates Confidence in Job-Ready Skills

Do psychology undergraduates have job-ready skills? 

Many professors believe their graduates are skilled and ripe for the job marketplace, but students don’t feel as confident. So it’s no surprise that this topic emerged in several presentations at the recent Society for Teaching Psychology (STP) conference. 

STP conferences gather the brightest and most talented psychology instructors around the country. At this year’s conference, there were three excellent techniques discussed that can boost psychology undergraduates’ confidence in their job-ready skills. 

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1. Identify Job-Ready Skills 

The first step to helping psychology undergraduates to be job-ready is identifying the overlapping skills psychology undergraduates develop and what the current workforce values. 

There are a few resources students can read. One resource is Dr. Drew Appleby’s publication on skills for job-seeking psychology majors. You students can also read the shorter APA publication identifying workforce-ready skills for psychology undergraduates. 

This is what’s outlined in the APA article:

Cognitive Skills 

Analytical thinking, critical thinking, creativity, information management, judgment and decision making

Communication Skills

Oral and written communication skills

Personal Skills 

Adaptability, integrity, self-regulation

Social Skills

Collaboration, inclusivity, leadership, management, service orientation

Technological Skills

Flexibility/adaptability to new systems, familiarity with hardware and software

You may have noticed that your program already helps students develop the employable skills listed. So where do you go from here?

2. Leverage High-Impact Practices (HIPs)

One strategy is to keep doing what you’re doing—just focus more on skill development. 

This was the message of experts Dr. David Strohmetz and Dr. Natalie Ciarocco at the recent Society for Teaching Psychology Conference (STP). Specifically, they proposed a correlation between high-impact practices and skill self-efficacy. Preliminary research supported the correlation, and it just makes sense. 

Of course students enrolled in internships or research positions will strengthen their confidence in communication, collaboration, etc., and the pervasive nature of high-impact practices means it’s likely you already have HIP requirements in your curriculum. So all you need to do is put the unique lens of skill development in your existing high-impact practices. 

And this advice—do what you’re already doing and a little focus —applies beyond high-impact practices. Bookend your syllabi, courses, assignments, and class activities with developing employable skills. 

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3. Include a Skill-Based Curriculum Unit 

Even if you’re leveraging High-Impact Practices to develop employable skills, it’s also important to include a skill-based curriculum unit. 

Dr. Kathleen Hughes and Dr. Kimberly Duff presented the skill-based curriculum they’ve incorporated into their own courses. Their employable skills unit was worth 25% of the course grade. Here’s the general outline:

Pre-Test ESSES

Skills experts Dr. Ciarocco and Dr. Strohmetz built a survey to assess student confidence in transferable skills. This is an excellent resource to leverage when you’re trying to build a skill-based curriculum or more awareness of skills. 

Skills Identification Assignment

This project requires students to identify the skills they’ll need for a potential career. They recommended having students use resources like the Bureau of Labor, then students identify the skills they’ve acquired, along with the skills they need to develop.  

Create/Update Resume

Students assess the skills they’ve developed in their psychology undergraduate courses and specifically add those to their resume. 

Class Discussion

Then they have a class discussion, which Dr. Hughes and Duff considered a highlight of the unit. 

Post-Test ESSES

Students take the ESSES test again and compare their new scores with the pre-test results.

This kind of curriculum preps students with the right language to communicate their job-ready skills in professional documents and interviews. 

Confidence requires reinforcement. That’s why a combination of these ideas is the best way to boost psychology undergraduate’s confidence in their job-ready skills. Thank you to all the brilliant psychology professors that presented at STP 2019. 

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