Hi everyone. Welcome to my final blog of my Master’s degree journey! Thank you so much for supporting me so far and for following my journey through a weird and wonderful year. As my MSc is coming to a close, I’ve been searching for my next steps, and what better topic than to end this series on.
Like many of you, I have recently faced the dreaded job hunt. The job market, regardless of what field you are interested in, and including neuroscience research, has been pretty brutal for recent graduates and those wanting to change career. A combination of the Covid-19 pandemic leaving many people out of work and research being underfunded throughout the ongoing pandemic means that jobs are extremely competitive. It’s easy to be disheartened during the job application process due to the current state of affairs, but trust me, you’re not alone.
Now I, like many of my friends and peers, have faced a fair few rejections. I was told many times that there is a golden ratio of job applications to successful offers, ranging from 60 to 1, to 80 to 1, and even higher. I recently sat and tried to calculate how many jobs I have applied to coming out of my Masters and know that I applied to at least 50 – if not more. Admittedly, some of these were very fast and not well thought out applications in order to try to beat the rush before applications closed, but most were genuinely applications that I put a lot of thought and work into.
I became extremely disheartened during this process and this wasn’t helped by the lack of feedback I received from almost all applications. Every single application I made, whether that was for the NHS, for a university or for a charity, gave me no feedback except from an automated rejection email unless I got to interview stage. Even then, I was lucky to actually receive a rejection email as many jobs simply did not get back to me at all. If you’re also experiencing this then from my experience and from speaking to others, it appears to be totally normal! Please don’t panic and think that you’re alone in this experience because it seems to be very common and there will be many others in the same boat. The lack of feedback isn’t helpful and is very frustrating, and can make it difficult to know how to improve on your application. Having reached out to many people, I learned that contacting the person hiring, even after submitting an application, can be very helpful in dealing with this. They may make it clear what they expect from an applicant and even if you don’t get offered an interview, you’ve made initial contact which may make it easier to ask for feedback if it is not provided at first. I also found that contacting someone for feedback, regardless of an automated email, is definitely useful as there is nothing to lose in reaching out in case they are willing to provide those who get in touch with some simple tips for future applications or keep you in mind for another role.
I learned throughout the job hunting process that it was important to manage expectations. I tried not to let myself get carried away and dream too much about any jobs that I found and I always tried to keep a clear head at each stage of the application. This can be particularly difficult when being offered an interview, and in my experience there were on the odd occasion a few tears when I interviewed for a job I really loved and was told I was second choice. Trying to manage expectations, continuing to apply for other jobs as a backup plan and trying to keep yourself distracted and as relaxed as possible may help to minimise any upset. It is also important to remember how competitive the job market is and how many people are likely to be applying for these jobs with very similar levels of experience and education.
Another tip that I have found useful is to sign up to job alerts from different recruitment and job websites. I set alerts for Assistant Psychologist and Research Assistant roles in the UK and beyond, as I am working towards a career in Clinical Neuropsychology. The field of Clinical Psychology is particularly known for being extremely competitive and oversaturated and because of this, many jobs close within a matter of hours. This is where job alerts came in very handy. Many job sites would alert me to new jobs being posted which meant that I had the best chance possible at applying to a job before it closed. I was still unsuccessful in doing so on many occasions (and these posts were therefore not counted in my 50+ job application total mentioned previously), but on most occasions it gave me the opportunity to write and submit an application before the advert was removed. I also made sure to have a document ready with all of the information I may need available in order to copy and paste this over to the website I had to use to apply to the job.
When applying for jobs, I would score through the job description and person specification in detail and annotate or note down exactly how I meet the essential and desirable criteria in order to boost my application. I wrote my applications in the same order that the person specification was written so that it was easier for the employer to check my application against what they were looking for. I noticed a significant improvement with the outcome of my applications following this change to my writing and would highly recommend using this method where possible.
I am a true believer in the classic Scottish phrase “what’s for you won’t go by you”. Whenever I have felt hopeless, it has proven me wrong time and time again, and my during my job hunt this was no different. I interviewed for a few jobs that at the time I truly felt were the best opportunity I could be given. Each time I would be proven wrong and a better opportunity at a better time would pop up. In between these opportunities, there was a lot of heartbreak to deal with when feeling so defeated and coping with rejections, but the right role for you will come up and a time will come when you are ready for it. Having faced so many rejections, I was extremely lucky to have received 3 job offers within the space of a week, two of them within a few hours of one another and one of them following what I thought had been my worst ever interview performance. All 3 offers were jobs I could never have dreamed of at the start of my journey at institutions I had thought were far out of reach. Being in the position to choose my dream job from multiple offers is one I did not anticipate having faced so much rejection and uncertainty.
I’m not sharing this to brag or to gloat about the end of my current job hunting journey, but I am sharing it to provide some hope to those who are still searching. I genuinely didn’t think that the right job would ever come along, or that I would ever out-perform the other candidates. I expected to consistently come close but never to be the top choice. My luck completely changed within the space of one week following months of consistently applying to jobs. The right roles that I was passionate about and qualified for did eventually come up and when they did I made sure to be ready to apply for them and to give it my all. I know how tiring this can be and how tempting it can be to give up – I’ve been there. A break is sometimes the best thing you can do for your mental health and your motivation but it’s important to pick yourself up again and know that at the end of the day you will find something, potentially better than you had ever hoped for.
50+ to 3 was my ratio, and it was worth every single attempt. Don’t give up and good luck out there. You’ve got this.
– You will be pleased to hear that Morgan secured a position as an Assistant Neuro Psychologist at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Morgan Daniel is an MSc Student at University College London, studying the along the ‘Dementia: Causes, Treatments and Research (Neuroscience)’ track, Originally from Loch Lomond, Morgan completed her BSc in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow in 2019, and she hates all forms of potato! Morgan is sharing her MSc journey during 2020 / 2021 with NIHR Dementia Researcher.