The toolkit appealed because students were unclear about exactly what skills they had, who would value those skills, and how to communicate their skills competitively.
Dr Ali Enright, Psychology Senior Lecturer
Psychology Honours students develop their employability skills– and land jobs
Seventy-five Psychology Honours students are now better equipped to find work in areas where they previously were unclear about employment pathways – and at least two have since reported receiving job offers after sending the application they prepared.
With feedback from students and QILT Graduate Survey[i] findings showing only 60% of psychology graduates are employed four months post-completion, Dr Ali Enright (Psychology Senior Lecturer) worked with Rianna Lopez (Flinders Careers and Employability) to redesign the fourth year Psychology Honours curriculum to include employability skills.
Central to the redesign was the inclusion of the four toolkit tasks attached to the following focus areas – Sector Research, Job Advert Analysis & Organisation Research, Resume, and Cover Letter – which contributed to the development of their employability skills.
“The toolkit appealed because students were unclear about exactly what skills they had, who would value those skills, and how to communicate their skills competitively, “said Ali.
They also enabled Ali to scaffold learning.
“Through the series of tasks, students first looked for organisations that they might not have even known existed (and aligned with their values), gained skills in how to contact relevant people from that organisation, analysed job adverts to identify the skills required and consider how their skills aligned, and finally translated this knowledge and skills to the resume and cover letter,” she said.
To support their learning students were directed to engage with the Flinders Careers and Employability team’s workshops, events and resources throughout the semester. They also participated in dedicated skills workshops during teaching weeks 9 and 10, prepared a mock conference poster and delivered an oral presentation, before submitting all tasks in week 12.
“The next logical step was to encourage students to actually apply for the role and, because all the work is done, the likelihood of them applying was greater,” said Ali.
Students were pre-surveyed at the beginning of the topic to establish a baseline of their knowledge, skills, confidence and connections in relation to their career options. The survey was administered again after they submitted their tasks and students also provided feedback through SET.
The student response was overwhelmingly positive and demonstrated that all four employability tasks were helpful in preparing them for postgraduate employment.
“I think it was a great idea to embed this into the topic, so students could research different pathways and explore employability options,” said one survey respondent.
Indeed, at least two students who chose to submit their application to the employer later reported to Ali that they had been successful in landing the role.
For her part, Ali says she learned additional ways to support students to explore various job opportunities; how to develop better industry connections; and the type of skills industries are looking for in psychology graduates, based on the job adverts students selected for analysis.
Changes planned for 2023 include switching Sector Research, Job Advert Analysis and Resume to non-graded assessment and swapping out the Cover Letter task to an assessed Selection Criteria task.
“For us, the assessment task weightings didn’t successfully differentiate students so all students scored really well in the topic; as such we are shifting the majority of the tasks to non-graded and lowering the overall weighting to 30%.”
“We also decided that a response to selection criteria was more suitable because it’s there that applicants argue why they are the best candidate for the role, and it requires students to clearly communicate their skills and evidence to support their claims.”
Ali also feels maintaining the Semester 1 timing is important.
“Completing these tasks before mid-year meant that any students who realised by then that they were not going to be competitive or interested in clinical applications of their skills (i.e. Master in Clinical Psychology, or Professional Psychology, PhD as well) had time to flesh out the gaps in their resumes to be ready to apply for the jobs they wanted by the end of the year.”
Ali and Rianna presented the topic redesign and findings at the national Students, Transitions, Achievement, Retention & Success (STARS) Conference in July 2022 and plan to expand on their work in 2023; this includes starting a ‘community of practice’ with psychology and careers staff from across Australian universities.
Topic: PSYC7006 Semester 1, 2022
[i] QILT. (2021). Graduate Outcomes Survey, 2021. Social Research Centre. https://www.qilt.edu.au/qilt-surveys/graduate-employment