Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Elaine MacDonald from St. Michael's House to give some advice for people considering this job:

Elaine MacDonald

Psychologist - Clinical

St. Michael's House

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Elaine MacDonald

Make sure you are willing to go the full distance in terms of the time needed to train as a Clinical Psychologist – it’s typically at least six years academic study, and invariably this period is interspersed with work in a relevant field.

Do be as confident as you can that you’re happy being a “listener” and “observer”, as you will spend significant amounts of time in your work life as a Clinical Psychologist being in this role, as well as being in the “do-er” role and being in the limelight.

To have a good ‘fit’ with this career you’ll need to be happy working with people – as individuals on a one to one basis, with groups (e.g. families), and as part of a team in the workplace.

You need to have a good attention to detail as the job needs good observation skills, record keeping, and organisation skills.

Be prepared for learning and self-development to be on-going for the whole of your career because, as a Clinical Psychologist, you’ll be learning and using techniques and intervention approaches that are being constantly developed, and be working in accordance with policies and laws that are also constantly evolving.

The last piece of advice I’d give to someone considering this job is to be as sure as you can that you feel comfortable and even excited at the prospect of your career revolving around people and groups with all the varied, diverse, and unpredictable rewards and challenges that this brings!

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Creative people use their personal understanding of people and the world they live in to guide their work. Creative people like to work in unstructured workplaces, enjoy taking risks and prefer a minimum of routine.
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Devin Scannell - Engagement Manager

Devin Scannell is an engagement manager at McKinsey & Co in San Francisco. He works as an advisor to pharma, medical devices and health insurance companies as well as academic medical centres, health systems and public health organisations. Devin primarily focuses on personalised medicine and “Big Data” in healthcare.

Describe your typical day

As a consultant, I work with global public health organisations. I also do some high-tech work. For example, a company has three molecules that it could put forward for clinical trials, but can only choose one. I help them decide which to choose. At the start of a project I do a lot of research. Then I have meetings with experts, including doctors and scientists. After that, I meet with the people within the company. During a project, you address specific questions and build a consensus as to whether molecule one, two or three is the best.

What’s cool about your job?

Each project lasts six to eight weeks. I’ve also a lot of control about what projects I work on. Every eight weeks, I learn about something that is fairly new to me.

What are the main challenges?

I work to very strict deadlines and the hours tend to be very long. It can be very fast paced and sometimes it is a little bit stressful.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

Everything I do now was set by subjects I studied in school. I focused on physics, applied maths and chemistry.

What did you do after school?

I studied human genetics at Trinity College Dublin. After that I did a PhD in Trinity, building on the genetics base but adding more computers (bioinformatics). Then I moved to University of California, Berkeley to do a postdoc in the same area. How did you transition from being research based to being a consultant? The company I work for recruit directly from PhD programmes and it does a certain amount of retraining on business topics.

What advice would you give to students considering a job like this?

I would say get a solid foundation in maths and science. Really become a master of your domain in a certain area. Take responsibility for a technically demanding project. Also, maintain interest in the bigger picture, like how that technology or field of science fits into the wider world.

What inspired your love of science?

When I was about seven, I thought it would be really great to be a doctor. At around 12 years old, I realised that a doctor could only see a certain number of patients every day. There is someone behind them inventing the medicine. The person doing that would be helping millions of people. I decided I wanted to be a scientist and try to help develop cures.

Article by: Smart Futures