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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Jane Stout - Ecologist

Jane Stout, a Senior Lecturer in Natural Science in Trinity College Dublin talks about her career.

What are the roles and responsibilities of your job?

Teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, supervising postgraduate research. I also seek funding for and then manage research projects, as well as collaborating with other scientists to do research, writing research articles for scientific journals and reviewing articles others have written. I take part in committees at departmental and college level, as well as in national environmental committees and organisations. I interact with the public and media on my research topic, and organise and take part in research meetings/conferences.

What do you like most about your work?

As an ecologist, I’ve carried out research and been to conferences in some very cool places (South America, Tasmania, Scandinavia, Mediterranean, Canary Islands etc.) and I meet wonderful people who do similar jobs and so have friends all around the world. Although I have a lot to do, my time is quite flexible – I have quite a lot of independence in terms of what I do when (as long as I get it all done in the end!).

What are the main challenges?

Because my work is flexible, I can do it at any time, and because there’s a lot to do (and there are lots of opportunities for taking more work on), I end up working at every available hour!

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

Mainly my own interests and the opportunities that arose. Voluntary work is a really good idea for getting some experience in the area you’re interested in.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

I would like more time with my family and less rushing around, but I think that’s true of any working mum.

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

I did A’ levels in Biology, Geography and Maths – these definitely influenced my career path as I was interested in living things, the environment and how people interact with it and working with numbers (this pretty much sums up my research area of ecology).

What is your education to date?

GCSEs and A’ levels at secondary school, and then a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Sciences at Southampton University and a PhD in Biology at Southampton University.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

You need to work hard and get good qualifications. You need self-motivation and have to be very well organised. You should take any opportunities that arise, and enjoy working with others and travelling. You need to be able to work flexible hours, be very computer-literate, and, for my field, have a real love of the natural world!

Article by: Smart Futures