I heard someone with... didn't get on, so I'll never make it

Discuss applications to the clearing house (and to courses that are not in the clearing house system), screening assessments, interviews, reserve lists, places, etc. here
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miriam
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I heard someone with... didn't get on, so I'll never make it

Post by miriam » Sun Mar 13, 2011 3:19 pm

I've heard a lot of examples recently of people being put off applying for clinical psychology because they have heard (from places like this forum, or graduate groups, or the rumour mill in general) that other people who they believe to be stronger candidates have not been successful.

Please remember that this is an internet message board, and what people write on it might be honest, but it might also be skewed or missing out significant information. If you hear that someone has not gained interviews despite 9 years of relevant experience, 3 PhDs and 12 publications then try to resist drawing the conclusion that its nigh on impossible to get onto clinical training. Unless you know the person in real life and have read their application form, it is very hard to judge from the outside what people bring to the table, and people can claim anything on the internet!

A lot of people apply to clinical training and don't get offered interviews or don't get offered a place, and that is sad and disappointing for them as individuals. However, at a less personal and individual level the selection process appears to be effective at picking out candidates who will pass the course and go on to be Clinical Psychologists, who predominantly have long productive careers in the NHS. A very small proportion of trainees drop out or fail the course, despite the high standards. And the majority of people who have the right qualities and skills do gain a place, and can later reflect that they were selected at the point when they were ready for training.

So, what is realistic in terms of the experiences that gain people interviews?

Well, the current figures suggest around 1/3 of successful candidates have a post-graduate qualification (masters or PhD) - but remember that incomplete qualifications do not count. You need to give selectors confidence that you are capable of academic work at doctoral standard, so this would mean either having done a research job, having a qualification with a research component, having a published article, gaining a first in your degree, and/or having a fantastic academic reference. If you got a 2:2 or a low 2:1 then selectors will expect greater evidence of academic success after you graduate to show that this was not representative of your level of ability.

Most successful candidates have a year or two of clinical experience, normally with a year working in something like IAPT or an AP post, or a clinically relevant research post (which may take a year of more general mental health experience to obtain). Ideally you will have awareness of more than one client group and someone who knows about CP or is a CP will write you a glowing reference.

The application form itself needs to demonstrate all the basic requirements of selection (GBR, sufficient academic marks, right to live and work in the UK) and show evidence of reflection and personal/professional growth from your experiences, as well as a realistic understanding of what the role of a CP in the NHS entails and the context in which we work. You need to follow the instructions for the application form, answer the questions and not put in loads of irrelevant information, show good written communication skills and not make lots of silly mistakes.

Our own polls, and the clearing house and alternative handbook data, show that people typically gain places on training 2-4 years after graduation or they decide clinical psychology is their aim (whichever is the later) on their first or second or third application. They have a variety of different paths to get there, and different courses weight different aspects of the application so there isn't a universal formula of what will get you an interview for doctoral training. So if a person isn't successful, then it might be that they have what it takes to get onto clinical psychology, given a bit more time and experience, or if they strengthen one aspect of their application, or if they apply to different courses. But it isn't just a case of time served - some people do not have the personal qualities or ability required - so if it has been 5 or 6 or more years of gaining experience or 3 or more unsuccessful attempts at applying its probably time to review and have a frank conversation with a CP about whether this path is worth pursuing, because most people who are going to gain a place do so more quickly and easily than this. Blind encouragement isn't helpful if it makes people continue to invest in an unrealistic goal, rather than go and achieve success down a slightly (or totally) different path.

Don't forget that forums like this end up having more posts from people who aren't successful but keep applying, as people who go off and choose other careers, or who gain places on training, tend to post here less. So, rather than getting anxious when someone who appears like a strong candidate isn't sucessful, assuming this is a measure of the process being impossible (or just down to chance), why not have a think of alternative explanations why this might be. Maybe they have a poor reference? Maybe they wrote a weak application form? Maybe the CV information they have shared on the forum isn't accurate? Maybe they have omitted to mention negative things that might be off-putting to selectors on the form? Maybe they don't have the personal qualities that are necessary?

Don't forget there are lots of people who do get onto training each year, and they don't have magical powers. And you might be one of them, when you are ready :)
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com

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Re: I heard someone with... didn't get on, so I'll never mak

Post by miriam » Tue Mar 22, 2011 12:06 am

In case it needs spelling out anyone's experiences can sound impressive or insufficient depending how they are expressed.
For example, between my undergrad and my doctorate I did the following:

2 year AP post in research (older adult)
6 months AP post in clinical (child)
An MSc by research
Wrote 6 papers which were published in various journals

That sounds like I spent many years doing different things and was an awesome candidate, right?

Or I could say I spent 2 years in which I managed to squeeze a related MSc and some papers out of an AP post in my least preferred specialty, and at the point I wanted to give up I negotiated one day a week of work that I found more immediately rewarding to remind me why I wanted to work in psychology.

When people put up their super impressive potted CVs, they often fail to mention how roles were voluntary, or very part time, or that they didn't get very good experience from them. No-one is going to mention getting fired, or disciplined, or having problems with mental or physical illness that took a long time to resolve, or clashes with colleagues or supervisors. No one will be shouting out their failed courses, or the ones where they never reached submission, the fact that their AP post mainly involved making coffee and taking minutes, or their support work was mainly housekeeping chores, or their research post was mainly data entry.

We have a culture of praise and encouragement, and this means that some people can develop unrealistic expectations or believe that they are outstanding, when in fact they are very similar to many other people. This leads people to big themselves up, and where this isn't backed up with sufficient depth it can just appear as ignorance and/or hubris. Other people are very defensive in their applications, or lack reflection, or appear judgemental, or are over or under inclusive. There are a lot of different reasons that someone might not be selected, even if they appear to have good experience. Sometimes you can see that from their past posts on the forum, and sometimes you can't, but it would be misleading to think that the selection system is unfair based on such subjective evidence.

Writing a good application isn't about decrypting secret cyphers and clues, or second guessing what selectors want. Its about demonstrating that you are capable of doing the course and would make a good clinical psychologist, compared to other applicants. There is no need to overcomplicate things. To my mind there are 4 aspects to writing a good application, and they are really obvious:

- show that you have great skills and experience for the job, that you have been able to reflect on that experience and grow from it, but also that you know the limits to your own competence
- show that you know what the job entails, what you bring to it, what you hope to gain from it and what you will need to learn to do it well
- show who you are as an individual and ensure you are not just another generic applicant that doesn't stand out from the middle ground
- fill in the application correctly; following the instructions, without making lots of mistakes, or using made up words, or using words wrongly, with clear, concise and non-pejorative language
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com

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Re: I heard someone with... didn't get on, so I'll never mak

Post by astra » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:33 am

Miriam makes some really important points here. I have been involved in selection for 3 years now and never cease to be amazed at the arrogance and audacity of some applicants. Some people clearly think that if they have enough academic qualifications they don't need to take the time to get their form proof-read and send in forms with typos, poor grammar, and obvious cut'n'paste errors throughout. Some think selectors are stupid and will not realise that they have listed 3 full time jobs running concurrently when actually they are all the same job but split between different roles. Some try and make their one hour a week voluntary post look like a much more substantive post. Or trying to make an admin role sound like a clinical post. I have spent ages trying to add up the hours and make sense of some of these attempts to spin out a small amount of experience to make it look impressive, that's what selectors do, they don't just take it at face value. I think some people start to believe their own hype and feel unjustly treated when their spin is deconstructed and they are told they don't have enough experience. Similarly, on the surface people can look like they have highly impressive academic credentials, but when you start to unpick it you see that they must have really struggled on their undergrad, took forever to do an MSc and the PhD they've listed is yet to be awarded, again they've applied so much spin to the tale that they've come to believe they are a veritable genius and that we are victimising them for some obscure reason. And all of this has a purpose - the training is bl**dy hard and if you haven't shown you are up to the job, then there are plenty others who have. Courses are massively oversubscribed so selection has to be rigorous, it's not a lottery and if you are in the top, say 60 or so, applicants to a course then you will get interviewed and have a good chance to show what you are made of at interview. Unfortunately for a site like this one, a lot of successful candidates will take what they need from the site and contribute while they are on the path towards training, but will drift away once they achieve their goal. And that tends to leave some people on here disheartened, defensive and dejected. We try our best to support and advise, but what we don't encourage is false hope and empty optimism. Some people won't make it just as some people will never be a medic or a lawyer or an accountant. All the professions are tough to get into and Clin Psy is no exception, not everyone will make it. It's harsh but it's true.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Re: I heard someone with... didn't get on, so I'll never mak

Post by BlueCat » Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:52 pm

And then there are the people who are impressive on paper but totally lose the selector's good will in their written statements. Perhaps the forms are written from a very medicalised standpoint demonstrating very little in the way of psychological thinking, or the person presents themselves as already being so highly skilled that if taken at face value they should probably be training the trainers......e.g. "I am competent in cognitive behavioural, systemic, and psychodynamic approaches" (not a real word for word example), I couldn't say that and I have been qualified for coming up six years now.
There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Billy Connolly.

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Re: I heard someone with... didn't get on, so I'll never mak

Post by miriam » Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:27 pm

I think it is possible to pick out what is plausible and what isn't, and what is being 'oversold'. I don't think it means selectors doubt hard work - many of us have done several things at the same time that add up to more than a typical working week (for example, I did a full-time job, some additional part-time work and a masters degree at the same time). These are different tasks, but two of them overlapped in topic and one of those was flexible in its hours, so it was possible. Plus the total was about 50 hours per week which is probably what I have continued to work. However, 3 simultaneous full-time posts with the same employer would be unlawful and impossible (you'd literally have to work every waking moment, 7 days a week, and never have to eat or travel). So if a person has written up one post in the form of 3 entries on their application form, then that would be distinctive because of the same start and finish dates and the same employer - but if in doubt the selector could contact a reference and check.

I haven't seen that particular problem on forms, but I do often see people who include very small amounts of experience and try to big it up. I've said it before, but doing 5 hours a week of befriending for 3 months is great in terms of getting a first foot on the ladder and will help applications for support worker positions, but to list five jobs like this on your clinical application seems overinclusive when they are each only equivalent to about a fortnight of full-time work. I wouldn't list roles on committees there either, and I'm not a fan of listing the research component of your degree courses as a job, unless this was paid or part of a larger placement. If you can't bear to leave things like that out entirely, I'd prefer to see a single sentence like "Whilst studying and doing other more substantial posts, I have done a variety of part-time voluntary posts including befriending an adult with ASD, shadowing a forensic psychologist and supporting a child with special needs, as well as being the student representative at local DCP meetings" in the 'other experience' section than have individual job listings. Then the selector can see clearly what your major employment experiences have been, and your ability to pick out the most salient information.
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com

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Re: I heard someone with... didn't get on, so I'll never mak

Post by astra » Sun Apr 03, 2011 12:50 am

I've been a bit busy and hadn't seen the continuation of this thread, but I think BlueCat and Miriam have answered on my behalf, quite adequately - thanks. You are right that the arrogance and audacity I refer to is in the tone of some application forms, and not so much what people write on the forum. As BlueCat says people make exorbitant claims on forms that I would not make even now, about being competent in x, y and z therapies, or competent at making a diagnosis of this, that or the other. Also people exaggerate their experience in the way they present it. Without necessarily telling outright lies, people might list 3 FT jobs when after a little closer inspection they clearly mean 3 part time roles adding up to not much more than one FTE. They aren't blatant lies, more a clever attempt to spin something out, but a bit see through generally too, my point being you probably won't get away with making your sparse experience sound anything more than it is. Besides people can and do write brilliant forms on the basis of very little experience, just by reflecting well and being open and honest in their approach. Don't forget we've all been there too and know the frustrations of this path and sympathise with the difficulty people face getting onto training. And don't forget, many of us made it onto training without the aid of a website like this, without all the information that is available to help you now, there was some, but nothing like there is today. My words might sometimes be harsh, but they are well meant, heed them and you may go far.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

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