In the second part of our series on careers, we spoke to Ria Dayal, former MSc Organisational and Social Psychology student about her career path into behavioural strategy.
What did you study?
I did my MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology. My optional courses were; Organisational & Social Decision Making, Health Communication.
What are you doing now and why did you choose to do it?
I’m currently working as a behavioural strategist for the UCL School of Pharmacy. I work with a multidisciplinary team of experts on an NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) funded project called ‘Inhale’. My work involves the advancement of insight into antimicrobial over-prescribing behaviours in Intensive Care Units and how to bring about sustainable behaviour change in NHS trusts across the UK. It includes the application of organisational and social decision making knowledge to optimise critical care practices by making them more safe and efficient. This research puts our research team on the forefront of the antibiotic stewardship movement against the global resistance crisis.
When did you start thinking about you career?
My course began in September of 2016. I started networking and going to career events in October/November of 2016. I used to go to them to talk to people and see what kind of careers people have in my field. Once I was a little bit more confident about what I wanted to do, I started applying for jobs and reaching out to people for opportunities in March-April of 2017. I worked part-time in LSE as a research assistant and as a consultant on some projects for a boutique behavioural insights and communication agency (The Hunting Dynasty) during my MSc, from March onwards till August 2017. I got my first permanent full-time position in September of 2017 at the UCL School of Pharmacy. I had no prior work experience before my MSc but this didn’t seem to be a factor at all.
What LSE resources did you find useful while you were a student to help you with what you are doing now?
Office hours – When I started the course I still wasn’t sure what my interest were so I booked office hours with as many professors in the department as I could just to discuss their fields of research. They also introduced me to many people they know in the academic community who would help me with my dissertation.
I started by going for many networking events and talks that were on Career hub.
I also tried to go for as many of the alumni events/mixers that our PBS department organised. Through these I was able to meet professionals in the field who then introduced me to others and so on.
Career services and LSE Life drop—in sessions helped me to tailor my CV and cover letter to what recruiters are looking for.
The PBS department sent around emails about opportunities in the field and even offers various opportunities within the department- e.g. I was a research assistant for Tom Reader and Alex Gillespie (research for the Healthcare Complaints Analysis Tool).
Extra-curricular and leadership opportunities – I was the President of the LSE SU Psychology Society. This helped me to get to know and engage with other students and to organise department and campus-wide events.
What skills are you using now from your MSc in your work?
Public speaking skills
Working in a team (communication, coordination, participation) and team management/leadership skills
Quantitative and qualitative research skills
Analytical and problem solving skills
Essay and academic writing skills
Time management skills
What are your top tips for current students in thinking and planning their graduate careers?
When reaching out to people while networking (alumni, professionals in the field etc.) don’t directly ask about job opportunities in their company etc. Ease into it by asking for advice and build a relationship with each person. Eventually, this person will begin to recommend you (within the company and others) if positions are open. You know what they say- If you ask for a job you get advice and if you ask for advice, you get a job.
Don’t psych yourself out. I remember when I was going to career events, career services etc., everyone around me (my friends, other people in the programme etc.) seemed to have it all figured out. They all seemed to go to everything, know everything and meet everyone. Create and work at your own pace. Everything will be okay in the end for you so don’t worry so much about what other people are doing.
Don’t think of networking events as formal events where you have to meet people and get a job. Think of it as research for what’s out there, what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. Viewing it in this way helps you remain calm and takes the pressure off.
Get out there as much as possible – go to as many of these events you can. This doesn’t mean you need to go to everything but I would say put your name and your face out there. I used to try to go for two events/talks per week.
LinkedIn is really helpful in your job search – Set your profile up + connect with as many people as you can and follow job openings in companies you wish to work with.