Case study

Consultant analyst — Alanna Harrington

Alanna studied for an MSc in Organisational Psychology at the University of Manchester. She is now working towards becoming a chartered occupational psychologist

How did you get your job?

I was keen to find a job as early as possible, so started looking before graduate roles in occupational psychology are typically advertised. I did a Google search for occupational psychology consultancies and found Cubiks. I hadn't heard of them, but reading more about them sparked my interest. They were advertising for the type of role I have now, a consultant analyst in the research and development team, which is typically filled by someone who has some experience. I applied, knowing I didn't meet the requirements and was unlikely to be successful in the application. I didn't progress to the next stage, but a few months later HR contacted me to say they had decided to change the role to analyst, which is suitable for graduate applicants, and invited me to apply again.

After completing ability and personality testing online and two phone interviews, I attended a half day assessment centre. When I got the call a few days later I happily accepted the job.

What's a typical day like?

As I work in the research and development team it is quite different to a typical consultant role. Most of the time I am not client facing, I am based in our corporate headquarters. I start work early and spend some time responding to emails from colleagues in different parts of the business - the UK is one of thirteen operating countries. My department provides input and consultation on psychometrics to other psychologists in these countries who are in client facing roles.

I have a few meetings throughout the day. Most of these are with other members of my team, about projects we are working on. My focus at the moment is on a new assessment to be used for applicant self-selection. I also have meetings with IT about development of new assessments and accompanying reports, and with consultants in other countries about projects they need support on.

The rest of my time is made up of analysis, including validity studies, adverse impact analysis, norm group creation or content creation.

I also do some project management. I manage translations of all content into languages with internal translators and an external agency. I am transitioning some of these tasks to a new project coordinator in our team to focus on analysis and content creation, which I enjoy more.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I like the variety and the independence I have in terms of deciding my work activities.

I have also been given plenty of opportunities for training and development. Cubiks was immediately supportive of my decision to complete the Qualification in Occupational Psychology to become a Chartered Occupational Psychologist. Aside from financial and supervisory support, they also allow me to work on projects not directly related to my role to allow me to fulfil the criteria required.

I have also attended the Division of Occupational Psychology conference and had the opportunity to attend a workshop and conference in Budapest this year.

What are the challenges?

My role requires seeking input from consultants in the various countries we are based in when developing anything new. Each of them has unique challenges in their market and it can be difficult to balance their priorities and develop something that meets all their needs - especially when working across many different cultures and time zones.

As I work in research and development, one of my key responsibilities is to prove that our assessments work. For this outcome data is required - information about the test taker's job performance, engagement, potential, turnover etc. This can be very difficult to obtain and is getting more difficult by the day due to heightening data protection legislation, for example GDPR. I am very supportive of the advances in this area, but nonetheless it presents a challenge for us.

In what way is your degree relevant?

I learned everything I know about statistics and research methods in my undergraduate degree and gained experience of putting this into practice through my dissertation research in my Masters.

While studying for my Masters I also learned a great deal about the fundamentals of personnel selection and had the opportunity to complete the BPS Test User - Occupational qualifications, which is where I learned to administer and provide feedback on psychometric testing. This is important as it allows me to consider the role of the test user when developing something, but also because as an additional responsibility I often provide feedback to applicants for internal roles.

How has your role developed?

I was thrilled to be promoted after a year to the role I had originally applied for. I have been in my current role for just over a year, and I now have more responsibility, taking ownership of several product areas, and working on large-scale projects.

In the short term I am aiming to gain more experience in selection and assessment, particularly growing my confidence in the aspects of my role that require communication with clients and external stakeholders.

I hope to qualify as a Chartered Occupational Psychologist within the next two years. At the moment I don't see myself changing jobs in the future, but I am planning to move to the USA or Canada, where I would be open to working in a different area of occupational psychology to get a broader range of experience.

How do I get into this job?

  • Get some experience - It can be challenging to get experience in the occupational psychology field before graduating if your course doesn't have a built-in placement, but there are things you can do. To improve my chances of getting a job I took an internship as a researcher with a management consultancy and I peer reviewed articles for student psychology journals. Any work experience, even if it doesn't seem relevant, is better than none. This is especially true in our field, where you are positioned as an expert on the world of work - how are you meant to understand the issues facing organisations if you've never worked for one?
  • Do some research - I have found that while my studies at Manchester were very valuable in providing a solid foundation, there was little focus on new innovations or recent research findings. I have heard this from other graduates as well, so I don't think it is isolated to the university. It will be immensely useful if you can speak with confidence in interviews about new and interesting trends in our field.
  • Be proactive - Don't wait for opportunities to come to you. Usually course administrators or career services will be contacted by consultancies to send job adverts around to all their students. You should of course apply for those roles if you are interested, but keep in mind that these will be the ones that get the highest volume of applications. There are simply more students in occupational psychology than there are graduate roles, so it is highly competitive, and you need to be proactive in contacting potential employers and looking for the not so obvious opportunities.

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