Why Work Experience is Good Experience

Term 2, 2012. Year 12 student. Confused and in a state of OMG-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-gonna-do-with-my-life mood… Penelope decided to do something about it. She decided to do some work experience in a Youth Psychology clinic  because of her interest in human behaviour and people in general. Read on for some tidbits about the multi-disciplinary staff!

Paul: Mental Health Nurse

Sexy British accent, tall, skinhead. Quite entertaining and has a good sense of humour.

Has 2 dogs and lives in a 4-acre land. Has pictures of his dogs in his office. He’s a really handsome fellow, easy on the eyes, except Penelope has a feeling that he might be more interested in men.

Moved to Australia 10 years ago.

Pitch: Nurses are more in-demand in other countries especially Europe. Travelling to foreign countries is highly probable unlike being a psychologist. Being a psychiatrist takes a lot of time but it might be worth it.  Knowing how to speak other languages is just fantastic. You have your whole life ahead of you. You have your whole life to decide what you want to be! You seem to be driven, motivated and sensible, which is really great.

You can change your mind anytime. Somehow it all works out because each pathway leads to another.

His job: Seeing the big picture and satisfying the patient’s needs by coordinating the appropriate health professionals.

He would want to be a psychiatrist in a heartbeat because he does not like the guts and blood of medicine.

His piece on Psychology: Thoughts=Behaviour


Davina: Registered Psychologist

Was originally interested in law and journalism. Took an Arts degree for her first year and was able to explore different fields and discover her interests. She recommends a year of Arts degree to have time to adjust in university.

Most essential skills: people-person, communication, empathy, sympathy, being able to put on other people’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective.

Best part of the job: Making a difference. Knowing that a person can go from A to B and you helped them make that transition. Hearing about other people’s stories – even the most horrific and devastating ones.

Worst Part: Not being able to know what to say or do, at times. It’s important to listen and be comfortable with silences.

Epiphany (moment when she realised she wanted to be a Psychologist): Understanding that people can have the same exact experience yet have different reactions, responses and become affected in dissimilar ways.

The most challenging aspect of the job: Dealing with emotions of people. The fine line between being empathetic and sympathetic.

How to separate being a psychologist and a human being: Self-care – rest and relaxation, symbolism of taking off work clothes and putting on home clothes. Importance of recognising personal limits.

How to be an effective psychologist: Intellectualising and analysing instead of being emotional. Mastering the art of a controlled face, being mindful, conscientious and aware.

Davina is always in control and loves having structure. Admittedly, she has difficulty in letting go and being more flexible.

Regret: Wished she were a clinical psychologist by now, if she has just figured it out sooner.

Said: 80% of the reason why a person gets better is because of the relationship between the psychologist and the client. Being there for the client. Knowing that someone is looking out for you.

Research Interests: Suicide: why would people think of it? Forensic, drugs and alcohol, sexual abuse.

Psychology: Changing thoughts and thought patterns.

You can’t save the world. You just have to do your best right here right now.


Roxy: Social Worker

Wanted to be a teacher of English and Social Studies, History and Geography.

Went to America straight after Year 12 for the Summer Camp. Worked as a camp counsellor for girls aged 6 to 16. Those girls were New York socialites with various issues and most commonly, family problems. She realised that she wanted to do more than teach, that she wanted to help people on a more personal level.

Calm and slow-talker.

Her Pitch: Psychology is more theoretical whilst Social Work is more practical and applicable, looking at a broader sense.

Suzie: General Practitioner

Has been a doctor for 25 years.

Some people are just well designed to do well in school and that doesn’t make them smart or smarter.

Most challenging aspect of being a GP: Time Management

She chose not to specialise because she believes that it’s an asset to be able to encompass all aspects of medicine, not just a narrow perspective on one thing.

She grew up with her heart set on medicine and she did it.

Tracy: Receptionist

23 years old. Pretty. Well-dressed.

Never did a psychology course but is interested in it.

Thinks she cannot give up her full paycheck to go back to university.

Working in a Psychology Clinic is more interesting than all the other jobs that she had.

Monica: Social Worker

 Moved to Gold Coast from Adelaide two weeks after Year 12.

Had a suicidal friend and most of her friends had issues.

Her Pitch: If you want to travel and be recognised, most English-speaking countries would recognise a degree in Social Work.

What keeps her interested in her profession: Everyday there is always something fascinating – one little thing that someone said or did, or an event in someone’s life.

Memorable moment: A healthy 50 year old guy got a heart attack before he fell into the pool. Monica went to the resuscitating room, she expected a busy emergency room, everyone rushing and freaking out. But it was a calm and silent environment, I would imagine even solemn. Everyone just did their job and went on with it. Monica was present when they declared him dead. She had to support the grieving family: from utter shock to complete devastation.

Interesting story: Monica was called to give an assessment of this old lovely man. Soon she found out that this man’s wife has been dead for 5 weeks but he is still sleeping with her (literally). Neighbours complained about the distinct smell – rotting flesh. Monica facilitated the transition and the lovely old man finally came to the realisation that his wife was dead. However, in a split second, he was so incredibly devastated that he had to be placed in a mental ward soon afterwards.

Intense event: A woman who was overdosed and drunk had to be convinced that she had a choice to go to the hospital.  Monica spent 4 hours trying to convince this woman to agree or to make her understand that she somehow has a choice.

To the Work Experience Girl: Talking to you, I find that you have to find something that challenges you, it has to be something that changes all the time so it keeps you motivated. (SO TRUE!)


Jamie: Candidate for Doctorate in Psychology

 Advice: Whilst you are in university, do volunteer work and research assistance.


Michelle: Registered Psychologist

 Another way of seeing things: There’s ways around statistics. You just need to pass and get the bare minimum.

 Words of Wisdom: Be prepared for the long haul. 

Although Penelope did not choose to do a Psychology degree, she did find some comfort in knowing that even in a short span of time, she was able to get to know these wonderful people and the stories behind the faces and the names. She thoroughly enjoyed interviewing each individual and perhaps this experience actually reinforced her interest in Journalism – one of the two degrees that she would be doing in the near future. Go and do work experience. Good or bad, experience is experience and something is better than nothing.

Have you ever done work experience? What was it like? Did it help you in making a career choice? I’d love to hear from you!


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