Just like any other professional, networking is important for psychologists. It’s helpful in times when a psych is job hunting, seeking career developing opportunities, and for knowledge and resource sharing purposes.
For more green mental health professionals, say one who has minimal industry experience, networking is an invaluable tool to unlock opportunities that wouldn’t have been present otherwise.
The best thing about modern networking is that it doesn’t need to happen in person – psychologists can jump into online communities to scratch the itch. What remains, however, is the end goal to networking: to forge and foster personal connections with like-minded professionals toward the common goal of professional development and supporting one another.
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Additionally, and a key ancillary benefit of networking for mental health professionals, is the value in staying informed around the latest research developments to ensure you’re up to date and your knowledge is current.
Actively put yourself out there and become part of professional associations
According to Valorie O’Keefe, Consultant Psychologist at Pearson, becoming a member of an industry association is a sound move for Australian psychologists. She adds that being an active member of professional communities offers practicing psychologists a vast range of benefits.
For Valorie, being part of an association has enabled her to actively participate in industry initiatives, such as the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Test and Testing Expert Group, attend national and local industry conferences to keep up with the latest industry trends and network widely with peers, while also offering practical workday advantages, too. “The APS provides psychologists with an easy way to monitor and record their Continuing Professional Development hours. This might sound like a simple thing, but the benefit of using the APS system is that it helps you understand the requirements and provides an easy way of recording your activity, your goals, and keeping track of hours.”
Associate membership also provides opportunities internationally, with Australian psychologists invited to be involved from in some of the world’s most influential industry bodies, such as the American Psychological Association. Both the APS and sister organisations across the globe are better adapting to distance and virtual conferencing, and as well as a chance to engage with some of the most influential figures working in psychology today, Valorie says international conferences are “great networking opportunities”.
Additionally, associations like the APS allow psychologists to advertise their own events or be listed on their website to help individuals who are looking for a psychologist with a particular specialisation to source them easily.
For fellow psychologists looking to make the most out of their professional associations, Valorie recommends becoming actively involved by attending local branch meetings, joining committees or interest groups, and signing up for courses, such as those organised by the APS Institute, to expand their skill set. “It’s really about making the most of what your professional association has to offer,” she says.
If your goal is to start your own private practice, networking becomes doubly important
Tapping into the professional networks you have built up over the years as a practicing psychologist is something you should use to your advantage. As you shift your mindset to becoming a private practitioner, your networks and affiliations with professional associations become more important than ever before.
When Robyn Stead, Educational Psychologist and Founder of Educational Psychology Services, started her New Zealand-based private practice, she knew that she couldn’t do it alone. As Robyn reflects on launching her practice, she notes that she made a focused effort to connect with her networks, nurture her relationships and dial up her involvement in professional associations.
“I had always been a member of the New Zealand Psychological Society, but I've become much more proactive in linking in with that since launching my private practice. Overall, this is something I work hard at to maintain my professional connections and associations.”
Now firmly set up and flourishing in her private practice, Robyn noted that it’s the private practitioner’s responsibility to actively engage with their wider network to keep the dialogue open and the relationships nurtured. Robyn says that as soon as she left her public service role and started her private practice, she lost some key daily interactions.
“It’s critical to have professional associations, especially in private practice. When I was working for schools and in education, my community was right there for me. There were educational psychologists in my office...that I easily could connect with, there were accessible professional development areas, and so on.”