Portia Mc Quilkin knew she wanted to work in the helping profession from age 14, with a particular interest in psychology. So, enrolling in introductory psychology courses at the University of the West Indies after high school was a step in the right direction for her. However, it wasn’t until she graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Psychology and began working at a recruitment agency that she realized she had to narrow down her focus and make some big decisions about her career path.
“At that young age it was in my mind that I would do clinical or counseling psychology because I did not know that there were many other options to choose from in psychology,” Portia explained.
However, she soon found there were many more fields to choose from and was finding it difficult to narrow down her career path, especially during a time when many other changes were taking place, like moving out on her own for the first time and becoming a self-sufficient adult.
“I have always known that I wanted to be in the helping profession, but the question was always how do I get there and what exactly did I see myself doing for my entire life?” she explained. “When I went to Anthony [her career coach] I was at an all-time low-point, totally confused and unhappy with where my life’s direction had been going. I was ready to try it all if it could help clear my mind and help me choose the right path to take.”
“I have always known that I wanted to be in the helping profession, but the question was always how do I get there and what exactly did I see myself doing for my entire life?
Her mother had told her about career coach Anthony Hadeed a couple years prior, but because she was immersed in her studies and was not as concerned about the future, Portia didn’t look into it further.
“When I graduated, I decided that I didn’t mind working in recruitment for a year to kind of figure out what my next step was. But as the year progressed, I became more and more confused, I really wasn’t sure where to narrow down my field. My mother was also worried about me and my future, she wants me to be able to take care of myself. So, again she brought up Anthony and found out the details and then offered it to me as a gift.”
To help her get a better understanding of which field of psychology would suit her best, Anthony set up four coaching sessions with three different types of assessments. The results of the three tests acted as the baseline in providing the pair with concrete information that enabled them to discuss the different paths in great detail.
Portia completed the “Vocational Style and Career Assessment (VoSCA)” prior to their first session and then reviewed her results with Anthony.
“We discussed who I was, what I am interested in, where my mind was at. He was very knowledgeable and throughout every step of the process he made sure I knew I was in charge of making the decisions for my future career path with his guidance from these assessments.”
“When I went to Anthony I was at an all-time low-point, totally confused and unhappy with where my life’s direction had been going. I was ready to try it all if it could help clear my mind and help me choose the right path to take.”
Through this work orientation assessment, she narrowed her focus down to 10 potential fields. She admits that she was still very interested in a lot of different things at that point and knew she had to put in some extra research to help weigh the options.
“I did some more research on the options and in my next session I crossed off all of them except two. As I read up on the other ones I realized that some of these can fall into the two main fields of interest, which were clinical and industrial/organizational psychology,” she said.
The other two assessments she completed were called the Values Profile Assessment (VaPro) and the Multidimensional Emotional IQ Assessment (MEIQ).
“I really enjoyed the emotional assessment. It was the longest one, I must say, it took me the longest to complete because it had so many questions and was really detailed. But I felt that as though I answered it as honestly as I could. And when I got the results, it really surprised me,” Portia remembered. “It said that I really understood my emotions and I was able to deal with them. It gave me this silent confidence in myself because I realized, okay, I can handle situations a lot better than I think I can. It also helped me in making my decision because it made me feel a lot surer of myself and my ability to make decisions. As I said, last year was a bit confusing for me because I was all over the place, I was interested in too many things and I wasn’t sure which way to go.”
“He was very knowledgeable and throughout every step of the process he made sure I knew I was in charge of making the decisions for my future career path with his guidance from these assessments.”
“As I told Anthony, it’s one thing to think it in your mind, but when you talk about it and see it in words on paper, it really helps you understand what you are seeing in your mind. That really helped me.”
Anthony’s attitude also made a huge impact on her and left a lasting impression that she won’t soon forget, especially considering how unsure she felt prior to working with him.
“It was really a relief talking to someone who is also so positive because we can get so stuck in ourselves and we can belittle ourselves sometimes. And it was so nice to have someone remind you of all the things you are capable of doing.”
“It gave me this silent confidence in myself because I realized, okay, I can handle situations a lot better than I think I can.”
After doing her in-depth research and narrowing down her focus to two choices, Portia took the next steps to making a decision.
“After the third session with Anthony, he gives you the phone numbers of people to contact who are in the field so you can get first-hand knowledge of what is going on in the field right now, how was it when they studied, was it expensive? Would they do it again?”
One of the people Anthony connected her with was a woman who studied industrial organizational psychology and currently works in the field.
“She loves her job, she really does enjoy it and said she would do it over again. At first she didn’t make a lot of money, but now has a better salary, which coincides with building a reputation in the field. It is great to get that personal advice. They tell you what to look for and give you pre-warnings about how hard it is and make sure you understand that you must sacrifice a lot of yourself when taking your master’s degree.”
With her newfound confidence in herself and her decision-making abilities paired with the information she received through research and speaking with professionals in the field, Portia was able to make her final decision on which field she wanted to go for.
“I became more and more happy with my choices as the time progressed. I had decided before I even reached my last session that industrial was the path I wanted to take, so he was pleasantly surprised as well,” she said. “I had thought of industrial psychology before, but it wasn’t at the top of my list initially. I was interested in the clinical aspect of psychology, but I realized I do really like business a lot and I wanted to tap into that some more.”
As she explains it, industrial/organizational psychology can be defined like this: “The organizational part of it is dealing with the structure of companies and industrial is dealing with people. It is the scientific study of people and the structure of a company. You are basically trying to help with the company, in terms of employees. You try and help with issues of absenteeism, high turnover, etc.
You can counsel the employees as well or you can focus on the structure itself. Hold training sessions, where you train the employees in leadership skills, management or whatever specifics they have. You can also conduct personality tests that state this person is the best fit for the job. You also deal with recruitment and selection, usually at a different scale, so you don’t deal with that solely.”
“It’s one thing to think it in your mind, but when you talk about it and see it in words on paper, it really helps you understand what you are seeing in your mind. That really helped me.”
Portia is currently looking at different schools that offer the master’s program for industrial/organizational psychology in the US, Canada and even the United Kingdom. She said she would like the opportunity to study abroad, to learn more about how students are taught elsewhere and what’s important to different cultures—experience that will no doubt help her in the field she is pursuing.
“I would like to relocate. I think it would be a good experience because I have gone to school in Trinidad and I liked it, but I would like to have a different school of thought. Anthony found me two so far, but they are online and I kind of want a face-to-face interaction if it at all possible,” she said.
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Kristen is the editor and community manager at Noomii.com and the Noomii Career Blog. Kristen's desire to ask questions and share information with others led her to pursue journalism. While she has worked at various publications, covering everything from municipal politics to local restaurants, it was her love of self-improvement and sharing inspiration with others that made Noomii the perfect fit. Connect with Kristen on Twitter and LinkedIn.