Psychology graduate Abbie Barnes is proof that, when it comes to launching your career, you get out what you put in.

Abbie graduated from BU in 2017 and is now a Trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner with Central and North West London NHS Trust. Over the last three years she has built up her experience and skills through a combination of paid work, volunteering and further learning. This has included working part-time as an NHS GP surgery and emergency walk-in centre receptionist and as a volunteer befriender with Age UK.

Abbie said: “Clinical psychology is a very competitive area of work and I have always been fully aware of that. My voluntary and part-time work has definitely paid off in terms of building a network and creating opportunities to further my career. You have to be prepared to make certain sacrifices but it’s worth the effort if you are passionate about what you want to do.”

Abbie developed an interest in psychology after taking the subject at school and began to think about building a career in mental health. The BSc (Hons) in Psychology at BU introduced her to a wider range of job roles and she chose to spend her placement year as a Consumer Research Assistant at Sony PlayStation. Abbie said: “The internship showed me how psychology could be used in a corporate setting and developed my presentation and research skills. Ultimately however it made me realise that I wanted to use my skills in a way that would benefit individuals, rather than organisations, and I returned to university with a clearer sense that my future career would lie in healthcare.”

During her final year, Abbie took up part-time work at an emergency walk-in centre and also became a Research Assistant on a project exploring the impact of mindfulness-based CBT on those with anxiety disorders. After graduation she travelled to Sri Lanka to volunteer as a Mental Health Support Worker, before starting a permanent role as an Activity Co-ordinator with the National Psychosis Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital. Abbie said: “There is always a big element of the unknown within mental health care, because every person is different and will present differently. That said, studying psychology at degree level does help you to understand the background to different mental health conditions and the associated symptoms. My course at BU prepared me well for what I am doing now. My eventual aim is to complete the clinical psychology doctorate and I feel as though I am hopefully on track to get there.”

Abbie’s advice to others wishing to follow a similar path is to make the most of opportunities to build your experience and skills. She said: “In Clinical Psychology, as with many other areas, your degree is a great platform but it’s what else you build around it which can really open doors when it comes to job applications and interviews. University offers you so much scope to gain additional experiences so make the most of them.”