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Don't panic: Life after fourth year

The Psyc/Soc Student's Guide to Fourth Year by Hope Christie and Karl Johnson

Life after fourth year

Hard to believe isn’t it? That in just 9 short (gruelling) months you will all have your lives back. We’re not going to lie; life after fourth year is odd. You go from being at warp speed the entire time to absolutely nothing, which at times during your fourth year will sound amazing, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Once you have caught up on the 74634639287401836 hours of sleep you’ve undoubtedly lost through the course of this year, you will most likely feel like you should be doing something all the time. You may feel incredibly lost at the fact you have nothing to do, you may feel overly emotional so things that wouldn’t normally upset you now suddenly are, or you may just feel like you don’t know what to do with yourself. If you are in this boat, all these things are perfectly natural.

For some people they’ve had their fill of university, four years has been enough, which is also perfectly fine! For you lot, we would advise you take up a new hobby; learn a new language, take up a new skill or start reading for pleasure again – remember that? Whatever you do, find things that keep your mind active. If you’ve got a job, why not try and pick up extra hours? More money, right?

However, if you really hate your job and the thought of working extra hours is enough to make you want to pull your own eyes out, then why not start looking through the job websites listed.

Don't be afraid to look further afield.  Hope considered doing some research experience in Germany with one of the Max Planck Society's institutes, as well as getting accepted to do a taught Masters in Germany.  America and New Zealand also offer great research opportunities, so remember to keep your horizons broad.

Obviously, all this information can overload your tired brains at the end of Honours, so if you'd rather begin with baby steps, the staff at the Employability Centre (aka "The Job Shop") on level 1 of QMU will be very happy to see you and offer some direction.  They can offer you information, advice and guidance on what happens next in your life; encouraging you to be reflective about the positive impact of your experiences over the last few years (they also have their own Hub area online).  Perhaps start by considering what you can actually do, and look at your options.

You have a very particular set of skills; skills you have acquired over your undergraduate career. Both psych and soc students (should hopefully by now) have experience of:

  • Critical thinking, multi-tasking, independent research, team-work and managing deadlines;
  • Effectively presenting ideas and arguments in writing and in person;
  • Understanding, manipulating and analysing data;
  • Applying theoretical and methodological knowledge.

Does this sound like you? It might not feel like it at first! You’ll be surprised at how varied your skill-set is, and the range of occupations open to you. You might like to get into volunteering in a particular field, either for pleasure or to gain experience in an area that you think might interest you. Again, you can speak to the Careers & Employability staff about this; or consult the lecturing teams associated with the Public Sociology degree, or Psychology’s 4th year module Volunteering & Community Engagement.

What we are trying to say is that you have a lot of options after you’ve completed your degree. Some of our former classmates have continued in academia - but others have gone into things like primary school teaching, business internships, working for a major chocolate company (!), the NHS, and local charities. Likewise though, plenty of our peers went back to their lives and are perfectly happy as they are (they might secretly be working as spies now, though, we can’t be sure).

Really though, if you can, focus on what interests you and (if possible) what makes you happy. We realise life isn’t always that polished and shiny, but you do have options open to you, a lot of them actually!

It took me a while to get back to feeling like my old self again, but I mostly did it through keeping busy. I knew that I wanted to continue on with education, so I kept coming into uni. I worked with my supervisor over the summer period and started working on ideas for my Masters project. I’m not saying you have to do a Masters degree, but if you miss uni there are always research schemes running over the summer; some lecturers run research apprenticeship schemes over the summer, so ask them if you can get involved.
A lot of people finish their degree, leave uni, get a job or whatever, and never want to see an academic essay again in their life. I can understand that. After finishing my undergrad, I quietly went back to my day job. But pretty soon I became restless. I could do the day job in my sleep, and felt like I had too much free time on my hands at home - so I got my Masters, and ended up doing some teaching and marking for QMU. It's not what everyone wants, but it's taken me a lot of years to find something I'm (reasonably) good at. The sociology staff do a lot of work, outside of teaching, that you might not know about, and can direct you towards some interesting people and organisations that may benefit from your skills.

Useful websites

"QMU Careers and Employability" (see the clever name?  This is QMU's own job search database to help you find graduate employment or internships - some of which are exclusive to QMU).

Pretty much every university/college/research institute you can imagine posts all their vacancies/studentships here.

A relatively small percentage of psych students actually go on to become chartered psychologists in their field, but that’s not to say that you can’t. Besides this and staying-on in academia to do a Masters or a PhD, other common options include: psychotherapy and counselling; teaching; market research and research for other public/private sector organisations; HR and careers advice; advertising and marketing, and; management in a number of areas.
Soc students can try their hand at some of the above too, but might feel inclined to look into things like: social work, youth work and community development; housing and education; social research; policy work for charities and local/central government, and; journalism. However, we think we’re right in saying that ‘singer-songwriter’ James Blunt has a degree in sociology… So… There’s that…