Polly R.

Graduate mental health worker
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Polly R.
United Kingdom

My employment

Graduate mental health worker
Currently unemployed
United Kingdom
Social care and social work
Small business (0-49 employees)

More about Polly

Has a disability
Mature student

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A day in the life of a Graduate mental health worker in the United Kingdom

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

Currently unemployed after finishing Uni, I graduated in January this year and have taken some time out. My most recent job was working as a home carer whilst finishing my degree, and my most recent placement was three months in an addiction centre. I am currently looking for positions when lockdown has ended in mental health support work roles to gain experience to train to be a therapist.

What do you do?

I was a home carer for the elderly and disabled in York, I visited people at home and helped with their personal care needs (washing, dressing, ect), medication, meals and company.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

I love the mental health and therapeutic side of Psychology, and have completed various placements in addiction centres, and health care settings. I loved these roles and really felt helpful and useful and like I was doing something good with my time. I found my psychology course at York was interesting but I needed to supplement it with practical hands on work with people in order to stay motivated as a lot of it was very academic and less interactive.

I took a year out in the middle of my degree, to gain experience with people as a carer, and completed a Summer 3 month placement in an addiction centre for women in Dublin through a company called Connect-123. Most of my experience was gained throughout my time at university alongside my studies.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

Yes. Psychology grads going into mental health can be confusing. It is such a broad sector and there are millions of different ways in which you can achieve working with people and mental health issues - not just a clinical doctorate as I think is pushed on Psych students as the only option other than research from year one. It's okay to take your time and figure out where you fit in the system and what areas you enjoy and resinate with.

Describe your most memorable day at work

My most memorable day at my placement in Dublin was where I ran a group on depression on my own (normally I sat in on groups and helped out). I really enjoyed being able to explain things in technical detail, whilst making it appropriate and easier to understand for everyone in the group. The women really engaged and shared their own experiences.

Some of the memorable days at my care job were based around particular clients, getting to know them and being able to help them and improve their life in some way with small details. In care work, I found getting to know the service users as a crucial way in order to provide good care and make them feel looked after and preserving their dignity.

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

In the support worker roles I have experienced one of the biggest challenges I found was not to get too emotionally involved, this can lead to burn out and high stress levels. Patience and empathy is key and really must be developed, whilst maintaining your own personal boundaries. Sometimes, clients take out their bad moods and difficulties on carers or support workers, which can be tough. You really have to learn not to take things personally. Be realistic about how much you can help - sometimes, you can't help people in certain situations and that can be frustrating. I struggled with this at first, but you just have to do the best you can and allow the outcome to be what it will be.

It was very important to admit when I felt out of my depth in order to safe guard clients and provide the best possible service. This can be tough to learn when to do but is really important.

I also found these roles time taxing and low paid, or voluntary. This can be difficult when you have to support yourself if you have nobody helping you financially, and can eat into your social life. Often these roles require you to work evenings, early mornings and weekends, which meant I missed out on some nights out with friends or had to be more responsible than my fellow uni students.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

When I was working as a carer, I was working in peoples homes. I was required to wear uniform and PPE, much like medical staff. It was varied and busy, and I was on the go constantly. In a three month placement I underwent in an addiction centre in Dublin, this was 9-5 and much more sociable. This job was fantastic and I gained lots of invaluable experience and met some fantastic staff and clients. It was also very hands on. All jobs I have completed where very client focused and I found my employers to be supportive.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

Mainly I worked throughout uni either in part time waitressing work and then my carer roles and placements. These were all useful in order to gain experience working with a variety of people and be able to handle myself in high stress situations, working both alone and as part of a team.

What would you like to do next with your career?

I would love to train as a therapist in order to be able to help people in a more specialised way with mental health issues, rather than just providing basic support. I am currently researching masters courses in counselling, CBT, and psychotherapy, and want to do this part time whilst working.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Try and find some regular experience working with people, ideally in a care work or support worker role. My care job, although not entirely related to Psychology, has been the most valuable job I have done in terms of getting considered for applications for other jobs/placements and courses. Hands on experience in these roles is often more valuable than being top of your class. Employers want to know you will have the interpersonal skills to deal with potentially emotionally distressing or difficult situations. Also, recognise emotional burn out from these types of jobs. Don't overdo it whilst trying to finish your degree. Make sure you're looking after yourself, sometimes its hard not to take home the feelings of others from the working day.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

My main knowledge is in the health and social care sector, and support work sectors. I am highly interested in addiction, homelessness, eating disorders and trauma but have not yet studied these in depth.

I have quite a bit of knowledge in how to get into support worker roles and what kind of skills and experience they tend to look for. I am currently looking into various ways in order to train to become a therapist so have some knowledge on this, but its purely research based.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Polly’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Polly a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Polly to be your mentor.

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