Feeling discouraged about CRC/RA job opportunities

psychealth

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Mar 12, 2021
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Hi everyone,

I'm feeling discouraged in my job search as I'm approaching the third year of what was supposed to only be a 1-2 year gap before submitting applications to graduate programs in clinical psych. Since obtaining my undergrad degree in 2018, I've remained at the same job with a small company that provides outpatient mental health treatment. I didn't decide until the end of 2020 that I was only interested in PhD programs and have been scrambling ever since to apply to CRC/RA jobs in order to gain more research experience. I have three years of experience volunteering as an RA during undergrad but only performed novice-level research tasks (i.e., data entry, coding, running study sessions, etc.). I'm kicking myself wishing I had involved myself in more but what's done is done. Fast forward to now, I've been on several interviews for research coordinator positions I really wanted but ultimately was not offered the position due to someone else being more qualified.

Although my current role is within a non-research setting, I'm the lead of my department, have lots of experience with patient interaction, and am at least familiar with how a psych research lab operates and the tasks that need to get done. I'm worried I will never be offered a paid research position when there are other applicants who have more experience with more advanced-level research tasks. I believe I'm also at a disadvantage because I haven't worked in a lab for so long. Should I just try and volunteer at a lab and give up on paid positions? Not ideal since I need money obviously but it feels like I'm running out of options. Also FYI, I work with a bunch of PsyDs who are not involved in research and therefore, have not been able to offer any guidance/advice on this.
 

futureapppsy2

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Hi everyone,

I'm feeling discouraged in my job search as I'm approaching the third year of what was supposed to only be a 1-2 year gap before submitting applications to graduate programs in clinical psych. Since obtaining my undergrad degree in 2018, I've remained at the same job with a small company that provides outpatient mental health treatment. I didn't decide until the end of 2020 that I was only interested in PhD programs and have been scrambling ever since to apply to CRC/RA jobs in order to gain more research experience. I have three years of experience volunteering as an RA during undergrad but only performed novice-level research tasks (i.e., data entry, coding, running study sessions, etc.). I'm kicking myself wishing I had involved myself in more but what's done is done. Fast forward to now, I've been on several interviews for research coordinator positions I really wanted but ultimately was not offered the position due to someone else being more qualified.

Although my current role is within a non-research setting, I'm the lead of my department, have lots of experience with patient interaction, and am at least familiar with how a psych research lab operates and the tasks that need to get done. I'm worried I will never be offered a paid research position when there are other applicants who have more experience with more advanced-level research tasks. I believe I'm also at a disadvantage because I haven't worked in a lab for so long. Should I just try and volunteer at a lab and give up on paid positions? Not ideal since I need money obviously but it feels like I'm running out of options. Also FYI, I work with a bunch of PsyDs who are not involved in research and therefore, have not been able to offer any guidance/advice on this.
Can you continue to work full-time and volunteer in a lab in addition to that?
 

psychealth

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Mar 12, 2021
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  1. Pre-Psychology
Can you continue to work full-time and volunteer in a lab in addition to that?
I could but it might be tough finding a lab that lets me work those odd hours. I work 7:30am-4pm weekdays so the lab would have to be okay with me volunteering during evening hours and on the weekends. I haven’t seen a lot of labs willing to accommodate that type of availability…
 
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summerbabe

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I work 7:30am-4pm weekdays so the lab would have to be okay with me volunteering during evening hours and on the weekends.
You might be excluding labs that depend on in-person studies for some/all of their data but there are plenty that collect some/all of their data from other means (online surveys, pre-existing national datasets, phone/Zoom for qualitative data, etc) and might only require weekly or biweekly lab meetings which falls in normal business hours.
 
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PsychPhDone

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I could but it might be tough finding a lab that lets me work those odd hours. I work 7:30am-4pm weekdays so the lab would have to be okay with me volunteering during evening hours and on the weekends. I haven’t seen a lot of labs willing to accommodate that type of availability…
I would absolutely welcome a volunteer with evening availability. Are you applying through hr portals or through actual pi conversations? Have you cast a wide geographic net?
 
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Ollie123

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Have you remained in contact with your undergrad faculty and the folks whose labs you worked in then? I'd start there and be upfront about the situation. They may be able to connect you with relevant folks.

Also, don't feel limited to traditional "psych" research when looking at jobs. Clinical trials for diabetics? Imaging study of people with neurological conditions? Depends exactly what you want to do, but you can absolutely broaden your horizons a bit as long as you can come up with some pitch for how it is relevant or at least a worthwhile experience even if not directly on-topic.

Maybe I'm alone, but at the undergrad level I want to see that someone "gets" the idea of research enough to run things well and strive to improve the overall shop, can follow a protocol to a T, and reason through basic problems independently. At that level, the tasks are pretty universal and no one is really going to have any meaningful content expertise anyways. You can start to develop it and that's great if it happens but not strictly necessary. Don't get me wrong, a well-run psych lab is ideal but learning rigor, organization and efficiency are probably 95% of the value. So someone studying kidney disease could well have more relevant experience than someone studying depression - at least in my eyes.
 
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psychealth

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Mar 12, 2021
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I would absolutely welcome a volunteer with evening availability. Are you applying through hr portals or through actual pi conversations? Have you cast a wide geographic net?
Mostly hr portals or sending my application materials directly to the PI/lab manager's email if the job posting requested it. I have applied to quite a few jobs out-of-city and out-of-state but I wonder if I am automatically cut from further review based on my geographic location especially if those hr portals use applicant tracking systems.
 

psychealth

Full Member
Mar 12, 2021
11
1
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  1. Pre-Psychology
Have you remained in contact with your undergrad faculty and the folks whose labs you worked in then? I'd start there and be upfront about the situation. They may be able to connect you with relevant folks.

Also, don't feel limited to traditional "psych" research when looking at jobs. Clinical trials for diabetics? Imaging study of people with neurological conditions? Depends exactly what you want to do, but you can absolutely broaden your horizons a bit as long as you can come up with some pitch for how it is relevant or at least a worthwhile experience even if not directly on-topic.

Maybe I'm alone, but at the undergrad level I want to see that someone "gets" the idea of research enough to run things well and strive to improve the overall shop, can follow a protocol to a T, and reason through basic problems independently. At that level, the tasks are pretty universal and no one is really going to have any meaningful content expertise anyways. You can start to develop it and that's great if it happens but not strictly necessary. Don't get me wrong, a well-run psych lab is ideal but learning rigor, organization and efficiency are probably 95% of the value. So someone studying kidney disease could well have more relevant experience than someone studying depression - at least in my eyes.
I reached out to one of the graduate student researchers I worked closely with during undergrad but she steered me towards applying to a job related to her current role which was completely unrelated to my interests/needs. The PI of that lab has retired and I unfortunately did not have much interaction with him during my time as an RA. I guess it couldn't hurt to send him an email but I suppose I just feel sort of weird doing it.

The other lab was more within the realm of social/personality psych and I'm hesitant to reach out to the PI for two reasons:
1. She probably doesn't even remember me.
2. I would be asking her about research opportunities in clinical psych.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about what meaningful research experience could look like. I will keep that in mind.
 

Ollie123

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No harm in emailing the PI. I also wouldn't hesitate to reach out to the social/personality researcher. She may not be AS helpful, but she's not going to be offended and she almost certainly has colleagues who are clinical. Most professors will be happy about any one who wants to move on to graduate school. Also reach out to any clinical faculty you took classes with but didn't do research with. The goal here is just networking. Some may not respond, but whatever. You are essentially trying to switch career paths. Use whatever professional network you may have built up by this point to help make that transition.
 
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Temperance

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I have applied to quite a few jobs out-of-city and out-of-state but I wonder if I am automatically cut from further review based on my geographic location especially if those hr portals use applicant tracking systems.
Not all applicant tracking systems screen based on geographical location. It depends on the organization. For what it's worth, I have gotten interviews as an out-of-state applicant who submitted through an ATS portal, but I seemed to have a better hit rate when contacting PIs directly.

PIs hiring full-time research staff know that people often apply from outside of the area. They may or may not consider non-local applicants depending on their needs and/or experiences. Your case is stronger if you can argue why you'd be willing to move, such as if you have a keen interest in the research area or have connections to the region; you're basically arguing for why you won't try to leave before your two-year term is up.
 
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