Psychology Students Prepare for Next Steps with SuccessWorks

“I want to major in psychology, but I’m not sure what to do with it.” 

It’s a refrain Maureen Muldoon hears often. As a career and internship specialist at SuccessWorks, UW–Madison’s center for personal and professional development, Muldoon helps students polish their resumes, snag a professional interview outfit, network with L&S alumni, and sharpen their interview skills. 

“Psychology majors build a strong foundation in critical thinking and analytical skills, in addition to interpersonal communications. This positions them well to go on to a variety of interdisciplinary career paths,” says Muldoon. 

Alumna Daniela Karpenos ’19

“For a few years, I had thought that my major and my [business certificate] couldn’t be more oppositional,” shares recent graduate Daniela Karpenos ‘19, “and I was worried that – in pursuit of a psych degree – I would fall behind in my business aspirations. However, eventually I noticed that my background in psych gave me an edge in many of my business classes. I always brought an unconventional and unique perspective to classroom discussions, like in my marketing and human resources courses. I remember one time answering a question correctly in my marketing capstone, when everyone else had picked the opposite answer. Everyone looked at me and I shrugged and said, ‘classic bystander effect.’” 

At SuccessWorks, Muldoon sees psychology majors pursuing a variety of career paths. Last semester, via Handshake, a resource to which all UW–Madison students have access to search for jobs and internships, psychology majors applied for jobs as market research analysts, legal and creative writing specialists, behavior technicians, recruiters, and associate consultants, to name a few. 

“Meeting with SuccessWorks helps our psychology students learn how to be career-ready, jump-start their job search, and prepare for life after UW–Madison,” says Valerie Johnson, an academic advisor within the psychology department.

Karpenos had an idea of what she wanted to do post-graduation, and SuccessWorks came in to help pave the way. “There was very little I did to prepare for [my SuccessWorks appointment], other than print my resume and reaffirm my own personal goals. I even almost cancelled my first appointment — it was a Friday and I just wanted to go home and relax after class. I also wasn’t sure if it was silly to just show up and be like, ‘Hi, can you help me? I need a job.’ But, I made myself go, and that’s where I met [career and internship specialist] Derek Zimmerman. He calmed my nerves and made me feel very welcome.

‘Derek asked me about my short-term and long-term goals and showed genuine interest in my unconventional path. He helped me identify the steps I needed to take to prepare for Accenture, as well as helped me identify my weak points, which were my interview skills and struggle with organization and self-doubt. Derek suggested mock interviews and set one up for me for the following week. He also helped me learn the ropes of Handshake and connected me with a Wisconsin alum that was currently working my dream job: Digital Consulting at Accenture. In the span of 3-4 weeks, I did all of the above and was employed! It felt too good to be true, and I truly owe much of my motivation and success to SuccessWorks. The best part is, the mock interview had been so helpful. Not only was the feedback I got incredibly insightful, but I also got to take the question packet home (with the interviewer’s notes) and review it for practice. Better yet, the questions helped me directly prepare for what I was asked in my real interviews. When I was asked (now familiar) questions during my interviews, I imagined myself in my seat at SuccessWorks, answering it the way I had before, while tweaking it with the feedback I had received. I now had a tool chest of answers to draw from whenever I needed.”

Like Karpenos, many students find their way to SuccessWorks through a little online digging or from the encouragement of a psychology undergraduate advisor. For others, their exposure to SuccessWorks comes from faculty who invite SuccessWorks staff to their classes or labs. 

“We hoped SuccessWorks could offer [our students] resources for finding job openings, networking with professionals outside of academia, and resume writing,” says Professor Markus Brauer. “Students really liked the training session and judged it to be very helpful.”

Jack White ‘19 found out about SuccessWorks while working with his principal investigator Professor Kristin Shutts. She suggested he visit the center for help with his resume. Muldoon helped him write and format his resume, showing him the importance of highlighting an experience with numbers, descriptives, and powerful word choice. Moreover, he adds, she showed him how to set up a resume so that it is appealing and easy on the eye.

The professional help available in person is a distinct benefit of the program. Emma Collins ’20 agrees: “Talking to people and getting firsthand information is the best way to really figure out what you want to do; it’s better than the internet.”

Psychology alumni can play a crucial role in helping students find success after graduation. “I ask alumni, ‘What do you wish someone would have told you? Are you open to sharing your experience and wisdom?’” says Muldoon. Whether as a career connector, coach, consultor, or communicator, there are plenty of opportunities for alumni to guide student success and open doors to career opportunities. 

When Karpenos was considering career options, she was able to connect with a UW alum through SuccessWorks. “It had been really difficult for me to envision what a Digital Consultant actually did, so meeting with a Wisconsin alum who did just that was incredibly helpful. We met at Memorial Union over lunch and just chatted about the position. It was informal and friendly, while also incredibly helpful. It really helped me get a more solid idea of what the position entailed and prompted me to ask insightful questions during my third and final round of interviews.”

Whether it’s a career in marketing and business like Karpenos or beginning the journey towards a PhD in social/cognitive development like White, SuccessWorks helps students discover the many practical applications of the versatile skill set of a psychology major. 

Good news for recent grads: you still have access to the career and networking tools from SuccessWorks for up to one year following graduation! Make an appointment today. 

May 26, 2020