How to gain volunteer and work experience
My experience getting into a lab isn’t all that unique, but the work I do in the lab absolutely is. While my skill set and work ethic have contributed to my success, knowing others allowed me to have these opportunities in the first place. That’s the not-so-fun thing about opportunities – finding them requires you to be in a network they’re known in.
I volunteer in Dr. Bridget Klest’s Social Context, Health, and Trauma (SCHT) lab as part of the Plain Language Summary squad. My job within the lab is to take results from the research conducted and condense it to down to a short segments. Afterwards, this section can be disseminated further so that those unfamiliar with psychological jargon can understand the implications and findings. I also write and edit other summaries within the lab as this is something I have much experience and skill in.
On top of volunteering for the SCHT lab, I am also a third year student journalist and Editor-in-Chief with the Carillon. My role in both the lab and our student newspaper cross over quite a bit. Writing at the Carillon, I research and interview experts to learn about an issue and then write an article that could be understood by someone not familiar with the topic. In both the lab and the Carillon, the goal is to write something that anyone from my Gen Z siblings to my grandma could understand. In the lab specifically though, it’s essential that the audience understands the importance of the research and how useful the findings can be in the real world.
Most people who volunteer in a lab won’t wind up writing summaries on the research done, but I think there’s still a takeaway for most people here – find a way to hone your strengths. Psychology is a grossly broad field, so whether your skills involve people, writing, stats, empathy, tech, delegation, or quite literally anything else, find ways to hone them, apply them, and be mentored in them.