We spend more than half of our lives working, and interacting with colleagues we never knew, shouldering responsibilities a lot more than we can handle, all the while trying to surpass expectations at work. More often than not, the emotional and physical stress gets to us.

Medha Patil, our next pathbreaker, Industrial Psychologist, works with organizations, assessing prospective hires in terms of cognitive and non-cognitive skills as well as  meeting employees, listening to their concerns and helping them cope with their work environment to ensure cultural fit, wellbeing and better productivity. 

Medha talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal about her decision to take up industrial psychology to work in a corporate set up to address employee related issues such as stress and work-life balance.

For students, Psychology is no longer about depression. If you want to help businesses improve employee productivity become an Industrial Psychologist !

Your background?

I come from a middle class family from a small town. I did my schooling (till 10th) in a town near Hyderabad. I then completed my further studies till graduation in Hyderabad. As I was never interested in any of the pure science subjects I wanted to do something which would suit my personality and nature. That’s how I ended up taking Psychology and it became my passion to know about human nature and study it closely, thus completing Masters in Psychology.

I always enjoyed observing people, their nature and their behaviour. This helped me love psychology as a subject right from my school days.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I have done Bachelor of Arts with main papers in Psychology, Political Science and Literature.

My Post Graduation was in Psychology with Industrial Psychology as specialization in the final year.

What made you choose this career?

My father was a key influencer in getting me acquainted with psychology as a subject. Learning about the subject made me curious to know more about it.

As I went further into finalizing psychology as my career path I came across many people from the field. My psychology teacher was the first person to see my potential and tell me that I have the knack to work on the subject, which really motivated me to enhance my knowledge and skill in that area.

I started scoring highest in all the theory papers of psychology that seconded my teacher’s thoughts about me.

I started enjoying psychology more and more, learning about human nature and trying to guage my observation skills. The major turning point came when people actually started talking to me as I was able to connect with their emotions well. This gave me the confidence that I can do this and my decision is right.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Tell us about your career path

During my graduation, I realized that Psychology was something that I wanted to pursue. I searched for colleges and did all the research to get into one of the best institutes. I decided to take industrial psychology and worked towards the same as I wanted to work in the corporate set up to help with employees related issues.

I did my internship for a corporate company where I got to learn more about employee work related issues. I worked on work life balance of the employees and helped the employer understand employee perspectives and requirements. 

Considering I did my internship 7 years back, in to order to get an opportunity for internship, one had to convince organizations how one can contribute to their work. I had to check with quite a few companies to get an internship opportunity. I got an opportunity in an organization after clearing an interview. After the interview the company mentioned the competencies that were required in a psychology student. I was elated that I was selected and got the internship opportunity. Being in this field we need to get in touch with lots of people, grow contacts and networks. There was no option of campus internship.

In psychology having only bachelors is not enough. Masters is the minimum qualification one is expected to have. For a clinical psychologist Mphil is considered as minimum. So while choosing the subjects one has to understand their interest and the time they are ready to invest and choose the area of work wisely. Psychologists are required in every aspect of working life., like clinical psychology, child psychology, industrial psychology, etc..

How did you get your first break?

I got my first break in an assessment based company as a part of the content development team to develop psychometric assessments. It was really nice working on developing content for the assessments. I thoroughly enjoyed the work as I have a good hold on the content in psychology test development.

The assessments job role includes developing tests/assessments for both cognitive and non-cognitive skills which means personality and aptitude tests. These assessments are increasingly being used for hiring purposes. Generally these assessments are used in pre-hiring and for internal appraisals. Corporate, public and private sectors come up with a requirement for the right-fit. A detailed study of the description of the job role is done and then we come up with a list of competencies based on which the assessment is built. Test building includes steps and process that needs to be followed to in order to build the assessment. It involves lot of content work. Every company has its own requirement and every requirement is a new challenge in understanding the job requirements and working on the same. It requires constantly being in touch with the client for their requirements and delivering the assessments appropriate to the need.

As a psychologist I worked as an assessor for the assessment centre activities too where I would observe the candidates and report on observations made. Developing content for the training was also part of my job. As such I have worked a lot on content part for the job. 

In Mindpaz I worked as a counselor where I would addresse the concerns of the clients and helped them cope with emotions.

What were the challenges? How did you address them?

As psychology is still a growing field in India it is not very easy to build a career. One faces lot of competition either from  other psychologists or HR persons with an MBA. But industrial psychology, as  a career, is in demand as their understanding of human behaviour is better than that of a HR person.

Where do you work now? 

I work as a consultant psychologist and freelancer.

I provide consulting services for people in the corporate world through psychometric assessment. I am also an assessment development centre assessor where I play the role of an assessor whose job is to observe the candidates participating in the activities and report the observations made throughout the activities and understand the behavior of the candidates. As a counselor my job is to listen to the clients and understand the concerns and help them cope with the same. As a career coach I interact with students who take career assessments and would want to know the results and understand their strengths and weaknesses. 

I always need to be up to date with the requirements in my field, such as therapies in counseling, managing employees working in corporate set up and latest research in the field of psychology.

My work also involves meeting people, listening to their concerns and helping them cope with their concerns or stress. I also work with the corporate sector on their hiring process and outbound training programs.

Meeting a lot of people and gaining an understanding about their concerns, and most importantly, helping them cope with their issues is my main role as a psychologist.

How does your work benefit society? 

Psychology is all about giving to society. Being a psychologist everything I do benefits people, helping them effectively deal with their day to day activities. Many people face issues for which they do not know whom to consult. They always look to a stranger to help them.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

I conducted a training session for a group of 25 employees in a corporate set up. This is the first thing I had done as a psychologist, managing a group of grown up and experienced people. And I was glad that as a new person I could manage them. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Psychology is a very interesting subject. One needs passion to understand human needs and be able to help people in need. It requires the ability to deal with people and their behaviour on a day to day basis. One requires a lot of patience too in order to establish themselves in the market and grow in their career. Psychology has a lot of value in the market, for those who need help and the person who takes it up to help others. 

Future Plans?

In all, I am happy I have made a correct decision and I am planning to grow myself as a psychologist and establish myself as a counselor and help people.