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How to cope with Psychology reserve lists

This article has been amended from episode 77 of the aspiring psychologist podcast. If you'd prefer to watch it, you can here or listen to it here.


Today on the Aspiring Psychologist Blog, I am guiding you through my seven top tips for how to cope with waiting lists and reserve lists in psychology and mental health jobs. Stay right to the end to soak up all my advice and guidance. I hope you find it so useful.


Hi, welcome to the Aspiring Psychologist Blog. I am Dr. Marianne Trent and I'm a qualified clinical psychologist. You might well know that I've got a social media presence. I am Dr. Marianne Trent everywhere and today's episode was a special request from somebody on my socials. Today we are thinking about that exquisite hell, which is a waiting list or a reserve list. This usually crops up when it comes to doctoral training courses, but also might well happen in undergraduate or master's study. And it's possible that it happens in relevant experience roles too. And today I am offering my advice and guidance on how to navigate being on a waiting list. Now, in case you're not sure what I mean when I say reserve list or waiting list, let me explain. So for example, in clinical psychology, there might be 25 places available for the doctoral programme, but they will usually see probably about 75 to 80, maybe even a hundred people at interview for those posts.


Now the people that they feel are not appointable will likely be sent a thanks but no thanks. But the people that they feel are of the standard and the caliber that they would want to be having within their programme of study, might well be offered a reserve list place. So that's what we are talking about today. People that have essentially made the grade but they're waiting for people to be able to either be interviewed elsewhere and then decline their place that they've been offered, which then bumps everybody up the waiting list or you know, for them to decide to then accept that waiting list place, which then, doesn't change your position on the waiting list. So in today's episode, I'm gonna be guiding you through my seven areas of consideration for this. But firstly, before I do that, let me tell you about my own experience of waiting lists for the course that I ended up studying with.


I was offered one of the 15 places outright, but for the course that I was also offered, I was first reserve. Now not everybody gets given a number these days for what position you are on the list, but if you do have a number and you end up as first reserve, it's usually almost possibly guaranteed that you might well be getting an offer because of course of cohort, you know, up to 40ish plus people, it's likely that some people are being offered multiple course offers and that you know, the one that you've been offered might not be their first choice either for geographical reasons or personal reasons or just because they don't like the course as much as the one that they are going to accept. So there's a number of reasons why people might wait. And of course what we know certainly about the doctorate in clinical psychology is that there's an interview season that starts in March and ends in May and they try very carefully not to overlap too much geographically.


And of course if you were having interviews, it's possible that you might well have an interview in the first week of interviews in March and you might still have interviews in the last weeks in May. And so your application, your interview season might well be very well spread out. So you might have been offered a place from the first set of interviews that you did in March or April or even May, but then you are holding out hope or you just want to consider your options. And then you might well be offered a place later in the season as well. And you just want to, to be super well informed and to get a feel for that course, how it makes you feel and you know, whether you would want to do a programme of study there. And so you absolutely don't have to make your mind up.


I did an episode recently which is episode 74 that you might also want to check out. It was about whether you should still go to interviews if you've been offered a place elsewhere. So you might find that useful as well. And of course, another reason that I forgot to include in that podcast episode is that you might want to go and see how your performance compares. You know, once you know you've got a course offer, you might want to go and just feel a bit more at peace and at ease and it might feel that you are more able to be yourself and to really bring your arousal levels back down to a more comfortable yellow window of tolerance, zone of functioning. And that's okay, you know, you've been offered those interviews, it is your choice if you wish to accept the interviews or not.


Anyway, that's a whole other issue! Right now we are thinking about how to cope with reserve list places because of course it does somewhat hold you in limbo. So it holds you in a limbo until you know the outcome of interviews, which has to happen by the 2nd of June, 2023 for the DClinPsy process. And people need to have responded by the 9th of June, 2023. So hopefully you should know either way, I guess by the week after the 9th of June. But of course that said, I have heard of people being offered places on training in late August and September. As people's circumstances change across the summer, this is a whole lot easier to manage if you know the numbers, if you know for example that you are number 30 on the reserve list and there's only 22 places, it's possibly looking less likely that you'll be offered a place that year.


A children's counting number sorting toy
What number are you and how does it make you feel?

But I know some courses have moved to not giving numbers, which adds more layers of anxiety I think, and feeling very distracted, discombobulated, not really knowing which basket to put your apples in. Because if you know, you know, you're number one or 2, 3, 4, 5, then you think, oh, okay, this could be happening. But if you number 60, I dunno how high some of the course lists go with their reserve lists then it's possibly unlikely. So let me start guiding you through our top tips and considerations for how to tackle this beast. So if I was in your position on a waiting list, I would I guess try to be thinking about my mindsets and I'm not gonna be gaslighting myself with false promise necessarily, but you know, I do like the idea of a little bit of manifestation and so I'd be doing some compassionate flows out there into the world to let this opportunity come to me.


What is the worst that can happen with doing that? Granted, you might feel a little bit silly when you begin to do that, but I promise you that over time that will ease and it feels like you are doing something you know to help control this situation that might well feel uncontrollable. And as part of this tip, it's important to remember that of course you are of the appropriate calibre to be offered this opportunity. And so you need to really take something from that. You know, for example, if it is a trainee psychologist role, then you know that you are of the right standard, you are saying the right things, you are doing the right things, you are presenting yourself in the right way to be offered that role and you've got to feel really proud of yourself for that consideration. Number two. So number two is about potentially seeking feedback.


So you know, whilst technically they may not tell you what number you are on the reserve lists, I've been known to make friends with people in admin departments and see what you can find out. So seeking feedback about your performance in the interview can be useful to know what it is that you know that went really well, even though you weren't successful. You're on a reserve list. It can be useful to get a little bit more clarification about what might have helped you score more points to get you across the line. But yeah, if you can, it's really useful to get the number that you are at. Just say that you can manage your own expectations accordingly. Really it can also be useful even if they won't tell you how many places are left on the reserve list to ask them maybe how many people are still waiting to confirm places.


So if there's only one or two out of a cohort of 40, 40 plus, then it might be less likely. But if actually out of a cohort that size, they're still waiting for 15 or 20 people to confirm, then you know, you can help manage your expectations in that way. Consideration number three is all about the power of your network, other people's network and networking. How can you connect with people either in person or perhaps on social media to feel validated, to feel like you're understood and to think about how you might be able to benefit from the skills and the wisdom of other people who get it and might perhaps be the next stage ahead of you in your career. It might involve going to conferences, professional events, meetings, anything you can think of or find to continue to increase your exposure to people in your area of specialty, but also those who you know might be able to help enrich your knowledge, understanding and how supported you feel along the way.

A long line of people in a community
The benefits of being a community and feeling validated and supported

And that has been a really nice and unexpected feature of the Aspiring Psychologist membership because the community are so wonderful in rallying together and supporting one another and helping celebrate wins, but also helping to kind of process any complex or complicated feelings which might come up. So if you are missing people that feel like your tribe at the moment, you might well consider joining the Aspiring Psychologist membership. And this leads us nicely into consideration number four. So I always think that if you are on a reserve list, it can be useful to think about it possibly as being a no and thinking about what you need to do to be able to get yourself in a position that the next time there's jobs up, that you are given an outright yes rather than a maybe. And so how can you look at your strengths and weaknesses profile to think about what might need padding out, what might need thickening, enhancing and reducing your achilles heel for that area.


So it might well be that you want to focus on online training or in-person training events that you want to immerse yourself in the literature and the research in the areas that you want to work in. Ultimately, if you are an aspiring clinical psychologist, it might well be that you'd like to attend workshops with qualified professionals to help advance your skills and your confidence. And of course that will always benefit you if you do end up getting that reserve list place as well. And please do know that when you get on, if from a reserve list place, it's just a place you know it's no different, you are a member of the cohort and you deserve to be there. So this chance to upskill and thicken this narrative can be really important in helping you both now, to feel like you're getting that control back, but also in the future if it doesn't work with this opportunity, you will be in a stronger position next time around.


And again, this is something aspiring psychologist membership is really, really good at. If you'd like information about how to join, please do check out the information on the website here: The Aspiring Psychologist Membership.


So, so far we have been were thinking about four of our top seven considerations for how to manage the sweet hell that can be, being on reserve lists for training or job opportunities. Let's crash straight on with number five.


A mountainous landscape
Broadening our Horizons

So number five is all about expanding your search and broadening your horizons. It might well be that you start to look at other opportunities out there. So for example, there's not only one way to get qualified as a psychologist it might be that you are able to look at whether counselling psychology might be a good fit for you or whether, for example, as Anagha Sharma and I explored together in episode 57 of the podcast, there was the little known way to get qualified as a clinical psychologist is to do the dual discipline and do forensic psychology as well. Now these are of course self-funded roots, but it's worth just exploring what that would look like and how you might be able to either get that funded from an employer or how you might be able to afford other self-funding options.


It might be that you use this time to think about maybe potentially applying for other relevant roles, which might help strengthen your chances the next time around in case these reservist places don't work out. That might look like applying for other assistant psychology roles. It might look like applying for a master's. It could look like doing some additional skills or qualification. It could look like doing some additional skills training in a particular area that you want to strengthen, for example, on C B T or working with specific populations or using specific approaches. And again, this is something that we really excel at in the Aspiring Psychologist membership and people might be like, oh, well should I reapplying for jobs if I might be letting them down at the last minute? But you've got to look after yourself. It's okay to do that. It's okay to put your own needs first.


And of course employers understand that people's positions will change all of the time for a variety of reasons. So perhaps you're working in children's services and you've never worked with people with intellectual disabilities or perhaps you are working in intellectual disabilities, you've never worked with older adults or you've never worked with working age adults. It's okay to think about what opportunities there might be around at this time to help strengthen your abilities. And of course this time of year is a good time to be looking for jobs because as people get on clinical training, sometimes people resign right away once they've got their unconditional offer because they want to spend the summer doing something different. And so yeah, this is a potentially exciting time for the job market over the next few months. So consideration number six is just staying focused, staying persistent, staying enthusiastic, staying polite as you go about your inquiries about what position you are on the list.


A picture of a woman in an anxious feeling state
Heightened anxiety is understandable but tricky

You know, they will of course understand the level of anxiety that you might be experiencing because it does make a big difference. You know, if somebody is potentially preparing to move from London to Scotland for example, that's not something that should be done without planning and without consideration. So they will understand what this means to you. And hopefully they will be kind to you in their interactions with you too. Consideration number seven is last but not least, it's managing your own expectations. So it would have been preferable for you to be given an outright place, of course it would. But it might not happen for you this year and that is gonna evoke lots of complicated feelings. It might make you feel quite sad, quite rejected even, that you're not good enough, that you're not measuring up, that others are better.


And all of those thoughts and feelings are really normal. But we also need to be thinking about letting our compassionate other help us through this. There's not a lot of good that comes from self-criticism, so you might well want to plan something that, you know, is gonna be a real celebration of where you are at right now. So if you think it's unlikely that you'll get onto training this year, then could you go and have a lovely holiday in September, October or at some point during that year, which might have been trickier for you to do if you were doing this job or training offer that you might well not be offered. How can you use this time really wonderfully? So it might be that you wanna use this time to really celebrate your life where you're at right now. It might involve getting married, it might involve moving house.


You know, it's about knowing that where you're at right now, is you know, it's okay to feel happy and content there and to grow roots and spread your wings and you just see what happens next time around.


So just in summary, our top seven considerations were staying positive and proactive, seeking feedback if possible, continual networking, enhancing your skills, expanding your search, staying updated and persistent. And last but not least, managing your expectations.


I hope you found it useful. Please know that I feel for you this is really difficult, especially if you are potentially looking to move somewhere with yourself or your family, your pets. And you're just waiting to hear, I know that this, this is your life and it matters. Please do stay kind to yourself. If you found this content useful, please do like, comment, engage, rate, and review on apple by clicking here and on Spotify by clicking here.


Thank you so much for being part of my world. Please do stay kind to yourself and if you could recommend this blog to others, you think might find it useful, I'd be so grateful. Thank you so much and I'll look forward to delivering you the next episode.


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