Upon arriving at Horizon Performance for my first day as an intern, I couldn’t help but question whether I was cut out for the job. As a psychology/biology major with an interest in social psychology research, I wondered how I had ended up at a consulting firm. I had no real “corporate” experience, and although I was familiar with research and behavioral therapies, I was pretty new to the whole applying-psychology-to-real-life thing. They say psychology is a great major to pursue because it is relevant to almost any field – particularly social psychology because it focuses on interpersonal interactions (an unavoidable component of almost any occupation). But as I learned about Horizon Performance’s projects with the U.S. Special Forces, University of Kentucky football program, and Washington University Medical School, I began to wonder if I had been too bold with my worksite selection. How could an undergraduate psychology student make a substantial contribution to such large and renowned institutions?
These concerns quickly subsided as my mentor and I discussed the various tasks I could perform for the company. It became clear how many realms of the workplace really do incorporate psychology principles. I could bring in my knowledge of positive psychology, and the tie between psychological and physiological health, in order to develop better teams and athletes for the University of Kentucky. Applying principles such as facial mimicry and the role of nonverbal behaviors helped me analyze videos of interactions between healthcare providers and patients. My experience with research coding aided me in developing a coding scheme for these videos so their analyses can be used in a reliable research study by Washington University. When it comes to the various ways my psychology education helped me in this internship, the list goes on and on…
If I had to name the two main lessons I learned from this internship, it would be these:
- What we learn in class really does apply to the “real world”. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go back to my notes or textbooks and review various topics I’d learned over the past few years so I could explain it to my co-workers or apply it to a project. Many college students (myself included, at times) tend to study for exams and then push all of that information out of memory once the class has ended. But after seeing how much this material applies to a job (that on the surface doesn’t seem to be particularly centered around psychology) makes me realize how relevant all of this information really is.
- It is important and valuable to deviate from your comfort zone. I never would have expected to take an internship at a consulting firm, and I sort of assumed I simply wouldn’t be qualified since I wasn’t a business major. However, if anything, I’d say the opposite has been true. Although I am inexperienced when it comes to software design or even industrial-organizational psychology, I was able to bring a new perspective and fresh ideas to the company that enhanced their product. My mentors were able to turn to me when they needed a biology or social psychology perspective on a certain model, which made me realize that I really was a helpful asset to their team.
Overall, the Gil Internship has been an irreplaceable experience that has shown me where my true interests lie, and exposed me to the limitless possibilities that psychology offers. I truly recommend this program to anyone interested in applying their education and interests to a field that may or may not be the typical “psychologist” occupation.