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April 8, 2019, by Katy Johnson

How I Ended Up Working in a Prison

By Jessica Fath, BSc Psychology alumna 



About one hour after my graduation ceremony, I received a call from my future employer offering me the job I had applied for a few days earlier. Out of at least 20 applications, this was the only interview I’ve had. Without the Careers Team, there is no way I would have got to where I am now.  

I did a bachelor’s in psychology. Throughout the three years of my degree, I did a lot of extracurricular activities. I was engaged in different types of sport, volunteered for Nightline, completed the Nottingham Advantage Awarddid a research internship, partook in a Spanish class, was involved in setting up a business through Enactus, completed an assistant psychologist internship in an addiction support centre, engaged in campaigning during the SU elections and volunteered as a Welcome Mentor. I did a lot, but what stands out is, that I did a lot of different things. From early on in my degree I knew that I wanted to do “something to do with mental health”. Nevertheless, the majority of activities I was engaged in had nothing to do with psychology. 

Why, you may ask, would you do that? 

My point is that whatever activity you do, there are so many skills you can get out of it that will be transferable. No, I am unlikely to ever be involved in setting up a business again. However, through the process of this, I became more creative in terms of problem-solving and found out that I was actually quite good at negotiating and building relationships with people. 

doubt that University is the only time in your life when you have the opportunity to freely engage with activities and people that you never thought you ever would. Certainly, all the skills I have developed or enhanced through my non-career-related activities have added to my personality and enhanced my skill set. 

Working with the Careers Team 

Throughout my time at university, I had realised that I wanted to become an animal-assisted therapist. This role requires using animals to support humans with mental health difficulties. All I knew was that there was no direct route into animal-assisted therapy. However, I knew that I needed a doctorate in clinical psychology or counselling. I had far from enough clinical work experience to directly move into a PhD from a bachelor’s degree. Consequently, during my third year, I was heavily engaged with the careers service. They made me aware of a job role called “Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner” (PWP). I learned that as a PWP I would not quite be a therapist, but I would be working therapeutically with patients by teaching them cognitive-behavioural therapy-based interventions. 

“So, what is it you are doing now?” 

I am now working for a charity called Rethink Mental Illness. They are training me to become a PWP; which means that I am currently working three days a week in prison and two days a week I am at university learning the skill-sets necessary to become a fully qualified PWP. Unexpectedly, it is the best job I could have ever wished for at this point in my career. Yes, it is a detour to becoming an animal-assisted therapist, and no, I never before saw myself working in prison. By taking this job, I jumped over my own shadow knowing that working in prison was going to be a challenge unlike any other. 

“Keep achieving more than they ever predicted you could.” 

I cannot remember who created this quote, but the ignorance it suggests has allowed me to push through some barriers. However, the most important lesson I have learned from my time at university is that I am the only person who is stopping myself from doing the things I want to do. Not my history, not my support network, not my degree. Myself. And that is the same for you and every single one of us. 

My advice. 

  • Speak to the Careers Team. At any point during your degree. About any of your (career-related) concernsThey are an incredibly helpful team and there is no way that without them I would be at the point that I am at now.
  • Keep yourself busy. Yes, make sure you get all your studying for your degree done, but do things around it. Do lots of different things. You have got three years. There is a lot of different activities you can try out for a year or even just a semester that before trying them you may have never imagined enjoying them. 
  • If you have an idea of where you want to get to – get there, and don’t be shy to take many little steps towards it. It may seem like a detour, but everything you do will give you a whole new set of skills and experiences that will become beneficial further down the line. 
  • Most importantly: jump over your own shadow. You are the only one who is stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do.

If you would like some support choosing which career path to take and how to get there, book onto an appointment with one of our expert advisers.

Posted in Alumni Stories