Having completed a placement with us abroad you’ll have so much to talk about that it’s hard to know where to start. We’re here to help!
How you talk about the experience you gained on our Mental Health Placement will be deeply personal to you. However, we’ve got a few tips to help you speak about your time abroad professionally and concisely.
Whether you’re looking to start your career or pursue further education, one way to impress those employers and educators is to be able to speak confidently about what skills you utilised abroad, how you developed professionally and how this experience is a benefit not only to you but to the organisation, company or educational institution investing in you as well.
The various skills used on placement are vast and vary from person to person. However, anyone participating in one of our placements will have employed, to some degree, the following six soft skills while working with us.
+ Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence relates to an individual’s ability to use emotion appropriately in a variety of different settings. A high degree of emotional intelligence is a requirement for any kind of future in mental health.
- Where/when/how did you engage your emotional intelligence to achieve a positive outcome with service users and fellow volunteers alike?
Volunteers often use their emotional intelligence in the following ways; working beyond a language barrier, supporting their teammates, working in large groups, relating to staff and homestay families, navigating tricky weekend situations, etc.
- How did you use emotional intelligence on placement? Can you relate this to the role you’re working towards now? Think of one example and try to sum it up in no more than three sentences and practice talking about it.
Tolerance is having an open-minded and non-judgemental approach to people and situations. To have a successful career in mental health this is key as you’ll be working with people from all different walks of life and often be in situations you find unfamiliar or challenging.
- Where/when/how did you use tolerance whilst on placement and how did utilising this skill benefit you and those you were working with?
We have seen volunteers displaying tolerance in the following situations; participating in alternative treatment workshops, immersing themselves in a brand new culture both professionally and personally, living in a homestay with other volunteers, working in facilities with few resources, working with new and diverse client groups.
- What was one positive outcome of utilising this particular skill on placement and how can using this skill help you in the future? Again, think of one example and sum it up in three - five sentences.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. There is Cognitive, Emotional and Compassionate Empathy. Employing your empathy skills allows you to set aside your own personal feelings and pretty much work with anyone, anywhere.
- When did you use the above different types of empathy on both projects and in daily life on placement?
Volunteers use their empathy skills every day in the following ways; supporting a service user to complete a difficult activity, helping a teammate who feels homesick, working in conditions different to those of their home nation, asking for for help as well as providing it.
- How has utilising your empathy skills on placement enabled you to develop both personally and professionally? What are the benefits of this to your future employer/educator? Think of one example and then summarise how you would use this in the specific role you’re applying for. Keep it brief, three - five sentences max.
Adaptability is the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions and is an essential skill for mental health professionals. By working in a different culture you were immersed in an environment where a high degree of adaptability and flexibility is imperative.
- Think of a time you had to be adaptable on placement. What situation were you presented with and what did you do to achieve a positive outcome?
Volunteers are constantly using their adaptability skills whilst on placement; running a session for a new group of service users with varying abilities, dealing with public transport, getting stuck in traffic on the way to a session, having thirty service users turn up to a session which was planned for ten, changing weekend plans to accommodate your fellow volunteers, project cancellations.
- What was the result of being adaptable? What did you learn from this situation and how can utilise that new knowledge in a new role? Practice talking about when you used your adaptability skills in no more than three - five sentences.
Patience is the ability to accept or tolerate any changes without becoming annoyed or anxious. Working in an unfamiliar culture, country and climate can really try your patience. However, this skill is key in improving the way you relate to others and increasing your own emotional resilience.
- Where/when/how did you use your patience on placement and what positive effect did this have on both yourself and those you were working with (both service users and teammates)?
We see our volunteers flexing their patience muscles a lot; day-to-day on public transport, using cold showers first thing in the morning, responding positively to any changes to the timetable, dealing with adverse weather conditions, eating spicy food without utensils, dealing with challenging behaviour from clients and service users, working with a language barrier where you are not easily understood.
- How does patience factor into working cross-culturally and how does having this experience benefit you in your home nation and the role you're applying for? Try and sum this up into a clear and concise statement of no more than three - five sentences.
Teamwork is the combined action of a group of people with a common goal. Working in mental health abroad requires a strong team structure to deliver the most beneficial sessions for service users.
- Who was part of your team whilst on placement and when did you have to work as part of a team?
We are all one team at SLV.Global, with the same aim: to promote positive mental health in all of our interactions. Volunteers are always working together in numerous setting such as; session planning, projects, planning weekend travel and living together.
- What were the benefits of cohesive teamwork to yourself, your team and the service users and how can you be an asset to the new team you’re wanting to work with? Put this into three - five short sentences and practice selling yourself.
How to talk about your work in the psychiatric hospital:
Working abroad in a psychiatric facility can be a big talking point of any application or interview, especially if you are going down the clinical route. When discussing your work, it’s always important to remember to be compassionate about the facilities, the culture, and the service users you worked with.
You should demonstrate an open-minded and non-judgemental approach by focusing on what you did during the sessions and the positive impact this had for the service users. Tailor the conversation to show off what you learnt from this experience, talk about the benefits of cross-cultural experience and how all of this is going to help you as a future practitioner.
Here’s a top tip: Please, always be aware of service user confidentiality when discussing any of the work you have done. Focus on the psychological benefits of the sessions you ran rather than the service users themselves. By being sensitive to the needs of the service users, employers will notice, and should respect, your professionalism and commitment to safeguarding confidentiality.
Through your time working in psychiatric facilities on our Mental Health Placement, you will have demonstrated numerous competencies including, but not limited to;
Experience of working with people with psychological needs, either in a paid or voluntary capacity.
Ability to apply theoretical knowledge of psychology to the practice of clinical psychology.
Potential to exercise both appropriate assertion and diplomacy according to the particular situation, whilst working with clients with a range of challenging emotional difficulties.
Ability to tailor communication in a manner which is congruent with the needs of the recipient, including the needs of clients who have difficulty in communicating or understanding.
Ability to function well in the context of unexpected or uncertain outcome, in the absence of guidelines or in novel situations.
Ability to work in a highly emotive atmosphere, frequently encountering problems and circumstances and maintain[ing] a high degree of professionalism at all times.
A capacity to reflect constructively on all aspects of own performance (academic, clinical and professional).
Ability to form empathic relations with a wide range of clients in a variety of settings.
Encouraging autonomous behaviour on sessions.
Responding appropriately to challenging behaviours such as violent and oversexualized behaviour and delusions.
Adapting a planned session to a new client group with varying needs.
Working in conditions which are less developed than you may be used to in your home nation.
Completing necessary administration - session planning and feedback forms, encouraging reflective practice.
Choose three of the above competencies you demonstrated on placement and evidence with a short example for each.
We know that as a volunteer you’ve done so much in what, to others, may seem like a small amount of time. As a result, summarising this can be challenging. You want to sell yourself, but quality over quantity is key! Here are our top tips:
State the mission of SLV.Global
Be clear and concise about your role and responsibilities
Summarise how you made an impact
SLV.Global – Mental Health Activity Support Worker, Sri Lanka/Bali:
(Dates of your placement)
SLV.Global is a mental health organisation contributing to community development in Sri Lanka and Bali and working to improve the lives of beneficiaries who may be marginalised due to poverty or circumstance.
Whilst on placement I worked as an Activity Support Worker in a psychiatric facility as well as well as various settings for individuals living with mental health concerns. In addition to these responsibilities, I taught English to youths whilst role modelling life skills to promote positive mental health and also ran therapeutic activities for at-risk children and for individuals with special needs.
Throughout my time abroad I was living with a local family and fully immersed myself in the vibrant and exciting culture. I was challenged by situations demanding a high degree of cross-cultural sensitivity and awareness. Throughout my placement, I promoted positive mental health with a variety of client groups while learning to be resourceful and employ a creative approach to the therapeutic interventions I administered and facilitated with my team.
Check out our video on the unexpected benefits of taking part in an SLV.Global Placement:
We hope these tips help with your applications and CV writing.
If you have any questions at all, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help!