Mini-series: Performance Psychology Mentoring: Bridging the gap from university to professional world

Photo Credit: Steve Bruce, Unsplash, CC0

In this Peer Learning and Support mini-series post, Matilda Mayne, a Performance Psychology Coach, currently taking care of the performance athletes at The University of Edinburgh, showcases the Performance Psychology Mentoring Scheme…

The Performance Psychology Mentoring scheme has been running since 2016. It was established to create a support system for the students of the MSc Performance Psychology, in Moray House School of Education and Sport.

This Masters consistently brings together a special group of people. We study the psychology behind high performance, be it in sport, business, the military, emergency services, the performing arts world – essentially anything where the stakes are high and excellence matters. To this effect, the academic programme attracts people from all pf these different professional backgrounds. You might find yourself sitting next to a business professional in their 40s or 50s, with several decades of experience. On your other side, there might be an international medallist in Archery, or Climbing. Somewhere else in the classroom, you could find a violin teacher, a dancer, or someone who has retired from the Special Forces.

Learning from each other’s experiences during this one-year program is essential. Indeed, there’s not much time. Within 12 months, you will most likely have graduated, and then, for many of us, we will be out in the wild world, perhaps for the first time as budding professionals. Often the first part of that is easily done – the teaching staff do a great job of encouraging group cohesion during the taught year. It’s the second part that is difficult: transitioning into the professional world.

With a degree like this one, there’s so many paths to choose from. Some of them are well-structured and regulated (e.g. training as a psychologist with the British Psychological Society). Others are a little more vague, like becoming a performance consultant, or training as a coach; professions which are unregulated, and where your experience, training, and tolerance for uncertainty are crucial in making things work.

Plus, the field of performance psychology is changing fast. Psychology in general is being demystified, and the ways it is brought into performance or into the workplace is evolving. Interventions vary from the classical “find-a-shrink-and-sit-down-in-their-office-to-talk” approach, to more applied, innovative, and practical methods. Because of this, it’s key to showcase the diversity of opportunities that are available, as well as the harsher realities of how challenging it can be to work in this field.

This is where our mentoring program comes in. We have a pool of trained alumni who are available both in Edinburgh and abroad, who can help to support students. This could be in 1-1 meetings, or through some of the events we set up. For example, in term 1, we organise a social when the previous cohort comes back to graduate. We invite former alumni too, bringing together various generations of students, to share questions and experiences. In term 2, we host an event called “What happens after your masters?”, where alumni come back to do short presentations on the paths they have taken, the challenges they have overcome, and what they have used from the degree.

Overall, we’re building a community. When students graduate, the mentoring scheme is a great way for them to stay within a network of like-minded professionals. For the students, it’s a way to create some scaffolding to support their transition.

Matilda Mayne

Matilda is a Performance Psychology Coach, currently taking care of the performance athletes at The University of Edinburgh. She has worked with performers from all walks of life – managers, chefs, musicians, bodyguards and students. She loves talking about emotional endurance, and her passion project at the moment is to train for an Ironman.

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