Over lockdown, I had been considering formats for some new content on work. Settling on an audio series, the loose plan was to meet up with people from diverse backgrounds and record our conversations around the question; how do you feel about daily work?
So as restrictions eased last month, I nabbed Dr Jonathan Murphy, a former psychology lecturer of mine and now senior executive learning and development at Enterprise Ireland for a chat. Cumiskey's Pub, Dublin 7 was the venue and over several hours we discussed topics such as social media and free speech, Chomsky on academic freedom, the meaning and purpose of work, and in this short clip, the benefits of a psychology degree to all areas of life and work. (No pints – unfortunately!)
The following 4 min clip is an intro to the longer publication of our conversation due out in September as part of the series on Work. I'll be asking supermarket workers, barristers, dentists, unemployed people, nurses, and a variety of other professions, how they feel about daily work. Subscribe to The Performatist to receive these personal and sometimes moving conversations.
Dr Jonathan Murphy
Dr Jonathan Murphy is a learning & development specialist with Enterprise Ireland. A former lecturer and researcher, he currently works with senior business leaders and c-suite teams to enhance their non-cognitive skills and strategic leadership capabilities. His background is in the cognitive neuroscience of learning & memory, decision making, human performance, and entrepreneurship and innovation.
When you were a kid, what was the goal? What did you want to be?
I can't honestly remember when I was, like under 10 or 12. I think as a teenager, I dabbled with the idea of being a musician and did the whole thing as a teenager, played in the band and I actually went to college to study that. I studied music and media management at college, and I loved the first year of doing that. And then in second year, I realised as with most things in life that it's going to be who you know in the industry and not what you know. And I think one of the things that I'd tell this advice to anyone coming out of college or anyone in a job that they're not happy with, you know, it's; try and build your network, try and like the importance of human relationships actually getting in and sitting down in front of somebody and building a relationship that way is really, really important. Um, the importance of saying yes to opportunities.
So oftentimes we're really busy. We tend to limit what we do. We limit ourselves to stuff that we're comfortable with. I think, one of the things we introduced for final year students was the employability and action module, was going out and doing volunteer work. Now I'm in two minds on volunteer work because I think there are exploited practices that go on there massively in psychology. Huge, right. I wrote an article in the Irish Psychologist in 2017 or 18, that was around the health of academic psychology. And it was [advocating for] making a better future for psychology graduates, and also showing them opportunities outside of academia and outside of the usual stuff. So I can remember, you would have been told in first-year and maybe throughout the degree, would have been all of your various sub-disciplines in psychology, but it wasn't really expressed to an extent it was, but the skills that you develop the way in which you can transfer them over to be very useful in areas of whether it be, project management or whether it be sales roles or whether it be in eh…
It really is fundamental, isn't it? Like I found that… I mean, I did it the other way around. I had a practical life experience and then went into academia.
And how did you find that then? Did you find that it was stuff that was completely out of whack with your experience?
No, it was like a complete correlation. I was like sitting there in classes, and I remember saying to myself, this is, I know this already, but now I have a, now I have a basis of understanding. Do you know what I mean? You have given a framework now to understand why that occurred as it did in my professional life.
That's empowering because you can then articulate, um, you can articulate the reasons for your positions, or you can articulate experiences that you have.
And why decisions went…
Why decisions went a particular way, and you can also like, again, one of the biggest benefits for a psychology degree, and I think, you know, it has fallen by the wayside with the way universities are going, is around personal development, self self-reflection skills, being able to take that inventory and really kind of figure out what you want at any point in your life. Realize that there are behaviours that you're doing that you need to stop doing, to correct. And you need to course-correct yourself. There are relationships that you need to, you know, disengage with or you need to improve or all of that kind of stuff. That's the, you know, no one, no one lives to work, right? The reason that we do all of this, this, um, credentialism the reason that we go and get degrees is, is again, to add, usually to get better jobs or to get, to find some kind of purpose to find meaning. And I think that the purpose and meaning part of university and the purpose of meaning part of organisations have been somewhat lost. And I think the organisations are actually realising that sooner than universities.