Going straight for a PhD after undergrad is often a bad idea. You will be competing against other people who have A LOT more experience in research (and in life). And let's be real: are you really ready to commit yourself to a particular research area for the rest of your life? If not, you aren't ready to start a PhD. Grad school applicants are much more prepared to start a PhD after spending 1-3 years working full time in a research lab.
The ideal position is one in a lab that is doing super-exciting work in an area that you are passionate about. You should look for a position where you would have a lot of responsibility (not just grunt work), and where you would have the opportunity to be an author on conference abstracts and research papers. The pay will be low and the work can be demanding, but spending 1-3 years in a position like this can help you build skills, develop your interests, and begin building the presentations and papers section on your CV.
Some tips on how to find a job like this:
- Mine your personal network. Let all your professors know that you are looking for a job as a research assistant, and ask if they know any colleagues who might be looking to hire someone like you. Also reach out to any Furman grads that you know, and let them know you are looking.
- Use Career Development Resources at Furman. Attend the Psych department's "How to Find a Job" workshop ( https://www.furman.edu/academics/psychology/student-experiences/calendar/). Meet with staff at the Malone career center: https://www.furman.edu/career-services/
- Do some research on the web to find labs that might interest you. Find out about laboratories by Googling the 1st-listed and last-listed authors of research papers that excite you. Try to find the webpage of their laboratories, and determine who the head of the lab is. These websites usually contain a summary of the kind of research that the lab does, and links to some of their past research publications. After reading several research articles from the labs that interest you the most, email the PI (PI=Principal Investigator / the head of the lab) to tell them who you are and that your life's greatest passion would be to work for them as a research assistant. Mention your specific interests in their specific research -- generic/form letters won't catch the PI's interest. Even if the lab does NOT have a job ad out, they might still be on the lookout for new RAs. Often, you won't hear back... but sometime you will. (Ask your professor for advice on how to write a professional, impressive-sounding email).
- Apply to Posted Jobs. Scour these sites for job ads with the titles "Research Assistant", "Clinical Research Assistant", "Lab Manager", or "Lab Coordinator".
- Nature Careers: https://www.nature.com/naturecareers
- Science Careers: https://www.sciencemag.org/careers
- PsycCareers (APA): https://www.psyccareers.com/
- Association for Psychological Science Employment Network: https://jobs.psychologicalscience.org/
- Cognitive Neuroscience Society Newsletter (must join as a member to access): https://www.cogneurosociety.org/current-newsletter/
- NeuroJobs (Society for Neuroscience): https://neurojobs.sfn.org/jobs