TIP-TOPics for Students
Dawn Riddle and Lori Foster
University of South Florida
As you may have heard, April 1999 marks the end of our reign as
TIP-TOPics' student editors. Of course we couldn't resist a little walk down memory lane,
in honor of our final issue.
During the past 2 years, our mission has been to report on issues of
TOP priority to our TIP readers. We've aimed our Spotlight on tools and
training strategies that could potentially be incorporated into your current I-O program,
your personal development plan, or your future workplace. With the help of a lot of folks,
we've looked at innovative uses of role plays in I-O training, technology in the
classroom, and mentoring programs targeting professional growth. In addition, we've
identified unique opportunities for developing publishing skills, creating teaching
portfolios, and broadening professional knowledge through doctoral consortia.
The "You Know, I've Been Wondering
" segment has
certainly covered a lot of ground as well. This segment has shed light on a wide variety
of questions that befuddled I-O students were afraid to ask, were unsure if it was
appropriate to ask, or just plain didn't know who to ask! Many topics were
demystified in this segment, including internships, the future of our field, the
differences between theses and dissertations, the ins-and-outs of publishing, finding a
job, and the workings of the annual SIOP conference. With the help of our TIP-TOPics
student representatives, we've certainly learned a lot.
Finally, the gist of our TIPs for Balancing Life and Graduate School
segment has been to collect and disseminate TIPs for maintaining that delicate
balance among the many hats we all wearstudent, employee, spouse, friend, volunteer,
and so forth. We've received a wide variety of suggestions from our sources, and shared
many of them with our readers. Advice has emphasized the importance of identifying and
utilizing support groups, involving family in school-related activities, developing,
obtaining, and maintaining long-term vision and perspective, finding family-friendly
places to work, and utilizing online listserves. After receiving and following these TIPs
during the last 2 years, we feel a lot better!
The success of our entire column (yes, we like to think of the column
as a success!) was largely due to input, advice, and pointers imparted from the likes of Elaine
Pulakos, Fritz Drasgow, Kevin Murphy, John Hollenbeck, Ken
Smith, and Kenneth Blanchardnot to mention our many TIP-TOPics student
representatives and guest writers! Thanks also go to Allan Church, who has been
there to provide guidance and support. In short, many thanks to all who helped make the
column enjoyable to create, write, and hopefully, read.
Now that we're through with our tearful remembrances and sincere thank
you's, here's something to brighten your day
the July 1999 issue of TIP will
introduce a new column! And guess who will be writing/editing that column? If you guessed us,
you're right. Since we're nearing the end of our student days, we thought it might be time
to graduate to a new column, one more in tune with our new interestsEarly Career
interests, that is! That's all we're saying for now. You'll have to catch us in the July
issue to find out morewe don't want to spoil the surprise!
Okay, it's about time we got on with this issue's TIP-TOPics column!
Our line up for this edition involves Spotlighting a seminar designed to arm
students with the insight needed to successfully leap from textbooks and classrooms to the
practical pragmatics of professional practice in I-O psychology. "You Know, I've
" covers questions I-O students often ask prior to that leap.
Special thanks to Stephanie Payne and Sheila Simsarian Webber for providing
answers to these questions based on their experience in the seminar described in the Spotlight
segment. Lastly, our final TIP for Balancing Life and Graduate School offers a
place to go to add some extra fun and relaxation to this year's SIOP conference.
In the Spotlight: Career Survival Training in the Classroom
If you are like most students, a few semesters of grad school under
your belt has you feeling pretty comfortable with your role as Graduate Student. "I
can handle this," you cautiously decide. Before long, you begin to master the core
I-O competencies. Heck, you even start using words like "competencies" in
everyday language! "I have arrived," you decidedly assert. But waithold it
right there! A successful career in I-O depends on more than mere subject matter
expertise, or so they tell us. According to Dianne Brown Maranto from the APA
Science Directorate, "There are a lot of career survival skills that you don't learn
in the course of the regular graduate curriculum in I-O, but that are just as crucial to
your success in the field. Providing this kind of information to students in the form of a
professional practice seminar is definitely going to give them an edge as they enter the
This segment describes a graduate seminar designed to equip students
with a variety of career survival skills before they enter the job market. Entitled
"Professional Issues in Psychology," this segment is conducted biannually at
George Mason University (GMU). Its formal objective is to address issues that face
psychologists as they function as professionals in various work settings. "It's like
mentoring students, but on a larger scale," says Rich Klimoski,1
who has taught the course in the past.
The Professional Issues seminar meets weekly, and each week emphasizes
a separate skill area. Most skill areas span academic and applied careers, making the
seminar appropriate for students headed in either direction. During the course of the
semester, the following skills are targeted: career planning, locating funding sources and
writing proposals, project management, developing staffing plans and budgets, networking
and participating in conferences and societies, mastering the criteria for publishable
work, academic interviewing skills, making ethical judgment calls, balancing
constituencies, developing professional partnerships, working by legal precedent, and
handling political sensitivities.
Doesn't sound like your typical textbook, does it? So, how is this
information conveyed to the students? It is presented through a variety of methods,
including guest speakers, individual assignments, and team projects. The following
subsections provide specific examples highlighting how these methods are used to bridge
the gap between the textbook and the real world. Prepare to be impressed.
Guest speakers. Yes, throughout the semester, students receive
words of wisdom from experienced career survivalists themselves! For example, Deborah
Whetzel from the U.S. Postal Service once gave a talk entitled "Doing
Professional Work in Agency settings." This talk was designed to help students learn
about balancing constituencies (and related issues). "It's often a balancing act
between doing work according to the textbook and getting the job done in a real, practical
environment," Dr. Whetzel says. "Students should have exposure to both the
optimal way of doing research and development as well as alternative approaches so that
when confronted with practical limitations, they will not make compromises that lead to
legal or ethical consequences later."
Bev Dugan's talk focused on client management skillsa
topic she noted she'd learned nothing about in graduate school. According to Dr. Dugan, an
I-O psychologist from HUMRRO, "Many of the managers who seek the assistance of I-O
psychologists are working in an environment that is dynamic and they are dealing with
problems that are difficult to define and resolve. Tackling problems effectively requires
a level of interpersonal skill and an ability to analyze situations and relationships that
is not acquired in graduate school."
Marilyn Gowing, Director of the Personnel Resources and
Development Center in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, has also served as a guest
speaker for the GMU Professional Issues seminar. Her objective was to raise issues related
to working in the public sector and the political sensitivities therein. When asked what
"real world" information students learned from her talk, Dr. Gowing replied,
"The students learned the importance of translating their research into terms that
reflect the objectives of their new managers. As an example, when President Clinton and
Vice President Gore came into office, they expressed an interest in `Reinventing
Government.' Our Office of Personnel Management research center had been studying high
performance organizations for years using an Organizational Assessment Survey. With a
little repackaging, we were able to use our previous work and survey items in a
Reinventing Government Survey to meet the needs of the new administration."
In short, knowledgeable guest speakers add considerable value to the
seminar by painting vivid pictures of specific I-O careers, describing relevant issues and
dilemmas, passing along advice, and simply allowing students to learn vicariously from
others' professional experiences.
Individual assignments. Individual course assignments allow
students to personalize their professional development during the semester. One example,
designed to enhance students' career planning skills, includes marketing to a specific
job. This assignment requires each student to prepare materials that are designed to make
a strong case for his or her candidacy for a particular position. More specifically, this
activity involves the following steps: (a) identifying a post-graduate job or position of
interest; (b) identifying a mentor who can provide advice regarding the position's worker
requirements and how one can best present him or herself in an application for the
position; (c) creating, updating, or modifying one's current vita to target the position;
and (d) preparing a persuasive cover letter. Students are required to bring these
materials for class discussion. A subsequent assignment has students refer back to the
list of worker requirements generated during this process, rank order the listed
requirements relative to a self-assessed need for improvement, and create a 6-month action
plan to remedy or strengthen identified personal weaknesses.
Another individual assignment requires students to develop a list of
local, regional, and national professional/scientific societies relevant to their careers,
and solicit membership information from those societies. Students must also examine
societies to which they already belong and identify activities that they are eligible to
participate in. Finally, students are required to join a new society and/or increase
participation in a society to which they currently belong. In general, this assignment is
designed to help students develop their networking skills and appreciate the role that
societies can play in their professional lives. As Dianne Brown Maranto, former guest
speaker for the seminar points out, "I-O is a heavy networking community and we rely
on our professional societies to find each other. If a seminar can provide suggestions on
how to maneuver through the various societies, students stand a better chance of
establishing key contacts."
Team projects. Team projects also play a role in the development
of career survival skills. One example assignment requires 2- to 3-person teams of
students to respond to a military SBIR "call" for project proposals.2
Teams prepare project proposals that are appropriate for the problem outlined in the SBIR.
The team proposals are required to be technically strong, well-informed by the literature,
practical, and persuasive. In other words, they should be realistic. This project is
designed to enhance proposal and grant-related expertisea skill requirement common
to a variety of work settings.
What's the Use?
A seminar teaching career survival skills can benefit students in a
number of ways. But don't take our word for itask Elaine Pulakos, President of SIOP
and former speaker at the GMU Professional Issues seminar. "Professional Practice
seminars, like the one offered at George Mason, are useful to students because there is a
gap between what one learns in typical theory and research-based graduate school courses
and doing applied work in our field," says Dr. Pulakos. "A course that focuses
on practice issues helps students to better understand the nature of applied work and the
unique skills that are critical to performing this type of work (e.g., excellent
consulting skills, communication skills, flexibility, etc.). The primary benefit of
learning about applied work in graduate school is that this ought to help students make
decisions about the career options they wish to pursue."
Stanley Gully from the School of Management and Labor Relations
at Rutgers agrees on the importance of a Professional Issues course. "Textbooks
rarely focus on the underlying occupational socialization processes that are crucial to
effective adjustment as professionals in our field. For example, it is helpful to
understand the impact of the informal professional network on job search activities and
research endeavors. Similarly, balancing our personal lives with work demands is
difficult, and it is often useful to hear about strategies others have developed to cope
with these demands. These seminars provide opportunities to explore such issues." Dr.
Gully notes that the Department of HRM at Rutgers offers a course called the Professional
Seminar (ProSem), which is similar to GMU's Professional Issues program.
What Does This Have to do With Me?
Okay, so GMU and Rutgers offer really cool professional seminars, but
what does this have to do with everyone else? Glad you asked! If you are a graduate
student or faculty member who likes this idea, consider initiating some change and
incorporating this strategy into your current program! Depending on the specifics of your
program, this may or may not have to take the shape of a formal seminar. Dr. Klimoski
points out that this type of course could be modified and adapted to a brown-bag format.
(In fact, rumor has it that Michigan State is currently conducting survival skills
training in a less formalized noncredit series of brown bags held every Friday.) So, take
the ball and run with it!
"You Know, I've Been Wondering
what exactly do students learn in those
professional development seminars? We recently got in touch with two students, Stephanie
Payne and Sheila Simsarian Webber, who experienced the GMU Professional Issues seminar
first-hand. According to Stephanie and Sheila, this course answered several nagging
questions that they previously pondered. Since TIP-TOPics readers probably share some of
the same questions regarding the pragmatics involved in the practice of our profession,
Stephanie and Sheila agreed to give us the low-down on a few key issues. The following Q
& A integrates responses from both students and represents their lessons learned from
What is a "professional persona," and why should I want one?
A professional persona is "something you are known
for"something that differentiates you from others because you are the expert in
that arena. It also reflects who you area scientist, who develops new knowledge and
insights, a practitioner, who applies knowledge to an existing problem, or the ever famous
scientist-practitioner, who tries to balance both roles. Your professional persona can be
instrumental in establishing your reputation and marketing your knowledge and skills.
You really should start building your professional persona as soon as
your I-O training begins. It is recommended that you choose a focal topic that (a) you
know well, (b) is practical to study and of interest to the field, (c) will hold your
interest for 5_10 years, and (d) permits interrelated studies. It is also helpful to
choose a mentor to model that exemplifies the persona you want to portray.
How should I market myself for a specific job?
For starters, you may want to do a little "market research"
so to speak. Find out as much as you can about the organization and the position. For
instance, it is helpful to know, understand, and use the jargon adopted by members of the
organization. It is important to gather background information because you will want to
tailor your vita and cover letter to the specific organization. Your cover letter should
make a strong case for your candidacy for a particular position, suggesting that you have
what the organization needs and they have what you need.
When applying for academic positions, find out whether any faculty from
the institution of interest have vitas posted on the web. If so, format yours similarly.
In addition, if you don't have one already, be sure to include a section of "works in
progress" on your vita. This section should focus on your individual research
projects and interests, and it should specify where these topics fit within the broader
field of I-O. Furthermore, you might want to become familiar with preferred teaching
styles at the university or college of interest. Look at the university catalog and, in
your cover letter, describe what classes they offer that you would be willing to teach.
In terms of marketing yourself in general, remember to keep your
colleagues informed of your activities. Also, make others aware of your work by sending
copies of your manuscripts to key people in the area and encouraging them to provide you
with comments. One more ideayou might want to work with your advisor or mentor to
organize and contribute to symposia at conferences.
How do I go about seeking funds for research?
A good place to start is your own backyard. Find out whether your
university has an "Office of Sponsored Programs" or some similar office. These
programs typically have access to the variety of sources for research funding. After that,
consider checking the net. The following organizations routinely offer funds for research
and are accessible on the Internet: National Council of University Research
Administrators; Federal Information Exchange, Inc.; Federal Acquisition and Procurement
Opportunities; Army Research Office; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency;
DefenseLINK; National Science Foundation; and National Institutes of Health. Even the most
modest research is funded. It's never too soon to start pursuing financial support for
And don't forget, just like marketing yourself for a job, you must
market yourself for funding opportunities. When a request exists, represent your
credentials in a manner designed to make you look like an attractive candidate. Similarly,
revise your vita according to the proposal, and write a cover letter with the purpose of
acquiring an interview.
TIPs for Balancing Life and Graduate School
SIOP is just around the corner, and this year's conference presents a
brand new opportunity for you to hone your work/leisure balancing skills. If the
"leisure" side of the equation starts looking a little thin, consider attending
"Graduate Students' Night Out" for some fun and relaxation. This event will take
place on the rooftop deck of Lulu's Bait Shack, Saturday, May 1, beginning around 9:00 PM.
Lulu's is located at 3057 Peachtree Road in Atlanta's Buckhead district. Their signature
item is a 94-ounce "Fishbowl" drink with a little bit of everything in it.
(You'd better bring a friend, otherwise "balance" will no longer be an option!)
"This will be very informal," says Mike Fetzer, a
graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi. "I've set this up as a
meeting place for us to get away from the `ambiance' of the conference."
Directions to Lulu's will be posted on the bulletin board at SIOP; or,
you can visit their website at http://www.lulusbaitshack.com.
For further information on Graduate Students' Night Out, contact Mike Fetzer at the
University of Southern Mississippi (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1Many thanks to Dr. Klimoski, who provided lots of valuable
information for this column.
2 For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term,
SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) funding consists of money set aside, by the
government, in order to (a) address government agencies' research needs, and (b) help
small businesses conduct research and develop new products. Small businesses may bid on
SBIR projects by submitting proposals that outline potential research solutions and their
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