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Early Careers:  Currency Exchange:  The Importance of Being Up-to-Date and Broadly Informed

Lori Foster Thompson
East Carolina University

Dawn L. Riddle
Institute of Human Performance, 
Decision-Making & Cybernetics

 

A recent perusal through the latest edition of a full-length dictionary revealed three inadvertent omissions. Please update your lexicon accordingly:

1. Early Careers   

n., [orig. 1999]: a TIP column with the main objective of addressing important issues, problems, and questions faced by I-O psychologists during the early stages of their professional lives; contains two segments. (a) Initial segment, titled The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, (b) Second segment, titled Career Gear.

2. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist       

                                                                     

n., [orig. 1999]: Early Careers column segment providing a personal and professional feature of a leading I-O psychologist (see also: Richard J. Klimoski), offering tidbits, insights, and tips that early career I-O psychologists may adapt whilst pursuing their own personal brand of success.

3. Career Gear                          

n., [orig. 1999]: Early Careers column segment investigating a topic that featured psychologist deems important to early career types. The April 2002 segment is purportedly designed to help I-O psychologists remain current by summarizing areas of importance and reporting strategies for staying abreast of key changes.

Okay, maybe these dictionary omissions werent quite so accidental. Nevertheless, we didnt think Merriam-Webster would mind a few small additions. As the preceding definitions suggest, The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist segment of this column traditionally portrays the personal and professional aspects of a notable I-O psychologist. We are delighted to report that Rich Klimoski from George Mason University graciously agreed to be featured in this issue. Youll soon learn that Rich is something of a vocabulary aficionado himself. In fact, under the right circumstances hed forego the latest Sports Illustrated for a nice, sturdy, unabridged dictionary! Read on for particulars related to this and other aspects of Richs personal and professional existence.

As usual, we petitioned our featured psychologist for a Career Gear topican issue of significance that should be brought to the attention of early career folks. In response to this request, Rich highlighted the importance of remaining broadly informed throughout ones career. Drawing on input from several experienced I-O psychologists, the Career Gear segment of the current issue considers this matter in some detail.

The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Richard J. Klimoski: The Professional

We began our research for the first segment of this issue with just one basic question in mind: What kinds of professional feats has Rich Klimoski taken on during his career? Heres what we found out.

Richard J. Klimoski, Professor of Psychology, is currently interim dean of the School of Management at George Mason University. Prior to this, he served as the director of the Center for Behavioral and Cognitive Studies at George Mason University. He was also the associate dean for Outreach and Enrollment for the College of Arts and Sciences. Klimoski was on the faculty of The Ohio State University as professor from 1981 to 1995 and vice chair in the Department of Psychology from 1988 to 1995. He joined the faculty there in 1970 after receiving his PhD in psychology and management from Purdue University.

His teaching and research interests revolve around the areas of organizational control systems in the form of performance appraisal and performance feedback programs and team performance. His research has appeared in a variety of journals, including Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, and Journal of Conflict Resolution. He is coauthor of Research Methods in Human Resource Management.

Klimoski is a past chair of the Personnel/Human Resources Division of the Academy of Management and is on the Editorial Review Board of Human Resource Management Review. He has served on the editorial review boards of the Academy of Management Journal (19851987), Journal of Applied Psychology (19881994), Personnel Psychology (19771989), and Administrative Science Quarterly (19781988). He was editor of the Academy of Management Review from 19901993.

Klimoski is a SIOP Fellow and served as SIOP president from 19911992. He is also a Fellow of the American Psychological Society. He has served on the Board of Governors of the National Academy of Management (1993) and on the American Psychological Associations Council of Representatives (19941997).

As a principal in the consulting firm GLK and Associates, Klimoski has worked with a wide variety of organizations (both public and private) dealing with such issues as human resource management systems, job-related stress, and quality of work life. He has also served as an expert witness in employment practices-related litigation, including sexual and race discrimination and employee discharge.

 Rich Klimoski: The Person

What type of person does it take to build that kind of bio? Thats what we wanted to know, too! So, we caught up with Rich late one Monday afternoon and hit him with our usual interview questions, which are provided in bold italics below. His responses defined the personal side of the professional weve read so much about.

What do you do to relieve stress? Thats an interesting question, Rich responded. It makes the assumption that everyone feels stress. Rich admitted that he occasionally feels busy or tired but not necessarily stressed. Upon reflection he suggested this might be due, in part, to certain activities in which he regularly engages such as court sports like racquetball and squash. Physically demanding activities take your mind off things at the office. He also enjoys the companionship afforded by his favorite sports. Being at the gym provides an opportunity to interact with others from all walks of life. It offers a chance to observe people with very different perspectives.

If you were stranded on a desert island and had one piece of reading material, what would it be? You might think this is silly, but Id take a large, unabridged dictionary, answered Rich. A dictionary? I love words, he elaborated. I love to play with words. In his defense, he explained that he has a low tolerance for repetition. Unless its an unusually complex piece, he rarely reads a book (or sees a movie, or watches a television show) more than one time. Thus, getting stranded on an island with a novel, biography, or even the I-O handbook would provide one-time-only entertainment. With a dictionary, Rich reasoned, he could constantly challenge himself intellectually, learning new words, exploring the derivatives of words, making up elaborate crossword puzzles, and even trying to recite the entire dictionary.

What do you do during your time off? From gardening to construction to kayaking and collecting, Richs interests are quite diverse. Hes been known to work in the yard, under the supervision of his talented wife Gretchen. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he also likes intellectually challenging construction projects. I wouldnt mind building a backyard deck, Rich mentioned. (Naturally, we gave him the addresses of two currently deckless backyards. Were still waiting to hear back; however, were getting the distinct feeling that the deck thing was just a hypothetical example.)

Rich is also partial to flat water kayaking (kayaking in bays and estuaries versus the swift flowing, boulder infested, bone twisting rivers of white water kayaking), preferably in Cape Cod where he enjoys the tranquility and closeness with nature. Though not much of a hunter, he is something of a gatherer. I collect clocks, American antique clocks, he explained. His collection contains somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty timepieces including mantel, shelf and table clocks, wall clocks, and tall case or grandfather clocks. He favors American-made clocks that are weight (in contrast to spring) driven. His oldest is a tall case clock from Connecticut dating from 1815. For obvious reasons, his wife Gretchen restricts him to two chiming clocks in the house at a time.

Why clocks? we asked. Rich first expressed an appreciation of the mechanical, architectural, historical, and functional nature of clocks (themes echoed by many clock enthusiasts). After a bit more probing, however, he broke down, admitting that punctuality has always been a problem for him (a theme echoed by many I-O psychologists)! In addition to clocks, he collects contemporary American art, pottery, and graphic art.

Do you have a nickname? If so, how did you get it? Although he doesnt have an active nickname, Rich mentioned that he did have one in collegeRJ (his first and middle initials). He didnt mind the moniker at the time; however, the I-O psychologist formerly known as RJ noted that he did not encourage the nickname past his preprofessional years.

What is your favorite beverage? Diet coke its whats for lunch! And has been since his college days. During college, Rich found it difficult to make time for both lunch and the gym, so he compromised by combining his daily exercise and lunch requirements. At midday he opted to drink his meal (a diet coke) on the way to or from his workout. These days, Rich continues his time-honored tradition of downing a diet coke at lunchtime.

Do you have a routine that you like to follow? Rich generally starts the day with a quick glance at the Washington Post, to see if there is anything important for George Mason. Beyond that he admits to having pretty predictable office hours during the week. In a perfect world he still tries to complete his noontime regime at the gym; however, the demands of daily life sometimes prevent his favorite midday activities. After hours, nightly dining with his wife of 38 years is a must (even in an imperfect world). He sometimes continues working after dinner and regularly reads the New York Times before bed.

What factor(s) contributed significantly to your success? Rich was ready for this one, noting that this is a very important question, and a difficult one. He prefaced his reply with a warning: One of the most important factors is neither glamorous nor immediate. Hard work. Theres no substitute for time on task. I heard a speaker say it takes 7,000 hours on a task to become a virtuoso in a field. Indeed, it has been said that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Beyond hard work, it is beneficial to build and maintain relationships. SIOP, for example, provides a platform for both relationship building and professional development. Rich has also found advantages to being broadly read and up-to-date with regard to I-O and management topics.

When I read something interesting, I ask myself, Who else would be interested in this? And then I make it a point to send it to them. This has two consequences: it helps me remember the point of what I read, and it helps in maintaining relationships.

 What factors do you think might be critical to the success of others in general? Location, location, and location. Location does matter, Rich indicated, admitting that this answer may not be popular with early career types. In reality, location impacts the opportunities to which you are exposed and the relationships you can potentially develop.

Describe a dark professional hour in your early career. What did you do to get through it? Well, Ive been blessed with only a few dark hours, Rich began. He continued by sharing his experience as an untenured assistant professor at Ohio State. It was early in his professional career, and Rich found himself conflicted as to whether the academic life was for me. He was concerned about meeting expectations regarding productivity. Furthermore, as a new assistant professor he was close in age to his students; he had some difficulty finding a comfortable social distance. To top it all off, strong crosscurrents existed in the department, creating tension between applied and basic research. It was a very scary time, Rich recalls. The thing that convinced me to stay the course was my self-concept as an academic. I havent regretted it.

We concluded the interview by asking Rich to choose a Career Gear topic that he felt was important to the development of early I-O psychologists. He highlighted the importance of staying up-to-date on issues impacting our discipline, related disciplines, and the world around us.

Career Gear

Its been said that it will soon take 50% of a workday to come up to speed with what transpired since you left the day before (McGuire, 1998). Although this sounds a little extreme, it highlights the notion that continuous learning is now more important than ever. Remaining up-to-date on the broad array of topics impacting our profession seems a rather daunting task. Who has time to read everything thats out there? No one we know. The trick is to: (a) identify areas of importance that you really need to stay on top of, and then (b) develop strategies for staying current in those areas. This Career Gear segment is intended to assist with these two objectives.

As I-O psychologists who are still a bit damp behind the ears ourselves, we invited a panel of more experienced scientists and practitioners to e-mail us their thoughts on the matter of remaining broadly informed. We are extremely grateful to the following people, who kindly provided their input: Janet Barnes-Farrell (Associate Professor, University of Connecticut); Wanda Campbell (Director of Employment Testing, Edison Electric Institute); Laura Koppes (Associate Professor, Eastern Kentucky University); Rich Klimoski (Professor and Interim Dean, George Mason University); Jeff McHenry (HR Director, U.S. Sales and Service Division, Microsoft); and Mort McPhail (Principal and Vice President, Jeanneret & Associates).

 Identifying Areas of Importance

Discussions with our panel members revealed five areas that warrant attention: (a) the psychology literature outside of I-O, (b) the I-O psychology literature, (c) the business/management literature, (d) policy debates that implicate our science or practice, and (e) current events.

 The Psychology Literature Outside of I-O

A few of our contacts indicated that the acquisition and maintenance of knowledge across the broad areas of psychology is very important.

As a field that has benefitted greatly by creatively building on the theoretical models and approaches developed by others, I think that choosing to regularly look OUTSIDE our own highly specialized world of problems, theories, and techniques is something that we should remind ourselves to do [said Janet].

The benefits of this are wide-ranging. For example, exploring the psychology literature outside of I-O can assist with licensing efforts.

Regardless of ones focus in our specialty, to seek licensure (which I believe to be important and even necessary in some jurisdictions) one must take and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) [Mort pointed out]. This exam cuts across all of the broad areas of psychology, including statistics, learning theory, cognitive processes, physiological basis of behavior, clinical/counseling, and I-O. Most people will be required to have at least a year of post-graduate experience in order to qualify to take the examination. During that time, new graduates need to make the effort to remain (or become) knowledgeable in the relevant areas. If we are going to call ourselves psychologists, it seems incumbent on us to have at least broad knowledge across the areas of our profession.

Janet agreed, noting that We are, after all, psychologists first and I-O psychologists second. Its pretty easy to lose sight of that, both during graduate training and afterwards.

 The I-O Psychology Literature

Nearly all of our panel members indicated that up-to-date knowledge of the I-O psychology literature is paramount. Many believed that we should work to maintain current knowledge of the full range of technical literature in I-O after earning our masters/PhDs, regardless of whether were working as academicians or practitioners. Laura noted, As an academician who is preparing the next generation of I-O professionals, I need to be informed in all of the areas.

Mort concurred, explaining

As practitioners all we have to offer to clients are the science of our field and our ingenuity and acuity in applying it. The more tools we have in the form of the science we can bring to bear, the broader the range of problems we can address effectively. The more we have only a hammer, the more all problems start to look like nails. Since it is axiomatic that time will always be limited, the point when one leaves graduate school and enters practice is probably the point of maximal knowledge. Most practitioners (including myself) struggle to remain conversant and current with the literature and are often unsuccessful in doing so. New graduates are almost always more current (especially in the areas of their research concentrations) than they ever will be again. The longer that they can maintain that currency, the more valuable they will be to their clients.

What are the repercussions of failing to keep up with the latest I-O literature? Well, imagine the consequences that would occur if an I-O psychologist trained years ago did not stay tuned to the latest work on the role and effectiveness of alternative predictors in selection (for both predicting success and ameliorating disparate impact). As Mort pointed out,

We now can say with some certainty that cognitive ability and conscientiousness are both likely to be important parts of most selection systems. But that leaves a broad array of issues such as modalities, alternative constructs, compensatory models, selection strategies, and so forth. Failing to be knowledgeable in this area can have many deleterious results, including getting ones clients in legal trouble, inability to address complex problems with multiple stakeholders, and reduced effectiveness in identifying qualified hires/promotees.

Although he too appreciated the value of remaining current on everything I-O, Jeff pragmatically added, Frankly, I dont think anyone in practice has the time to keep up with the full range of I-O literature. Im not sure anyone in academia has that luxury, either. Jeff therefore placed special emphasis to the importance of staying apprised of the technical literature in your area of I-O specialization. According to him, this priority should remain at the top even when time is short. Laura highlighted the value of knowing our professions history, too. She feels that this is a key feature of the broadly informed I-O psychologist. All I-O types need to have a complete understanding of the history of I-O, Laura maintained. Knowing our history will help us prepare for the future.

 The Business/Management Literature

Several of our panel members discussed the need to remain aware of contemporary issues in management and commerce.

This is hard to quantify, [said Jeff], but one thing you have to stay on top of when youre in practice is whatever is trendy. For a while it was quality, then it was re-engineering, then it was competitive strategy, now its 6-sigma (thanks to Jack Welch). I know its easy to be a cynical PhD, but theres a grain of truth in almost all of this trendy stuff. So the secret to success is often leveraging whats good about it to help drive lasting change, while avoiding the excesses.

 Policy Debates

Policy debates that implicate our science and practice are also important and worthy of precious time and attention. Licensure is a current example of just such a debate. To some degree, this debates resolution hinges on input from I-O psychologists who are aware and broadly informed. Recent EEOC activity provides yet another example. Mort alluded to this issue, pointing out the consequences of ignorance in this area.

The EEOC has announced that they have undertaken a review of the issues regarding the definition of an applicant [he said]. This is a particularly vexing and difficult concern for employers because that definition has important implications for the record-keeping requirements imposed on them and for the basis on which they must compute the impact of their selection systems. With the advent of Web-based applications, resumes, and recruiting, the definition is not straightforward. There are also significant theoretical and practical implications in terms of the meaning and interpretation of validity evidence and the nature of new techniques and technologies for screening/selection. It seems to me to be important for
I-O psychologists to be both informed about the discussions and involved to the extent possible in the debate and decision-making process so that we can avoid having poor decisions imposed on us and can help our clients to deal with the fall-out from those decisions when they are made.

 Current Events

Finally, a number of our panel members touched on the importance of current events. We do need to be aware of the happenings in our society and economy, said Laura. In particular, it is important to recognize current events that have the potential for marginalizing I-O contributions or enhancing them. Laura provided an example of the latter. Ive heard that when the economy slows down, our profession is negatively affected, she said. I believe that during these times, we need to identify the ways we can contribute (e.g., research and practice with regard to downsizing, etc.).

 Strategies for Staying Current

By this point, youre probably wondering how anyone on earth could manage an early career, stay on top of all of the stuff mentioned previously, and still have a nonwork life to boot. Fortunately, our practically minded panel recognized the challenges associated with their recommendations and offered some of their strategies for remaining broadly informed in each of the areas discussed earlier.

 The Psychology Literature Outside of I-O

Rich acknowledged the difficulty of staying current in multiple areas of psychology. He also suggested that the annual psychology conferences can be useful methods for learning the latest.

Most problematic, I fear, is for I-O types to stay informed about developments in our parent disciplinepsychology [said Rich]. Its easy to tune out. In the old days, when our annual conference was at the APA, I recall finding the program tracks in social, engineering, counseling, and quant very interesting and useful. Even now, I find reason to go to APS to learn what is new in decision sciences, cognitive, and learning psych.

In terms of preparing oneself broadly, reading the Monitor, American Psychologist, and Psychological Bulletin and being familiar with the APA Web site are all important [added Mort]. Specific preparation for the EPPP (licensure exam) is probably best done through one of the test prep services such as Academic Review.

Finally, attendance at university colloquia can be great ways to expand your knowledge of psychology and perhaps enhance your career as well. As Janet pointed out, With a little intellectual work, research talks about the most distant kinds of topics can sometimes bring very interesting new insights to our own work.

 The I-O Psychology Literature

Regarding the technical I-O areas, there is simply no substitute for the scientific journals. Our panel members listed some of their favorites, which included Personnel Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Human Behavior, as well as the American Management Association (AMA) and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) publications. This
doesnt mean you have to read all of these journals from cover to cover. I do not have the luxury of being able to read everything that I would like, Wanda admitted. Since I dont have time to read all journals through and through, as a compromise, I review the table of contents of all journals that I receive to identify those most relevant to my needs and those that are of special interest.

Its also important to attend the SIOP conference, the continuing education workshops (in areas different from ones specialty), and the tutorials that are now offered. Picking through the books in the SIOP book display area can also be informative. And dont forget TIP! TIP is a great source of information, said Wanda, who also mentioned that local I-O interest groups can be very useful avenues for staying on top of current developments in I-O.

In all of this, the new PhD need not become a master of the content [Rich offered reassuringly]. He or she may just need to have an awareness of developments and a way of retrieving details and SMEs when the occasion calls for it (e.g., in bidding on a project, setting up a study, or in looking for strategic partners to deliver I-O practice).

Wanda concurred, noting,

If I need specific information on an I-O topic, then I go to people who have a lot of experience. The new SIOP Consultant Locator System is great for identifying consultants who have expertise and experience in the areas of interest. APAs PsycSCAN (a database containing abstracts and citations from 52 journals covering applied psychology and related areas of interest) is great for identifying published information. In addition, I always contact my I-O colleagues and see if they have any advice on articles, people, and so forth.

 The Business/Management Literature

Business publications can be very informative when attempting to stay current on the latest management trends. As an academician, I assign readings that benefit the students as well as help me stay informed, said Laura. I assign both theoretical and empirical research, as well as trade books being read by business. Its also important to read business periodicals.

Jeff agreed and recommended subscribing to a business publication such as Forbes, Business Week, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, or even Fast Company.

You dont have to read it cover to cover [he said], but spend at least an hour each week reading. Look at the business bestseller list. Every year there are 23 that are management-focused. Read these. Finally, listen to what the managers at work are reading, and do likewise. Dont read cynically or judgmentally. Read curiously. Say to yourself, Theres something worthwhile in this, and Im going to figure out what it is and how to take advantage of it to do great I-O work.

HR professionals outside of the field of psychology can also provide key insights.

They are my best source of information on things outside the field that may affect our discipline [said Wanda]. One of the most important things here is to get over the idea that anything important that happens does so in our field. If you treat these people with respect, you will find that they have a lot of expertise to share. You will also learn from a practitioners point of view what works, what doesnt, and what the current fad is. If there is a real trend sweeping the country, Ill hear about it from these folks. I dont take the time to read about things unless they seem to be catching on.

 Policy Debates

According to several of our panel members, there are a number of publications that new graduates need to become familiar with regarding policy issues, including Labor Law Reports from CCH Incorporated as well as government Web sites. SIOP is very good about getting word out (via TIP and the SIOP Web site) on important policy debates, such as the licensing issue that is currently being addressed.

 Current Events

Finally, the newspaper is your best source for current events. I generally skim over the business pages of two newspapers as well as the main section to see if there is anything major occurring that I should know, said Wanda.

As Mort pointed out, new graduates are almost always more current than they ever will be again. From the perspective of an early career I-O psychologist, theres something simultaneously comforting and disconcerting about this statement. On the upside, we enjoy cutting-edge knowledge across a range of I-O topics. On the other hand, our knowledge base will become progressively dated unless we make a concerted effort to remain broadly informed. As scientists and practitioners, we must strive to keep pace with current events, contemporary literature (in various areas of psychology and business), and important policy debates. Hopefully, the preceding discussion will help you decide where to focus your efforts and how to do so efficiently.

 Conclusion

Well, one of us (were not saying which) found a gray hair, so weve decided it is time to retire. No, were not cashing in our 401Ks just yet, but we are saying farewell to our beloved TIP column. The next issue (July, 2002) will be our last. To mark our departure, we have arranged for an exclusive interview with a very special person who is near and dear to our hearts. (Dont worry, we promise to leave our parents, spouses, and kids out of this.) Until then, feel free to pass along your questions, comments, kudos, and criticismsall of which are welcome and appreciated. We can be reached at Lori Foster Thompson (FosterL@mail.ecu.edu) and Dawn L. Riddle (riddle@luna.cas.usf.edu).

 

Reference

    McGuire, P. A. (1998, July). Wanted: Workers with flexibility for 21st century jobs. APA Monitor, 29 (7), 1012.

 

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