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Tip-Topics

Eyal Grauer
Bowling Green State University

Marcus Butts and Nancy Yanchus
University of Georgia

Spring is here and love is in the air, or so the saying goes. And we agree! We love the fact that the semester is almost over. We love it that were progressing through our graduate school careers. And we love writing for TIP-TOPics! Thats right! This issue concludes our first year as contributors to this column, and weve enjoyed every minute of it (including late night, 3-way, editorial phone calls). So, once again, wed like to thank Debbie Major for choosing us to work together on TIP-TOPics: We truly enjoy the process and fruits of this creative collaboration.

However, as much as we may enjoy writing for TIP-TOPics, it means even more to us if you love reading it! So, once again we worked to develop an issue that would entice your senses, expand your mind, and take you to the very limits of your being!! Well, actually, we wrote a column that, while it may fail to be life-altering, may perhaps provide for a scintillating read on the way to the SIOP conference or on a study break during exams. And, as always, this issue provides pertinent information to you as an I-O student. Scientists and Practitioners provides an insightful and original look at the publication process by viewing it from the angle of both the scientist and the practitioner. Career Corner presents an engaging in-depth look at consulting careers by asking two I-O consultants to share their perspectives on and experiences in the field. Psychology et al. offers a humorous consideration of the meaningfulness of work and how that concept relates to meaningfulness in graduate school.

As always, we hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed writing it. Please send comments, questions, or ideas to: Nancy Yanchus (nyanchus@yahoo.com), Marcus Butts (mmbutts@arches.uga.edu), or Eyal Grauer (eyal@bgnet.bgsu.edu). We look forward to seeing you at SIOP!

Scientists AND Practitioners

Its time to revisit our scientist/practitioner discussion from yet another angle. In this issue, we want to provide you with a look at how the research publication process is viewed by those in academia versus an applied setting. Since we do not qualify as seasoned scientists or practitioners (yet), we decided to survey some individuals who have had quite a few years experience in their respected areas for their views on the publication process. One caveat before we move on though. The information we gathered by no means represents an adequate sampling of the views on publishing research. We are sure there are individuals who have had vastly different experiences than those that will be discussed here. Our intention is to offer some opinions about the process in order to provide some insight and to allow you to draw your own conclusions based on your experiences and prior observations. And finally, we want to thank Lillian Eby, Andy Solomonson, and Cheryl Toth for their contributions to this section.

The Scientists Perspective

As many of you have probably witnessed first hand, I-O psychologists who are in an academic position publish at a frantic pace (especially those working towards tenure). In any given year, a professor may submit anywhere from 610 manuscripts for publication. These submissions are mostly empirical articles, which are sent to journals valued by the department and mainstream journals in the I-O field (e.g., Journal of Applied Psychology). However, some submissions are also made to specialty journals and non-mainstream journals that are regarded highly by the department. The value placed on the various types of journals can often depend on the department you are in, so we wont go into much detail about which ones may be more important than others. What it boils down to is that good solid journals are the targets of most publication submissions. With that said, we would be interested in seeing where TIP ranks on the journal hierarchy, but were pretty sure TIP is in a league of its own! Also worth mentioning is that many academics submit book chapters for publication once every few years.

The time that goes into submitting a manuscript is difficult to estimate. If you were to include the entire process from idea generation and conceptualization to publication, many professors spend hundreds of hours per journal article. The writing process itself can be very cumbersome and may take anywhere from 30 to 60 hours depending on how many revisions are needed.

That brings us to the next labor-intensive component in the process, revising and resubmitting. Im sure you all have heard horror stories about the revision process, but dont let those tales scare you (too much). The likelihood of an article being accepted depends on the journal to which it is submitted. In many instances a submission may be revised four to six times before it is accepted, but those numbers could be lower or higher depending on the journal (and, of course, the quality of the submission). Furthermore, there is always the possibility that your submission could be flat out rejected, and then the process starts all over again.

The Practitioners Perspective

The publication process for practitioners is much more personalized than the process for academics. Many of the responsibilities and rewards for publication are dependent upon the organization and type of position held. In most cases, research publication is less central among the responsibilities of the practitioner; however, publication is still highly valued in an applied setting. Rather, publication efforts are often performed secondarily in regards to other job requirements. Also, many practitioners are expected to stay up-to-date on their specialty area and contribute to the external image of their company; thus, research publication is an avenue to accomplish those goals.

Practitioners generally send manuscripts to more profession-specific journals or trade publications rather than mainstream journals (although these may also be valued by the organization). Also, practitioners tend to submit market-oriented materials and conference papers/presentations. Typically, most of these submissions are shorter pieces that accommodate the time constraints of the practitioners, and they may also be oriented towards attracting new business for the organization.

The number of submissions by those in the applied setting often differs by their position, but in most instances the number of manuscripts sent per year is relatively low (i.e., no more than three). The duration of the publication process is quite short for pieces such as conference submissions and market-oriented materials because there is no revision process. Also, most submissions in the applied arena tend to focus on application of techniques developed by the organization or processes utilized by the organization.

 Bridging the Scientists AND Practitioners Gap

Inevitably, publication behooves both scientists and practitioners. The processes and constraints may be different, but both areas strive to increase the knowledge of their audience in some respect. In general, the publication process is more central to the responsibilities of those in an academic setting, but it may also prove valuable for the credibility of practitioners and the image of their organizations.

One suggestion that was brought to our attention while collecting information on this topic was the need for more collaborative research and publication efforts between academics and practitioners. We arent talking about practitioners just giving academics accesses to data, but rather, joint efforts being made in the entire publication process. Such a scenario would provide mutual benefits such as unification of scientist and practitioner perspectives, greater access to resources (e.g., client data, academic facilities), and distribution of the research workload. As many of you can attest to, those in academia have a multitude of ties to people in applied settings (and vice versa). These relationships are valuable alliances that should be tapped, when feasible, in an effort to engage in research activity that is mutually beneficial for both Scientists AND Practitioners. 

Career Corner

At some point, sooner for some than others, we all must decide which career path to take: academic and/or consultant. Thus far in Career Corner weve provided you with a taste of what two jobs, one in each field, entail. Now, wed like to give you a more detailed view of the consulting field. We asked two consultants to provide us with editorials about their experiences, and what knowledge they thought was important to share with students in
I-O who might want more information about consulting careers. We hope you find these wise words as compelling and useful as we do.

Nita French, Principal, French & Associates

Ive been a practitioner for almost 26 years, first as an individual contributor, then as an internal consultant on the staff of a large corporation, and now as an independent external consultant. Heres the low-down on the different consulting roles as I see it.

Internal consulting provides a birds-eye view of corporate politics in action and the opportunity to live with the results of your work (for better or worse). It gives you a chance to work with people from different functions, develop longstanding relationships, and acquire expertise in a particular industry. Internal consulting jobs tend to be more stable than external ones, although the lower turnover may have more to do with the people in the jobs than the organizations themselves. That said, re-organizations are frequent, so dont get too attached to your department. Total compensation is generally good and consistent, but there is less opportunity here for really big dollars unless you leave consulting for general management. Amount of travel varies from assignment to assignment. The esteem in which you are held depends on how much your boss and upper management like you and your work.

External consulting, especially for large firms, often involves a lot of travel. Politics are present here, too, but here youre frequently involved in both your clients and your own organization, and relationships are critical. The variety of clients and industries youre exposed to is interesting and stimulating. Oddly enough, you may work side-by-side with a consultant with an MBA or even a bachelors degree, though consulting firms vary on the credentials they require. Base salaries are good, but the incentive compensation is even better. Here the coin of the realm is business development: The more your clients like you and the more business you bring in, the more money youll make and the more youll be valued.

The flexibility, autonomy, and variety that consulting offersespecially as an independent practitionerappeals most to me. I can choose what and how much work to do, with whom to collaborate. For example, in litigation consulting, there are opportunities to consult with both plaintiffs and defendants. Once again, I have the luxury of looking at data myself (I love data, but most consultants cant afford to be seen with the stuff). I make a decent living, can set my own schedule around my tap classes, and do very little traveling. Most importantly, Im still having fun.

Alison Mallard, Senior Consultant,
Corporate Insights & Development (CID)

Loyal readers of the Career Corner have already gotten a glimpse of many aspects of consulting: the fast pace, variety of work, pressure to bill hours, and so forth. I wont label these factors good or bad, since one persons trash is another persons treasure. For me, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, and I especially appreciate the flexibility of the environment in which I work. I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects that range from job analysis to training program design to coaching. I consider my flexible schedule (30+ hours a week, limited travel) a great plus also. This brings me to one thing I really like about this profession: Consulting offers many choices, including the type of work you do, the setting in which you do it, and the resulting benefits and sacrifices. There are many options out there.

Although consulting careers come in varied shapes and sizes, many of the characteristics that define successful consultants remain the same. So, to help you decide if consulting is for you, Ive put together a description of a few of the characteristics that you will be expected to demonstrate as a consultant. The list is based on an informal poll of some of my colleagues at CID. This is not an exhaustive list, but it certainly constitutes a solid start:

 Integrity: You definitely encounter blurry lines in consulting. You have to be clear about your standards and consistently stick to them.

Positive Energy: When multiple priorities and deadlines are competing for your attention and energy, it can take a lot of drive, time, and optimism to keep up.

Discipline: Keeping the quality of your work at an outstanding level is critical. Discipline also means remembering your goals and doing the things youd rather not. For some this may be networking and meeting and greeting, for others it may be paying attention to details and staying organized, for still others, it may be knowing when to say when.

Problem-Solving Skills/Expertise: Others look to you to bring insightful questions, ideas, and suggestions to the table. Your job is to help clients think of things they have not yet considered and look at issues from different perspectives.

Sociability/Interpersonal Skills: An ability to sincerely connect with people is imperative. Even if you have brilliant solutions, if others dislike you, you cant help them.

Enterprising: It helps to be resourceful in finding solutions for you and your client. This includes identifying and seizing opportunities that others might overlook.

Focus on the Client: Helping clients, not selling to them, is the priority.

Consistently displaying all of these characteristics is a tall order. If you take a look at the consultants you admire, however, I would guess they come close.

Psychology et al.

In past issues, we have examined psychology and politics, and I-O and cognitive psychology. In this edition, were going to take a different slant on Psychology et al. and examine the life and work of graduate students as they compare to a variety of existing jobs. Were going to pay particular attention to the meaningfulness of work and what it means to others. We will be using examples from movies and books as well as musings from friends and family. Enjoy!

In our experience, as soon as we explain our field as psychology applied to work, people respond by saying, Well, we could really use you around here! (For a host of other potential responses, see Muchinsky, 2002). When talking to the general population about their jobs, I-O vernacular is seldom used. This is understandable, as 99+% of the human race do not spend their lives reading journal articles and contemplating thesis topics. People often discuss their job tasks, their likes and dislikes, and the problems incurred at their workplace. They do not speak of affective commitment or occupational stressthey speak of their job, and what it means to them. For example, a best-selling book marketed towards computer scientists called Peopleware (DeMarco and Lister, 1999) discusses many I-O related conceptsmotivation, compensation, and ergonomics to name a few. Never did they mention I-O psychology, but this book has been described as the Techies Bible by Silicon Valley-ites.

So what is meaningfulness? In simple terms, it is what your job means to you. At a deeper level, it is much more difficult to define. It seems to be an amalgamation of component piecesintrinsic and extrinsic motivation, job satisfaction, commitment, stress and coping, culture and climate, interpersonal relationships with coworkers and superiors, and organizational roles and normsthat influence peoples perceptions of their workplace. While it may not be a construct, understanding meaningfulness of work helps us interact with people from all works of life (BADAM CHING!).

Graduate students and professionals often have different perspectives about why they are in graduate school or their current jobs; however, the similarities between groups are remarkable. For example, sometimes people try to make meaning of their work, and their work seems more worthwhile. If you look at being a waiter as well at least Im getting paid, the job does not seem meaningful whatsoever. Take the waitress from the movie Office Space. She found no meaningfulness working at Chachkes and had the hassles of an annoying boss as well. A contrasting example comes from the book Gig (Bowe, Bowe, & Streeter, 2001), an account of American jobs told by the workers themselves. In the book, Jessica Seaver works at a restaurant, but she does not describe her job as an order-taker but rather she is a server. The difference is that shes allowed to have a personality as a server. Jessica likens her job to being an entertainer, and sees her job as making people feel good. Another example from Gig is the Wal-Mart greeter, Jim. Jim is a retired school principal and simply enjoys interacting with others. Being a greeter does not offer the intellectual challenge of running a school, but it does provide an interpersonal aspect that is meaningful and important. Other examples of meaningfulness and making a difference can be taken from movies such as Good Will Hunting and Dangerous Minds, where the central characters wanted to make a difference in their students lives. A more recent cinematic example is from Ron Howards A Beautiful Mind, where a young John Nashs motivation in college and graduate school was the hope of deriving a mathematical formula that would help the world.

The above examples show that making your work meaningful (if possible) is a legitimate coping mechanism. This is true in graduate school as well. A research or teaching assistantship can be viewed as an opportunity. Sure, there are laborious aspects to assistantships, but through learning how to research well and learning from experts in your field, great meaning can be placed in these activities. Comprehensive exams are an opportunity to study our field in great detail and make links between seemingly unrelated I-O topics. Some view this opportunity as a blessingwhen else in your life will you have the chance to delve deeper into the topic you love?

There are those among us, however, who hold a different view. Some are cynical and make fun of the meaningless and apparent silliness of their jobs. The book Day Job is a fine example of this predicament (Baird, 1998). Mark Thornton describes his awful and mundane job of Customer Service Agent. While the book is indeed hilarious, it is only because we do not have Marks job situation that we can laugh at his anecdotes. In reality, many of us would not be able to handle a job like Marks.

Many workers minimize the influence of their work on their lives. That is, they make the meaningfulness extrinsic. For example, some people view their job as something they have to do to pay the bills or provide for their childrens education. This is a continuance commitment of sorts, although rarely described as such. A few lawyers and a former corporate chemist we interviewed described this situation in detail. In order to maintain their house and current standard of living, they said they had to keep working. Work became a means to an end, and something that had to be endured. In this situation, making work less meaningful kept people going.

In graduate school, some individuals consider earning a doctoral degree in the same wayas a means to an endand this perspective affects their views and choices in grad school. In this case, graduate schools meaningfulness is less for enjoyment and more a hurdle. If someone is interested in being a consultant/professor, getting a PhD may just be a necessary step to his or her dream job. Teaching or research assistantships are something that must be donethe meaningfulness is completely extrinsic.

Of course, some people decide that their current job is not for them. They either switch positions, switch jobs, or switch fields of work. This happens in graduate school all the time. Students who find graduate school too stressful or not what they expected frequently drop out or leave early (e.g., with an MA). Individuals may transfer to different schools or departments and others leave the field of I-O psychology entirely.

Thus far, we have discussed how grad students and workers perceive their jobs. There is also another level that should be examined in some detailthe company level. Companies are aware of the importance of meaningfulness of work. Just look at job listings in the classified sectioneuphemisms like sanitation engineer abound! Some may call it spin, but attributing importance and meaningfulness to tasks and duties is whats really going on!

While frequently it is up to the person to make their work meaningful, some organizations make a special effort to assign meaningfulness to their jobs. The book Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras (1997) has a chapter dedicated to the practices of some of the most successful companies like Nordstrom, Proctor & Gamble, and IBM. One fitting example is how Disney indoctrinates its newumcast members. Thats righta completely different language is learned and used. Employees are cast members, customers are guests, and a work shift is a performance. On-duty and off-duty is known as on stage and backstage. It is this special training that allows everyone to emanate the Disney Magic. Those who dont like the culture leave, but those who stay believe in the importance of their role at Disney.

The company level can be compared to the graduate school level, and the example of Disney is analogous to the grad-school culture. Not all organizations, nor all graduate schools, strive to emphasize meaningfulness, and sometimes the emphasis causes certain prospective employees or students to turn down offers or reject admittance. But again, the importance of understanding how meaningfulness affects the individual and organizations is clearly important.

So what have we learned? Well, being in grad school and waiting tables have a lot in common. Even from the small sample we interviewed, it appears that those assigning meaningfulness to their jobs were much happier and satisfied with their working situations and were less likely to leave. This may not be a huge shock, and parallels portions of the motivation literature, but it is nice to see research applied to real-life situations. For you as a graduate student, trying to find meaningfulness in your graduate school experience is highly recommended. You should try to find meaningfulness and importance in your future job as wellmake us TIP-TOPics editors proud!

References

    Baird, J. (1998). Day job: A workplace reader for the restless age. Boston: Allen & Osbourne.
    Bowe, J. Bowe, M., & Streeter, S. (2001). Gig: Americans talk about their jobs. New York: Three Rivers Press.
    Collins, J. C. & Porras, J. I. (1997). Built to last. New York: Harper Collins.
    DeMarco, T. & Lister, T. (1999). Peopleware: Productive projects and teams. New York: Dorset House.
    Muchinsky, P. M. (2002). The high society: what else could we call ourselves? The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 39(3), 4953.

 

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