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Early Careers:  Revising the Rules for Marathon Training

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

Lori Foster Thompson
East Carolina University

If you had told us a year ago that achievement in the field of I-O psychology had anything to do with marathons and bulldogs, wed have thought you were, well, one typo short of getting a SAS program to run, so to speak. Nevertheless, this edition of our column addresses the true importance of bulldogs, marathons, and a few other critical early career variables to boot. In keeping with our usual tradition, we began this issues investigation in search of a successful professional who could help academicians and practitioners navigate through the initial days of their new careers. Naturally, our compass pointed to Dr. Michael Campion of Purdue University and Campion Services, Inc., who is The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist featured in this column. After studying Dr. Campions professional feats in sufficient detail, we were left with two simple questions: what kind of a guy lives behind the name that adorns all of those publications and awards, and how did he get so darned successful? Determined to get some answers, we caught up with Dr. Campion and asked him our usual (occasionally unconventional) interview questions. The following pages provide an account of Dr. Michael A. Campion, the professional, followed by a personal glimpse of Mike Campion, all-around adventuresome guy. We then offer some handy Career Gear, which is designed to facilitate the identification and completion of the kinds of projects that will boost your professional impact.

The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Dr. Michael A. Campion: The Professional



PhD, I-O psychology, North Carolina State University, 1982

MA, I-O psychology, University of Akron, 1978

BA, psychology, University of Minnesota, 1975

Professional Work Experience

Dr. Michael Campion is currently professor of management at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Prior to his acceptance of a faculty position at Purdue, he worked for several years at IBM and Weyerhaeuser. Dr. Campion is also founder and president of Campion Services, Inc., which offers consulting services in human resource management, organizational development, and I-O psychology, as well as recruiting services in the fields of I-O psychology and organizational development.

Research and Consulting Fields of Specialization

Dr. Campions research and consulting interests center on three areas: (a) human resource managementselection and staffing, job analysis, equal employment opportunity, performance evaluation, training and development, promotion and turnover, compensation, auditing and benchmarking, records management, and general personnel research; (b) organizational developmentorganizational consulting, diagnosis, attitude surveys, morale management, facilitation and negotiation, and the design of jobs, work teams, and organizational structures; and (c) interdisciplinary researchhuman factors, ergonomics, and industrial engineering.

Publications, Presentations, and Awards

Dr. Campion has published at least 65 articles in refereed journals, and hes given more than 80 presentations on a range of I-O psychology topics. He recently received a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Department of State. The Personnel/Human Resources Division of the Academy of Management has also formally recognized his work. In 1988, he was awarded the Best Paper of the Personnel/Human Resources Division of the Academy of Management, and in 1987 and 1989 his work was cited among the eight best papers! Purdue presented him with the Jay N. Ross Young Faculty Scholar Award in 1987; 5 years earlier he had won SIOPs S. Rains Wallace Dissertation Award.

Memberships and Editorial Activities

Dr. Campion is past president of SIOP, as well as a Fellow of SIOP, APA, and APS. He has served on or chaired a variety of committees for professional associations such as SIOP, the Academy of Management, and APA. In addition, he is the past editor of Personnel Psychology and is currently on the editorial boards of Personnel Psychology and the Journal of Applied Psychology. He has also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Management.

Mike Campion: The Person

After reading about his professional productivity and all those highfalutin awards, whoda believed that Dr. Michael A. Campion, successful academic and consultant, is also a self-proclaimed Steve Irwin wannabe! (You know him, right? Steve Irwinthe Crocodile Hunter on the Discovery Channels Animal Planetthe one described as a cross between Jim Fowler, Indiana Jones, and Tarzan.1) Its true! Understandably, it took us a few days to catch up with Mike for an interview. Though he might have been trekking through the Australian outback in search of extraordinary reptiles or scouring the globe for the eight deadliest snakes on the planet or heading to the Galapagos islands for a look at 400-pound tortoises, when we finally caught Mike, he was traveling along highway 65 en route to Chicago, which presented adventure and intrigue enough for the two of us! Out in the wild and in fear of losing his cell-phone signal, Mike kindly took the time to answer our questions.

1 Special thanks to Ashley Riddle, our resident Animal Planet and Steve Irwin expert, for lending her insights to the column!

What do you do to relieve stress? Exercise every day, Mike promptly responded. Whether Im home or on the road, I work out using whatever is available. If necessary, Ill even use my briefcase or phone books as dumbbells! Mikes been jogging daily since 1977. Not only does this habit afford the opportunity for exercise and stress relief, it also yields great anecdotes to share with nosey TIP columnists! He recounted a handful of stories related to jogging while abroad. A favorite of ours occurred in a rainforest in Surinam. While running one morning, Mike came upon frogs the size of puppieswith eyes as big as the end of my finger.2 This is when we discovered Mike Campions kinship with the Australian crocodile hunter. Mike freely admitted the urge to pick up the colossal creatures and check them out. He went to pick up the frog, andbefore we could learn of the oversized amphibians fate, Mike quickly switched gears (literally and figuratively). Oops, my gas light says I need [to] stop. After giving him time to refuel on high-octane gasoline and a caffeine-laden soft drink, we continued with our next question.

2 We thought we heard him say something along the lines of by crickey, the bugger nearly bit me, but dont quote us on that.

What do you do during your time off? Mike responded that lifes essentials consist of three things: work, rest, and play. On the weekends his play is constrained only by everyones favorite maxim: Unless Im getting paid for it, I dont think, I dont shave, and I dont wear underwear. Okay, were not certain that hordes of people espouse this principle, but were just here to report what we heard! On weekends, he can generally be found at his lake cabin in Indiana, where he spends his time boating, hunting, and fishing. Its been rumored that hell soon be tooling around on his new ATV (all-terrain vehicle). Having been raised in Minnesota, Mike explained, his idea of a good time focuses on spending time outdoors.

Delving further, we soon learned that in the great outdoors, although Mike may be known to whisper, take a look at that, what a beauty!, hes less likely to be referring to some toxic tarantula and more likely referring to an outboard, a jet motor, or perhaps his latest acquisition, a Go-Devil. For the reader uninformed as to the subtleties of motorboat engines, Mike likened a Go-Devil to a lawn mower engine on a stick blendergreat for maneuvering through the muck! In case playing in the mud sounds like an unusual pastime for someone in his late forties, we should tell you that Mike is really just a kid at heart. I may be getting up there in years, but Im immature, he admitted unabashedly. Im 48 with the maturity of an 18-year-old. So, on average I suppose Im in my 30s.

Do you have a routine that you like to follow? Just as Mike plays hard, he works hard, too. His weekly work routine consists of 12-hour days, 5 days a week. He exercises about an hour a day, works 12 hours, and sleeps around 7 hours. Throw in an hour or two for eating and showering, and youve got a pretty full day! Very rarely does he take days off during the week. When he does, he much prefers a long weekend to a weeks vacation. Mike notes that he maintains his schedule not only because hes become captured by success and finds it difficult to let nonbillable hours pass by during the week, but also because it just feels so good, you cant stop!

Describe a dark professional hour in your early career. What did you do to get through it? We rephrased this standard question in terms with which we thought Mike would be more likely to identify: Describe a time when a croc caught you in a death roll, metaphorically speaking of course. He responded with a story he says hes told a million times. His grades werent very competitive for graduate school, and he didnt exactly have people beating down his door in hopes that he would seek training in their I-O programs. He was kicked out of the doctoral program at Akron; told to get his masters and leave. Moping around for 6 months in a downward death spiral, Mike finally finished his masters and got a job. He found what he really needed at Weyerhaeuserdata and someone to believe in him. He started publishing and found he was pretty good at it! This improved his self-esteem not to mention his vitae, and it made him extremely competitive for doctoral programs. He completed his PhD, and 4 years later returned to academics in a faculty position at prestigious Purdue University. As Steve Irwin would say, Wohoooo!

What factor(s) contributed significantly to your success? Mike was really ready for this oneits probably a question hes been answering for years! He passed along a number of lessons learned (which he subtitled dogmatic stuff that makes my sons eyes roll) that have contributed to his success. Above all, you have to have a good sense of humor and a positive attitude. Beyond that, Mike cited four things that hes found useful over the years: (a) a marathon mentality, (b) an increment-a-day approach to task accomplishment, (c) working an extra hour per day, and (d) the willingness to go bulldog (no, not bullfrog, bulldog!) in order to wrap up big projects. In fact, Mike believes that these four things can contribute to anyones successnot just his. He therefore suggested that we elaborate on them in the Career Gear section of the column.

Career Gear

Our interview with Dr. Campion indicated that a marathon mentality can be very useful when striving to become a successful I-O psychologist. Most of us are accustomed to completing the day-to-day tasks that keep us in business (the sprint), but fewer folks focus on long-term goals outside of their daily work requirements. Viewing your daily work as part of a larger career-related goal (the marathon) can keep various work options in perspective, allowing you to complete those big projects that really count.

But, just how does one develop a marathon mentality to endure the pursuit of success? If youre anything like two early-career I-O psychologists we know, youre sweating, panting, and gasping for air after the first 5K of the professional race. The marathon hardly seems feasible, especially when it involves independent, long-term projects such as writing journal articles or grant proposals. Who has time for that on top of teaching, consulting, directing projects, participating on departmental committeesheck, just plain working?

This segment is intended to advance ones progress in the marathon. Dr. Campions insights into his own success set the stage for this issues Career Gear, which concentrates on: (a) identifying the work that really counts; and (b) focusing your energy there, not elsewhere.

Identify the Work That Really Counts

A recent book by Richard Koch (1999) highlights something called the 80/20 rule (or the Pareto Principle), which asserts that a pattern of predictable imbalance appears repeatedly in life. In business, for instance, 80% of revenues are accounted for by 20% of the customers. Similarly, 80% of sales and profits are derived from 20% of the productsget it, the 80/20 rule? So, what does the Italian economist Vilfredo Paretos principle, proposed more than 100 years ago, have to do with you and your career? Well, think of work as offering two kinds of opportunities, those within the job description (i.e., the requisite day-to-day tasks) and those related to broader career goals (i.e., the work that adds to ones professional value). The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of our opportunities involve the requisite job description-type tasks, but this work produces only 20% of our results. Conversely, 20% of our possibilities are related to broader goal-related stuff, and these projects account for the bulk of ones success.

From a career development standpoint, all of this simply means that some areas of your work count more than others. Once you identify the parts that really matter, you can devote appropriate amounts of attention to them. According to Dr. Campion, you should ask yourself a straightforward question every morning: Of all the things I have to do today, what would make the biggest impact in terms of my career? Although the specific response to this question will vary from one I-O psychologist to the next, the high-impact item, Dr. Campion explained, is NOT reading your e-mail. Its the major project, dissertation, or article, which tends to reside in the file labeled Id Have Finished This By Now If I Just Had More Time. In short, devoting all of your energy to routine minutia is shortsighted. Its like running the same sprint from day to day. In many cases, the articles, grants, and bigger projects are the real career boosters. Hence, a marathon mentality is required. One needs to take a broad view, effectively tackling the projects and stretch assignments that will facilitate career advancement in the long run.

Focus Your Energy There

Once youve identified the marathon project that really counts, its time to consciously focus efforts on it. According to the experts, there are lots of different ways to do this without forsaking your personal life. Dr. Campion suggests working one extra hour per dayone hour more than the next guy. Hes convinced that this approach gave him the JND (just-noticeable difference) he needed while working at Weyerhaeuser. Id get out at 6 rather than 5. After a year, that was a whole paper! he said.

An increment-a-day approach to task accomplishment is also recommended. Early on, Dr. Campion observed that people are often good at accomplishing small tasks, but find larger projects extremely difficult because they get hung up on the size of them. He therefore adopted the increment-a-day approach to task accomplishment, which he and classmate Bruce Avolio developed during their graduate school years at Akron. By accomplishing some increment per day, no matter how small, larger projects seem more manageable and get accomplished. Its like goal setting, but not as grandiose as finish dissertation by September 12th. Rather, it simply dictates that every day you have to get some increment (toward your project) done, Dr. Campion explained. He is not kidding about this every day thing. He means every single day, with no exceptions. There is no such thing as a day that you skip. You cant go home at night until you do at least one constructive thing on your projectone paragraph, one table, no matter what at least one thing per day before you go home. If its 6:30 p.m. and you have to stay until 9:30 p.m. to finish your increment, then you quickly learn to tackle your increment earlier in the day.

Indeed, priority setting is essential if you want to complete those big projects. Most people fail to make conscious decisions about the order in which they approach their tasks. Instead, they let daily demand determine their priorities. As questions, calls, memos, or visitors vie for attention, they respond to whatever task someone else hands them (Berryman-Fink & Fink, 1996). While attempting to focus energy on your marathon project, its important to take control of your day. Understand your circadian rhythms and schedule accordingly. Each of us has hours when were at our best and hours when were only fit for the most mundane tasks (Taylor & Martin, 1987). Dr. Campion emphasized this point when we spoke to him, noting that he chooses chunks of time when hes at his best and uses those times to work on the things that can impact his career. Thus, it is important to consciously schedule your day so that your best hours are saved for the marathon work. Use the other times (e.g., commute times or just periods when you tend to feel mentally sluggish) to complete the less important tasks.3

3 Hey, wait a second! Wasnt Dr. Campion talking to us during his commute? In all seriousness, we were pretty excited that he put us on his calendar at all. Hes running quite a few marathons these days!

Finally, you must be willing to do what it takes to wrap up those big projects. Dr. Campion notes that knowing when to go bulldog offers a leg up in terms of success. Specifically, he recommends that you seek to identify those projects that are closest to the door (90% finished but were just creeping along). To get that final 10% done, go bulldog. In other words, dont let go for anything! Devote all of your effort to that project, Dr. Campion advised. Forsake all other things until its completed. Of course, its equally important to reserve your bulldog for the important projects. Dont squander your energy on insignificant tasks and obligations, lest your bulldog grow weary. No one can go at a bulldogs pace all the time, and the pooch must be up to snuff when you beckon.

Not Elsewhere

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Even when you attempt to reserve premium chunks of time for high-impact work, there are a surprising number of things that can stand in between you and the completion of your marathon project. Telephone interruptions, drop-in visitors, ineffective delegation, the inability to say no, meetings, and poor communication are just a few example items (Mackenzie, 1997). So, how do you prevent low-impact tasks and assignments from sucking up all of your energy and attention? Go to the time management section of any bookstore, and youll find enough recommendations to make your head swim. From a practical standpoint, it may be better to identify and incorporate one or two time management strategies, rather than revamping your whole lifestyle during the course of a single week. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started. The first few involve preventing interruptions when youre working on your marathon projects, and the final tip addresses the manner in which meetings are scheduled.

First, consider the way most people receive telephone callsintermittently and at the callers convenience. Telephone interruptions can shatter concentration and thwart progress on your project (Mackenzie, 1997). To prevent this problem from occurring, let the voicemail receive your calls. Then, set aside a time each day when you can return a batch of calls at your convenience. Furthermore, think about how much time most of us spend on e-mail these days. If you leave your e-mail account open all day long, its quite tempting to respond to (or at least peruse) each new message as it arrives. The phone technique described above can be adapted to e-mail Keep that e-mail account closed and set aside a designated e-mail time during which you can read and respond to your electronic messages.

Other priority-time-protecting techniques can be accomplished with a notepad and a writing utensil. Before succumbing to the interruptions that darken your door, be sure to jot down a note to remind you of your thoughts or indicate where you were. This will minimize the time to get back into your project. You can also reduce interruptions by keeping a Key Person Page. As it has been said, when you think it, ink it! That is, write down issues, comments, and questions to be addressed with key coworkers, and cover them all at once rather than repeatedly interrupting your work and your associates work during the course of the day.

Finally, you may want to try deliberately bunching your meetings and appointments together. This way, earlier meetings will have to yield to later ones. Such a tactic prevents meetings from expanding unnecessarily (Taylor & Martin, 1987).

Summary and Conclusion

In sum, many early-career professionals spend too much time worrying about short-term tasks; consequently, we dont spend enough time on expansive projects, which tend to pay off the most from a career development standpoint. The completion of big important projects doesnt require an extra 20 hours at the office per week, as long as we explicitly recognize the relative importance of our many possibilities and consciously focus our energy on the stuff that counts.

As always, your questions, comments, criticisms, and kudos are welcome at EC headquarters, where were busily trying to continue the marathon despite the occasional stumble. Be sure to stay tuned for the next issue of Early Careers. Featuring Dr. Rich Klimoski from George Mason University, it just might provide the fuel you need to stay in the race!


   Berryman-Fink, C., & Fink, C. B. (1996). The managers desk reference (2nd ed.). New York: AMACOM.
   Koch, R. (1999). The 80/20 principle: The secret of achieving more with less. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc.
   Mackenzie, R. A. (1997). The time trap (3rd ed.). New York: AMACOM.
   Taylor, S. E., & Martin, J. (1987). The present-minded professor: Controlling ones career. In M. P. Zanna & J. M. Darley (Eds.), The compleat academic (pp. 2360). New York: Random House.


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