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TIP-TOPics  

Eyal Grauer
Bowling Green State University

Marcus Butts and Nancy Yanchus
University of Georgia

Warning: The contents of this article contain secrets to graduate school success never before publicized, as well as addictive reading material that will positively affect your life. Proceed with caution. 

Okay, while our warning may have been a slight exaggeration, we wanted to get your attention to inform you of the recent personnel changes in this column and tell you how those changes came to be. After 2 dedicated years, the University of South Florida duo of Kim Hoffman and Tom King relinquished the TIP-TOPics throne and asked for applications for the position. Well, after that were not sure what truly happened (It probably was related to hanging chads or disenfranchised voters in Florida!), but in the end two equally worthy submissions surfaced. Not wanting to choose between the two, Debbie Major (TIPs new editor) decided to forge forward with a historic cross-program collaboration between students from the University of Georgia and Bowling Green State University. We guess she assumed that three heads were better than two. Whatever the reason, we are extremely delighted about this opportunity to serve as your TIP-TOPics columnists for the next 2 years. But before we dive right in with our abridged life histories, we want to thank everyone at our respective universities and elsewhere who have helped make this column a success. We hope to continue the excellence exemplified by the past columnists and to maintain an assiduous dedication to the topics relevant to YOU as graduate students.

So who are we really? Im Marcus, a native Texan from the thriving metropolis of Winnie (like the pooh), population 3,000. I received my undergraduate degree in conversation, er I mean psychology, with a minor in management from Texas A&M University (No aggie jokes, please). Even though I knew I-O was the field for me, I took a couple of years off in the real world to give myself a break (and to make a little money). But now Ive decided I dont want to be a grown-up anymore, and thus Ive dedicated my life to graduate school (Or is it that graduate school is my life?). So far, I have honestly enjoyed every minute of my graduate school journey, and I look forward to sharing my ideas and experiences with you.

And who are Marcuss partners in crime, you ask? Well, first theres me. Im Nancy, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I received my undergraduate degree from a small liberal arts college in Indiana, which no one on this planet has heard of, called Earlham College. Next, I worked in publishing for 7 years then returned to get my MA at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. Now I find myself at Georgia, and Im very happy to be in the applied program where my experience with the real world and my long-standing interest in psychology are combined. I look forward to providing you with an enlightening and entertaining columnif youre willing to read outside of coursework it should be fun!

And last (but certainly not least) Im Eyal Grauer, the Third Musketeer. I was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and have lived in New Jersey, Oklahoma, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Fort Lauderdale. As an undergraduate, I majored in psychology while attending Pennsylvania State University (Go Lions!). I am currently attending Bowling Green State Universitys doctoral program in I-O psychology (Go Falcons!). I love the combination of research, applied opportunities, and personality that the program possesses. My interests are varied (law, politics, sports, philosophy, and music), but I intend to use them to enhance my perspective of I-O psychology.

Now that you know us a little better, lets move on to the question that is weighing on everyones mind: What are we going to do for you? Thats easy. As you know, all grad students face similar concerns throughout graduate school. It is precisely these issues that will drive this column. Throughout graduate school, I-O students encounter many of the same obstacles: adjusting to a strange new life with high expectations, taking classes, writing a thesis, and for doctoral students, passing comprehensive exams, and maybe even writing a dissertation. Students like us struggle to maintain sanity, friendship, health and fitness, all the while working on research projects, paying the bills, getting funded, and finally searching for internships and jobs. After our formal education ends we want to knowwhat will become of us? Will we become scientists, practitioners, or both? How do we prepare for the real world, whatever that is?

While TIP-TOPics cant provide all the answers to these issues, we will try our best. As TIP-TOPics columnists we will scour the earth for answers to the most important questions pertaining to YOUR graduate student liveswhether they have been asked or not. Our main objective for the next 2 years is to serve you (just think of us as your lowly research assistants). Keeping that in mind, we welcome and encourage any comments, good or bad, you may have regarding TIP-TOPics or any other aspect of your life as a graduate student.

With our introductions and philosophy out of the way, lets get to the meat and potatoes (or for vegetarians, the garden burger and zucchini slices) of the future columns. While it would be ideal to discuss all the imperative topics concerning graduate students, a column of this length would be a mile wide and an inch deep. In lieu of this, we would like to present specific topics under a grand unifyingno, not theory, Einstein! Rather, we would like to present specific topics under a grand unifying scheme. Four distinct topics will serve as the cornerstone of this column, although the depth of one or two sections may reduce the length of the remaining sections. Thus, some sections may be omitted at times, but all will surface from TIP to TIP. So now is the moment you have all been waiting for (drum roll, please)the four TIP-TOPics segments are: Career Corner, Psychology et al., The Path to PhD Glory, and Scientists AND Practitioners. The rest of this issue will be dedicated to providing a brief synopsis, interspersed with some significant commentary, on each of the segments. We hope you enjoy reading this current issue (as well as future issues) as much as we have enjoyed writing it. 

Career Corner

Four to 5 (or 6 to 9) years after you enter graduate school, you will emerge with a degree in I-O psychology. Then what are you supposed to do? No doubt everyone asks this question around the same time they take their initial round of finals at the end of the first semester, quietly repeating to themselves during a highly stressful quantitative statistics exam the phrase, no pain, no gain. Wait. Thats the Why am I here? question. We answer that question with, To get a job that you find challenging and rewarding. So, how do we find the right job once we have a degree? What steps should you be taking along the way to land your dream job? How many different dream jobs are out there?

This segment addresses those questions by featuring short editorials and valuable advice from individuals who have actually been through the job hunt and have found careers that they enjoy. This segment will provide a variety of viewpoints on jobs available to graduates and various strategies to find the ultimate job. For the current issue, we are pleased to present a contrast of job perspectives at seemingly different ends of the I-O continuum (even though they have some similarities), academic versus private consultant. Chuck Lance, University of Georgia Applied Program Chair, will provide his musings about being a professor at a large research university. Following Chucks insightful jaunt through academia (and of course, many golf references), Gail Wise offers her perception of life as a senior consultant in a private firm.

Chuck Lance, Applied Program Chair, The University of Georgia

Publish or perishthats how a career as an academic at a major research university (MRU) is often described. But publish and prosper is what many successful academics might tell you. In fact, teaching, research, and service are the big three dimensions of an academics job and the relative emphasis on these three dimensions changes over the course of a professors career.

TEACHING includes not just classroom instruction, but also individual mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to publishing journal articles, books, and book chapters, doing RESEARCH includes grant and contract acquisition, participation at scientific and professional conferences, and so on and so forth. And SERVICE includes varied activities such as reviewing papers for journals and conferences, departmental and university level committee work, and public service to the community.

At the level of assistant professor the emphasis is on quality teaching, prolific publication and (usually) minimal service expectations. Then comes promotion and tenure and ones golf game improves. Expectations for associate professors are similar, but with higher expectations for research grants, government contracts, service, and especially committee work. You must have a consistently productive career to get promoted to professor, and then the service floodgate opens.

Im happy that I chose an academic career, not for the moneybecause most academics are NOT wealthy, but rather for three reasons: (a) the opportunity to work with really great graduate students, (b) the freedom to attack the problems that I choose instead of those that are assigned to me, and (c) the flexibility in my work schedule. Plus, I can play golf whenever I want!

Gail Wise, Senior Consultant, Right Management Consultants

Im a graduate of the University of Georgias applied psychology program, and Im employed as a senior consultant for Right Management Consultants in Atlanta, Georgia. The job and the organization are solid fits for me, as they permit an interesting opportunityon a daily basisto apply sound science to client needs in a practitioner setting.

As an I-O psychologist at Right, I have the opportunity to practice in a number of lines of business, including talent management (selection, retention, career management and development, and diversity), leadership development (executive/managerial assessment and coaching, teambuilding, and training/mentoring), and organizational performance (strategic planning and alignment, organizational design, performance measurement, change management). Underlying these three practice areas are specialties in competency development, communication, and assessment.

You can see how I-O psychologists with interests all along the I-O continuum can make a contribution with this array of offerings. Im also privileged to work with non-I-O types, including clinical psychologists, MBAs, and experienced practitioners. I have projects in many practice areas, but I spend most of my time on selection and performance measurement interventions. In summary, consulting is the perfect fit for me for the following reasons:

  • I love the diversity of projects and industries. It is instructive to be able to apply sound I-O principles across organizations and to understand more about organizations and business with each one.
  • The pace of change is exciting (and challenging). Consulting requires quick reflexes and excellent execution. I enjoy the challenge of thinking on my feet to address issues and responding quickly to diverse needs.
  • The opportunity to form relationships with clients is extremely rewarding. The most positive feedback one can hope to receive is the honor of being called back for future engagementswhich means you are viewed as a trusted counsel.
  • I also really enjoy the opportunity to partner with other consultants. No single consultant brings the expertise, day-in and day-out, to address every clients needs. I love working with colleagues (including our grad student interns) to analyze, design, and deliver. Since I telecommute from Dallas, this is probably particularly top-of-mind for me; I have to work harder to make sure I stay a part of the loop.

The job certainly has its challenges as well:

  • While the pace of change (as noted previously) is a plus, at times it can be overwhelming. When clients want results, they want them NOWand so, one must be prepared to work long hours to handle crunch projects.
  • The multitasking required is intense; as a senior consultant, one is rarely working on a single project with a single client. It is critical to be able to focus intensely on the client at hand (to be here now for them), while at the same time making sure that balls arent dropped and communication is occurring on the 10 other projects that one is managing.
  • Finally, its important to know your intellectual, experiential, and academic limits. It would be easy, as a consultant with deep relationships with clients, to want to personally handle all of their needs. It is neither ethical nor practical to take such a stanceyouve got to know when to call in your colleagues for help, or when to refer a client onward to others. Sounds like an easy call to make, but its not always a black-and-white issue.

For me, the downsides are far outweighed by the positives, and I wouldnt trade this career choice for anything!

Psychology et al.

Psychology et al. touches upon the existential question not often asked by I-O psychologists: Who are we? It is important to realize the influence of other fields on I-O psychology (and vice versa), and to try to learn from their successes and failures. In future issues (like the next one), Psychology et al. will explore the impact I-O psychology has had (and can have) on various fields (e.g., business, education, and law), and the benefits I-O psychology can reap from other fields of study (e.g., computer science and political science). Subject matter experts both within and outside of I-O psychology will be consulted to give us a deeper insight into such intra-field psyches. But before we leave you, hopefully craving for more Psychology et al. (We have to keep readership levels high somehow!), we will impart an important thought that relates to a more mainstream merger of fieldsthe relationship between psychology and mathematics.

Statistics and mathematics courses may seem less interesting than other classes you take (okaythey OFTEN seem less interesting), but they give you indispensable knowledge that is bound to prove beneficial in the future. Statistics and mathematics are instrumental tenets of the scientific foundation that are needed in all areas of the I-O field. It is necessary to have the appropriate statistical/mathematical knowledge to investigate experimental questions. Also, you may often encounter real-life problems (outside of graduate school!) and end up solving them using your newfound statistical knowledge. The more knowledge you possess, the more situations you can help solve (both practical and academic). Besides, its cool to be able to answer everything with an acronym. Think about ityou can answer almost all of lifes research questions with acronymsANOVA, DIF, MANCOVA, MRA, GLM, HLM, CFA, SEM, IRTand that doesnt even take SAS and SPSS into account! Now if we only knew the acronym to solve the meaning of life.

The Path to PhD Glory

The primary function of this column will be to provide advice on surviving graduate school without developing an ulcer. Well, maybe thats a bit extreme. At the very least, this segment will discuss obstacles in the way of most graduate students and will give suggestions on how to make the graduate school journey a little less difficult and a little more pleasurable. To accomplish this, we will reveal the long sought-after secrets that are privy to very few of us. For example, what steps should be taken to complete your masters thesis in less than 3 years with the fewest mistakes possible? How do you balance graduate school with other interests (yes, youre allowed to have other interests)? Also, what should you know in order to make it from year to year with all or at least most of your hair? You may be wondering where three first-years are going to find the knowledge to answer these questions. Well, as your faithful columnists, we will turn over every rock and interrogate our colleagues to find out their techniques for triumphing in graduate school and relay them back to you.

For this current issue, the path wed like to take you down is the first-year experience. Do you ever find yourself reminiscing about the good ol times experienced in your first year of graduate school? If you could go back, what would you do differently? If you just finished your first year, you probably dont find yourself in this predicament because you cant imagine how much more difficult school will become. And if you are an incoming student, youre probably quite anxious and dont know what to expect. But if youre entering your second or third (or fifth) year, you know that you have caught yourself daydreaming of the days when a single research project was a daunting task, and the notion of passing COMPs (a.k.a. prelims and quals) was an incomprehensible light at the end of the tunnel. Well, we thought it would be beneficial (and funny) to pass along to the younger students some stories and advice in regards to the first-year experience. Thus, the following are brief reflections from the dubious first year and what is beneficial for you to know.

New State, New Apartment, New Classes, and a New Start

The rainstorm you were trapped in on the way to graduate school ruined the furniture in the bed of your truck. Your new apartment has more roaches than windows (which youd swear werent present when you signed the lease), and the train comes by your apartment every morning at exactly 2 a.m. You take a tour of campus and cant even find the psychology building on your map, much less the library. Oh no! You are a freshman all over again! So how do you cope? Thats easy. Give yourself plenty of time to get acclimated to your new environment. Dont move to your new city or town 2 days before classes. If you do, you will find yourself living out of unpacked boxes for your first 2 months of graduate school while trying to balance classes and research. Also, many graduate programs have orientation days or weeks. Make sure to attend those programs; they make the transition much easier. 

The Weekly Planner

We learned a valuable lesson soon into our first semester: Being organized is half the battle of surviving graduate school. Nothing is better than the weekly planner to aid with this monumental task. Some of you have probably been using one of these since you were 2 years old, and it helped you do well in undergraduate school, which got you into your program. But for those of you whose planner-less lives are suddenly becoming more chaotic, take heed of the following advice: A planner will serve you well.

The weekly planner is a simple-looking yet high-powered tool designed for maximum organization capabilities. Sounds like an infomercial, doesnt it? Well, before you run out and buy one, you need to know how to properly use it in order to get the most out of it. One of the best types of organizers to buy is one in which the entire week is laid out on side-by-side pagesthat way you know on Monday exactly what is happening on Friday.

After purchasing the planner you need to organize your week. We recommend that you dont try to schedule your entire weeks activities on the first 2 days of the weekthis is a very stressful and inefficient approach to being organized, and it defeats the whole purpose! Instead, write down on a separate piece of paper what you need to accomplish over the course of the next 2 weeks. Then, parcel out what can reasonably be accomplished per day over that time period and include time you will spend in meetings, hours needed daily for certain projects, and time you would like to take for personal activitiessuch as going to the gym. Some people even go as far as scheduling time for their significant otherwe hope no ones life is that hectic, but if it is then by all means do what you must to keep your life on track! Remember to check up on your weekly plans and adjust as necessarya daily planner is not very helpful if it isnt used for days at a time (trust us)! Hopefully you will find that using the weekly planner will improve your time management ability and make life seem more under control.

Setting Your Own Standards for Performance

When you sit down to study for an exam or to write a paper, how do you know what is expected of you? Sure, you can ask the professor what will be on the test or what elements should be in the paper, but how do you know what qualifies as good performance for each and every professor? Clearly, every professor has his or her own level of expectations. And it is beneficial to repeatedly talk to professors about what is expected of you. However, what is important to realize is that your own standards and initiatives play a critical role. Its impossible to please every professor 100%. However, you can learn to set your own standards and, upon meeting them, take pride in the fact that you have your best. Sometimes you will have worked harder than the professor expected, but youll have learned more in the processwhich will prove beneficial in your career. Other times you may not have worked hard enough, but you should rest assured at night knowing you put forth your best effort. If you place too much emphasis on external evaluations of your performance you may find your self-esteem fluctuating due to others expectations. By using your own internal standards as a guide, the performance evaluation process will probably be easier to cope with. And believe it or not, your standards of performance, more often than not, are the same as your professors. After all, most of us are over-achievers.

Similar to the previous discussion, make sure you dont exclusively base your standards of performance on those of your classmates. Following from the preceding paragraph, when you are preparing for an exam or completing an assignment, go with your own performance standards and turn in what you think is an accurate reflection of your work rather than what is a reflection of the status quo in your class. Professors will appreciate quality (as long as it is quality) in whatever form, even if it is conveyed through a different prospective or accomplished in a different page length than the norm. Furthermore, upon receiving an exam back in class, if you know youve put forth your best effort then its a moot point what grades others in the class receive. You determine your path to success, and the goals that should be most important are your own, not others. Keeping all of this in mind may alleviate and help you deal with some of the stress and pressure that goes along with performance evaluation in graduate school.

Develop Friendships

Friends are important to have, especially outside of your program. If you need to vent to someone, an outsider is one of the best ways to go. Also, maintaining friendships with nongraduate students helps you remember that there is another world out there! Friends within the program are good to have as wellbeing completely isolated from your cohort class is also maladaptive.

Rest and Relaxation

There is no way to TIPtoe around the factgraduate students are under an inordinate amount of stress. Classes, term papers, role conflict, overload, and ambiguity abound, leading to sleep deprivation and other not-so-healthy things. Thus, rest is an important and often neglected area. While it is unlikely that you will be sleeping properly, take some time off and relax once in a while. Friday nights could be very productive, but if you never take any time off, chances are youll burn out! Also, taking at least 1 day off during the weekend can help your body recuperate from the weeks challenges.

Also, watch out for the television factor. Going completely without television might be very painful, but watching as much as you did in high school could be problematic. You may tell yourself that you can do homework in front of the televisionand it may have worked as an undergrad. But as a grad student, you may have to make the ultimate sacrificegiving up cable. Try it and youll be surprised how productive you can be.

Scientists AND Practitioners

Scientists AND Practitioners (We found the title so catchy we borrowed it from Eyals professor at Bowling Green, Steven Rogelberg) will inspect the perennially hot topic of similarities, differences, and integration of scientists, practitioners, and scientist/practitioners. Are academics very different from practitioners, or do we just accentuate tiny differences in a basically homogenous field? Various perspectives will be represented and presented. Although this topic will not be covered in detail in this issue, extensive coverage will be given in just a few monthsstay tuned.

Wow, are we at the end already? Well, dont worry. Well be back for the next issue with plenty more to say. We thank you for embarking on this new adventure with us, and promise TIP-TOPics will be worthy of every moment of your time over the next 2 years. Also, wed love to hear any comments you have for us (we can always use another reason to procrastinate schoolwork). Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you! Marcus (mmbutts@arches.uga.edu), Nancy (nyanchus@yahoo.com) and Eyal (Eyal@bgnet.bgsu.edu).

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