Applying Psychology: To Workplace, to Life

Applying Psychology: To Workplace, to Life

After reading and studying this chapter, students should be able to:

• comprehend the importance of networking in psychology and being active in the field, including attending conferences and reading widely published works about human behavior.

• appreciate the high value of undergraduate research and know that many benefits can accrue from involvement in research, including the establishment of a mentoring relationship with a faculty member.

• recognize the importance of national-level organizations to help organize and coalesce the broad field of psychology into meaningful and value-added organizations such as APA, APS, and Psi Chi.

• describe basic graduate school admission strategies and know the next steps to be taken if a student wanted to pursue this post-baccalaureate opportunity.

• describe the basic transitions processes from college to career and recognize the potential pitfalls and behaviors that can get a new college hire demoted or fired, as well as know the behaviors that can lead to hiring and promotion in the workplace.

• reflect on their psychology major as well as aspirational goals, whether related to a career or graduate school, and understand some of the next steps to be taken after self-reflection and career planning.

• describe what it means to think like a psychologist, and to comprehend the basic, fundamental beliefs of scientists trained in psychology and their accompanying views of the world.

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Introduction

As an undergraduate, it’s easy to think of psychology as this very static discipline, and if you want more information about some type of behavior, you conduct a search and the information comes to you. As you fulfill the curriculum of your undergraduate program, your professors and your online courses bring you information, and your textbooks provide a wealth of knowledge about the subject matter. The Voices from the Workplace feature box describes a passive approach to learning and under- standing human behavior. Here I would encourage you to take a more active learning approach—that is, if you want to get a sense of what psychology is all about, you have to go and do psychology. We belong to an active and engaging discipline that is passionate about all aspects of human behavior, and although we do share knowledge in various forms of writing (journal articles, books, websites), interacting with peers and profession- als in a conference setting can provide the energy and “juice” about the research enter- prise. So I suggest that you go and do psychology: Work to become an active contributor to our understanding of human behavior as well as a consumer of psychological knowledge.

Voices from the Workplace

Your name: Steve S.

Your age: 37

Your gender: Male

Your primary job title: President & CEO

Your current employer: Solera Networks

How long have you been employed in your present position?

10 months

What year did you graduate with your bachelor’s degree in psychology?

1992

Describe your major job duties and responsibilities.

Responsible for the day-to-day operations and strategic positioning for a high-tech startup.

What elements of your undergraduate training in psychology do you use in your work?

1. Interpersonal relationship skills. 2. Pattern recognition. 3. Positive and negative reinforcement techniques.

What do you like most about your job?

Each day presents a new and unique set of challenges. I enjoy rallying a team of smart people around a goal and driving the company to achieve that goal.

What do you like least about your job?

“Administrivia”—I really dislike the tactical administration aspects; things that most of us take for granted in larger corporations.

Beyond your bachelor’s degree, what additional education and/or specialized training have you received?

Two years of graduate school in psychology. (continued)

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8.1 Doing Psychology

Good scientists communicate openly and make knowledge public. It does science and psychology no good to conduct wonderful, empirical, data-driven studies just to have the results end up in a folder in a filing cabinet or stored as a file on a hard drive. Good science shares the details of scientific discovery publicly. So, to “go do psychology” means to share your results and your research findings with a larger audience. That audience could be an on-campus undergraduate research and scholarship

What is the compensation package for an entry-level position in your occupation?

In a CEO position for a startup, one should expect a lower minimum salary and more equity. Base sala- ries are quite varied but something starting in the 150K range seems reasonable.

What benefits (e.g., health insurance, pension, etc.) are typically available for someone in your profession?

Health, Dental, and Life are typical. In a startup, one should not expect a 401k; rather company equity is more common.

What are the key skills necessary for you to succeed in your career?

1. Work ethic—being willing to put in the hours to insure success. 2. Attention to detail. 3. Good pat- tern recognition and interpersonal skills.

Thinking back to your undergraduate career, what courses would you recommend that you believe are key to success in your type of career?

Intro to Learning, Statistics, Social Psych.

Thinking back to your undergraduate career, can you think of outside of class activities (e.g., research assistantships, internships, Psi Chi, etc.) that were key to success in your type of career?

Working in Hal Miller’s lab was a great experience. Acting as a manager of the operation gave me great experience in handling budgets, people, and projects. Looking back, this may have provided the single most salient experience that could be directly applied to my current position.

As an undergraduate, do you wish you had done anything differently? If so, what?

I would have changed my minor to be more practical (from Analytic Philosophy to Economics). I may have focused more on applied psychology versus basic research.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about entering the field you are in?

Be prepared to work hard, face seemingly insurmountable obstacles with zeal, and otherwise be pre- sented with daunting challenges. The payoff is satisfaction in growing something from nothing, and mak- ing a “mark” in your representative industry. Ultimately, if one is successful, financial reward will follow.

If you were choosing a career and occupation all over again, what (if anything) would you do differently?

I may have gone on to law school instead of graduate school, but I ultimately enjoy what I am doing now very much.

Copyright © 2009 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission. The official citation that should be used in referencing this material is R. Eric Landrum, Finding Jobs With a Psychol- ogy Bachelor’s Degree: Expert Advice for Launching Your Career, American Psychological Association, 2009. The use of this information does not imply endorsement by the publisher. No further reproduction or distribution is permitted without written permission from the American Psychological Association.

Voices from the Workplace (continued)

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conference; a local conference hosted by your Psi Chi chapter or department of psychol- ogy; a statewide, regional, or national meeting of psychologists that includes student work; or perhaps a publication in a student journal. Yes, there are conference opportu- nities and journal publishing opportunities especially designed for students—these are opportunities for professionalization into the discipline, so that you can see what it is like to be a psychologist and to make contributions like psychologists do.

Professionalization in Psychology: Research, Conferences, Publications

Empirical research is at the heart of psychology, which is why your applied project course is so important. Perhaps all you want to do with your psychology major is to “help peo- ple,” and you may not immediately understand why all this science and research stuff is so important. Think about it: We are an evidence-based discipline, so if you were a therapist or psychosocial rehabilitation worker, wouldn’t you want to know that what you were doing

was helping? That is, counselors and clinicians may not always be active researchers, but they will always be consumers of research. You may not want to continue to do research after receiving your bachelor’s degree in psychology, but you will need to be able to read, understand, and interpret research—and that is one reason why there is so much empha- sis on research methods in psy- chology. The entire research process—from idea conceptu- alization to literature review to research design to pilot testing to data collection and analysis to statistical reporting and report writing—these are all key skills and abilities that bode well for your future, whether you are

going to graduate school or not. So even if your future goal is to help people (which is a very noble goal), you’d want to help with the best and most efficient means possible. And to know that, you’ll need to be able to comprehend published research studies. This emphasis on research in psychology sometimes leads students to think about the teaching versus research dichotomy and ask, “Which is more important?” The answer I would give would be that both are necessary, and neither is more important. Without research, there would be very little for teachers to teach, and without teachers, no one would ever learn how to conduct research.

The research-based experiences you have had in your psychology classes up to and including now should be preparing you for continued research experience, such as serv- ing as a research assistant for a faculty member, completing an internship or independent study, or perhaps conducting a senior thesis project. No matter what your future goals

While counselors and clinicians may not conduct research once they enter their field, they often apply information drawn from ongoing studies throughout their career.

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after obtaining your bachelor’s degree in psychology, try to find opportunities during your undergraduate career to become actively engaged in a program of research with a faculty member. Not only is this a great way to see the practical application of what you have learned, but it also gives you an opportunity to perhaps build a mentoring relation- ship with a faculty member, who can be very helpful as a future job reference or letter of recommendation writer for graduate school.

In addition to becoming more involved in research endeavors before you graduate, you should know that there are multiple outlets specifically designed for undergraduate work. For instance, there are dedicated journals specifically designed to publish your psycho- logical research. Table 8.1 provides a listing of five journals that are specifically designed to publish undergraduate psychology research studies.

Table 8.1: Journals that publish undergraduate psychology research studies, with URLs

Journal of Psychological Inquiry http://jpi.morningside.edu/

Journal of Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences http://view.fdu.edu/default.aspx?id=784

Modern Psychological Studies http://www.utc.edu/Academic/Psychology/MPS _Submissions.php

Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research http://www.psichi.org/pubs/journal/

You should know in advance that publishing psychological research is a lot of work. In fact, a more typical route for research (any research, not just undergraduate student research) might be to present that research at a conference first and then follow up with a publication. There are many good opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved in conference experiences, with the details to follow.

Local, Regional, and National Opportunities

Good science communicates through a number of venues, and writing is incredibly important in science. But psychologists communicate in other venues as well, such as local, regional, national, and international conferences where psychologists (and psychol- ogy students) make oral presentations to an audience, as well as present posters. The Internet has quickly become an important venue for sharing information about psychol- ogy, whether it is through instructor course sites, wikis, blogs, podcasts, or otherwise. As an undergraduate student, you may have the opportunity to attend a conference on your campus, or perhaps even a regional conference.

Your campus may have its own multi-department annual conference. Sometimes a department of psychology will host a student research day, where only psychology stu- dents participate in the events, and there is typically a speaker who provides an invited address. You should ask some of your psychology faculty members if these opportunities are available to you locally. If not, think about starting such an effort. For example, if you are located in a region where other colleges and universities are nearby, you might think about organizing a Psychology Research Day where multiple institutions gather on one

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campus to provide the types of conference opportunities discussed in this chapter. And why not host such an event online to spotlight the research efforts of classrooms from around the country (and perhaps the world)?

Fortunately, there are a number of regional opportunities for undergraduate students to continue their involvement in the research process. In the United States, seven regional psychology associations hold annual conventions, and all include opportunities for under- graduate participation and other programming directed toward undergraduate students (portions are sometimes sponsored by Psi Chi—more on this in a bit). For more informa- tion about the regional associations, including when the next conferences are being held, submission criteria, and the like, see Table 8.2. These are all in-person conferences where travel is required, but the networking opportunities can be priceless.

Table 8.2: Regional psychological associations, with URLs

New England Psychological Association (NEPA) http://nepa.cloverpad.org/

Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) http://www.easternpsychological.org

Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA) http://www.midwesternpsych.org

Rocky Mountain Psychological Association (RMPA) http://www.rockymountainpsych.org

Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) http://www.sepaonline.com

Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) http://www.swpsych.org

Western Psychological Association (WPA) http://www.westernpsych.org

In addition to the regional conferences, there are also opportunities for undergraduates to present their research at the national level via many outlets. For instance, students give presentations at the Association for Psychological Science (http://www.psycho- logicalscience.org) annual meeting and the American Psychological Association (http:// www.apa.org) annual convention, and these APA presentations are often affiliated with the Psi Chi (http://www.psichi.org) program at the APA national convention. In addi- tion to these psychology-specific national opportunities, there are also more opportuni- ties for undergraduates to present research, but in multidisciplinary settings such as the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) annual meeting (http://www.cur.org) and the McNair Scholars Program (http://mcnairscholars.com/). Although the McNair Schol- ars Program hosts a national conference, the availability of this opportunity varies by campus—a search of your own campus website should help you determine if your school has a McNair Scholars Program.

So what are these conferences like, especially the regional and national conferences? That is truly difficult to describe—in some respects, you just need to go and have the experience. Sil- via, Delaney, and Marcovitch (2009) associate these academic conferences with binge think- ing—typically a 2- to 3-day experience where academics work hard to present the results of their research, and sometimes play hard too. Conferences provide a central gathering point so that the fast-moving world of researchers can catch up with one another, as well as provide valuable networking opportunities (Silvia et al., 2009). Regional and national conferences

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also give you the chance to meet with graduate students from various schools and to interact with other undergraduates from other institutions, which can be highly rewarding as well.

What would you do at these types of conferences? During the day, you’d typically listen to talks, visit poster sessions, attend workshops, check out exhibi- tors and perhaps browse or buy books, and network (Silvia et al., 2009). Thorpe and Ward (2007), in making recommendations on how to get the most out of the conference experience, sug- gested pacing yourself, wearing comfortable shoes, taking off your shy cap, and taking advantage of events specifically designed for students (at these conferences you may see Psi Chi events on the program, often centered on undergraduate students—take advantage of these opportunities if you can).

Let’s say you are convinced to submit your work to a conference—now what? After you’ve found the conference you want to attend, seek out the information about submitting. Con- ferences have strict deadlines about submitting and very strict instructions about how to submit. In fact, in some of my own work with a former undergraduate student (Haines & Landrum, 2008), we asked faculty members who often review conference submissions what would be the top reasons to reject a student’s submission to a conference—in other words, what are the mistakes to avoid? About 96% of faculty indicated that poor writing quality was a reason to reject a student’s submission for conference presentation, and about 92% agreed that a late submission was a reason for rejection. Try to locate a faculty member to help ensure that your writing quality is high (by the way, some conferences will require a faculty sponsor anyway, so including a faculty member as a helper or men- tor is a good idea), and make sure you submit on time.

If you are successful in getting your conference submission accepted, congratulations; but the work is not done. If you plan on presenting a poster, there are many good resources to help you with that process, including Landrum (2008), Silvia et al. (2009), Stambor (2008), and Sue and Ritter (2007). If you will be giving a conference talk, you can find some valuable tips on preparation in Landrum and Davis (2010) and Silvia et al. (2009). If you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend a conference, and even more fortunate to be able to present your research, seize the opportunity and make the most of it—this is a great chance to enhance your skills and advance your professionalization into psychology.

At a conference, you would either present your research as an oral paper (where you give a 12–15 minute talk about your research) or as a poster session (where you stand next to

Conferences provide undergraduates the opportunity to network with graduate students and professionals from other institutions, as well as hear about the most recent research in their field.

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a display that describes your research for 1–2 hours). When giving an oral paper, you are talking to an audience about the outcomes of your research. Given such a short time frame, you have to stick to the highlights, and if possible, leave 2–3 minutes at the end of your talk to answer questions or receive comments. At student presentations, audi- ence members are generally very supportive of student presenters—no one will be out to stump you, but you may be asked specific questions about your research. If you’re asked a question and don’t know the answer, be sure to say you don’t know the answer. If appro- priate, feel free to speculate about what you think, but make sure that the audience knows that you are speculating and that your opinions are just that—opinions.

So how would you proceed in telling the story of your research? Luckily, the story you told in your research paper (Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion) already provides you with the structure for your talk. If possible, try not to read notes to the audience mem- bers but rather talk and interact with them. Be sure to end your part of the talk with a take- home message—if the audience is to remember only one idea from your entire research talk, be sure to emphasize that idea at the very conclusion of your presentation.

If the thought of a making an oral presentation at a conference is not pleasant, there is another alternative. Poster sessions are much less stressful for most students and fac- ulty members. At a poster session you create a large-scale poster presentation of your research, and the poster is placed in a large room with other poster presenters. You stand next to your poster for 1–2 hours while conference attendees stroll past. During a poster session you’ll have many individual conversations but won’t be making a formal pre- sentation to an audience. The nice aspect of a poster presentation is that usually you get to talk to the researcher directly—in this case you are the author. Some people will walk right by; some will look at the title and keep walking; some will stop, read the poster, and not say a thing; and some will engage in conversation. Everyone has their own poster session style, so don’t be hurt if not many stop and talk. Also, for your poster session (and for your oral presentation), it is a great idea to have a handout that summarizes your research.

There are all sorts of aids and guides available that can advise you on how best to prepare your poster, including instructions in Beins and Beins (2008) and Landrum (2008). Per- sonally, I like to use Publisher to create single-sheet (large) posters, but many researchers who create the single-sheet posters use PowerPoint, and Beins and Beins (2008) provided excellent step-by-step instructions for this process. You may also want to consult Nicol and Pexman (2010) for additional advice about how to display your findings.

8.2 The Benefits of Undergraduate Research

Psychology educators emphasize the skills gained from research courses because this empirical approach resides at the core of our discipline. There are clear ben-efits to undergraduate research participation, and not just for psychology majors. Broad research efforts have demonstrated these benefits nicely, and other work focuses more specifically on the benefits for psychology majors. The more undergraduate research experience you can garner, the better. These opportunities allow you to apply classroom knowledge as well as hone skills and abilities that are highly valued in the

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workplace. Plus, there is the added benefit of a mentoring relationship with a faculty member, which often results in good references and/or let- ters of recommendation.

There are many good reasons for all of this empha- sis on research. First, it’s what psychologists do, and even if you do not go to graduate school, you will always be a consumer of research. So learning about how to be a savvy consumer of research is a valuable skill to possess. If faculty members are not providing research opportunities at your insti- tution, ask them to consider it (not all psychology faculty members are required to do research, but most work to maintain a scholarly knowledge of their subject area). You might even offer to share with the faculty member these helpful resources— Wayment & Dickson, 2008; Whiteside, Pantelone, Hunter-Reel, Eland, Kleiber, & Larimer, 2007—to help them frame the experience for you.

Why would you want to go to the effort of orga- nizing and participating in an experience such as serving as a research assistant? In a study of stu- dents from multiple disciplines, Seymour, Hunter, Laursen, and Deantoni (2004) found that students self-reported gains in multiple areas, such as:

• increase in confidence in ability to do research, increase in feeling like a scientist, increase in confidence in presenting/defending research, and establishing a men- toring/collegial relationship with faculty.

• increase in critical thinking and problem-solving skills related to research, and increase in knowledge and understanding of science and research work.

• increase in communication skills and increase in lab/field skills, measurement, work organization, and computer skills.

• increase in longer-term interests in research and increase in commitment to aca- demic work.

• increase in perception of undergraduate research because of its ability to provide real-world work experience; increase in opportunity to network with faculty, peers, and other scientists; enhancement of resume for graduate school applica- tion process.

• increase in willingness to take on responsibility for a research project and increase in intrinsic motivation toward learning and attention to detail.

Faculty members in psychology echo these benefits when asked about the benefits of par- ticipating in a research assistantship. Landrum and Nelsen (2002) reported faculty percep- tions about important aspects of research assistant experiences, and the faculty reported two major gains for students: technical skills are enhanced and interpersonal benefits are obtained. For example, the faculty reported that students acquired the technical skills to

Undergraduate research can be beneficial for all students, not just psychology majors. What are some skills gained during your psychology education that you can apply outside of the classroom?

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analyze data, prepare conference presentations, practice at manuscript preparation, and so on. The interpersonal benefits the faculty reported that students can reap from undergrad- uate research include networking with other students, making connections with faculty members, improving teamwork skills, and the opportunity to apply ethical principles to actual research situations. Not only can the undergraduate research opportunity be valu- able for those planning on applying to graduate school, but Sleigh and Ritzer (2007) made the case that research experience is also important preparation for the job market. In fact, participating in an undergraduate research experience might be more important for those students not going on to graduate school. It is a great opportunity to acquire skills that are beneficial to employers—in graduate school, graduate faculty members will ensure that research skills are attained and practiced, but research skills may not always be the first priority of future employers. What might you be asked to do if you serve as an undergrad- uate research assistant? Although described elsewhere (Landrum, 2008), Silvia et al. (2009) provide a good overview of the types of tasks. As you can see, there are many resources available to you to help you navigate the ins and outs of your undergraduate career.

8.3 Key Organizations

In the United States, there are three key national organizations that are perhaps most relevant to undergraduate psychology majors: The American Psychological Associa-tion (APA), the Association for Psychologi- cal Science (APS), and Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. APA is the oldest of the three organizations, founded in 1892. Its first president was G. Stanley Hall, a person known in psychology for his series of “firsts” (includ- ing the first Ph.D. in psychology ever earned in the United States.). APA is the largest association of psychologists in the world, with over 150,000 members (APA, 2008). The mission of the Ameri- can Psychological Association is to “advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives” (APA, 2008, para. 2). As an undergraduate student, you can become a stu- dent affiliate of APA, and if you are serious about psychology, I recommend it (and so do Silvia et al., 2009). As a student affiliate, you receive the American Psychologist, which is the APA flagship journal, and the APA Monitor on Psychology, which is a monthly magazine. You also have access to a website dedicated to student information (but you don’t need to be a student affiliate to access that information). Student affiliates also receive discounts on APA books, videos, other journal subscriptions, and online database products.

G. Stanley Hall founded the American Psychological Association in 1892. Today, it is the oldest of the key psychological associations and has more than 150,000 members.

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The other national organization for psychologists in the United States is the Association for Psychological Science, which was founded in 1988 as the American Psychological Society. The history of APS is interesting, because it was founded by many members who were previously members of APA. Today, APS has over 18,500 members world- wide, and they specialize in scientific, applied, and teaching aspects of psychology (APS, n.d.). APS has an undergraduate student affiliate program called the APS Student Caucus (APSSC), although it is primarily geared toward graduate students in psychol- ogy. APSSC also offers a twice-yearly publication called the Undergraduate Update. Simi- lar to APA, APS hosts an annual convention each year that undergraduate students can attend and participate in. I recommend that undergraduate psychology majors get in contact with their local faculty members to explore how involved they are in either of these organizations, and if you see an opportunity to attend a convention, or you real- ize the benefits of student affiliate membership, consider joining. Psychology, like every other discipline, is still an entity that relies on networking, and these organizations pro- vide excellent opportunities to network and become more connected in the (sometimes) small world of psychology.

There is one international organization in psychology that is specifically focused on undergraduates studying psychology—Psi Chi. As an honor society, not every psychol- ogy major or minor is eligible to join. The membership requirements include having a GPA in the top 35% of your respective class (sophomores, juniors, or seniors), a minimum of 9 psychology credits completed at the time of application, sophomore standing, and having selected a psychology major or minor. There is a one-time application fee to the Psi Chi Central Office of $45 (at the time of this writing; a local chapter may add to the Central Office fee), and once you are a member, you are a member for life. The benefits of Psi Chi include documentation of your achievement (membership certificate, card, and pin), the opportunity to build your résumé as an undergraduate, and further opportuni- ties for professional growth (such as serving in a leadership capacity) (Psi Chi, 2009).

But the benefits of Psi Chi are perhaps much deeper than those concrete benefits men- tioned above. Psi Chi can provide a sense of community among psychology majors, and this is sometimes hard to achieve at larger educational institutions. Not only can Psi Chi provide wonderful support for activities at a local level, but it is extremely active on a regional and national basis. For example, at each of the regional psychology association meetings mentioned in Table 8.2, Psi Chi organizes an extensive slate of programming just for students (regardless of Psi Chi membership). Each of those regions has a Psi Chi regional vice president who provides this programming and these opportunities for stu- dents at regional conventions and national conventions too, such as the APA convention typically held each August. Oftentimes the programming provided specifically focuses on leadership development, which is so valuable to undergraduate students regardless of their intended career path after graduation. If you explore the membership benefits of Psi Chi a bit further, you will discover that Psi Chi is generous at giving back to its members and faculty advisors. For the 2009 calendar year, Psi Chi allocated over $300,000 in awards and grants to student members, faculty members, and chapters (Psi Chi, 2009). If you join Psi Chi, plan on getting involved and being active. Yes, some people join for a line on the resume, but Psi Chi has the potential to be much more—like most opportunities in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

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CHAPTER 8Section 8.4 Pursuing Graduate Work in Psychology

8.4 Pursuing Graduate Work in Psychology

G iven the scope of this textbook, we can only go into a cursory overview of graduate school options in psychology and strategies for applying to graduate school. There are many good resources available, including: American Psychological Association. (2007). Getting in: A step-by-step plan for gain- ing admission to graduate school in psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychological Association. (2010). Graduate study in psychology. Wash- ington, DC: Author.

Karcen, A. C., & Wallace, I. J. (Eds.). (2008). Applying to graduate school in psychol- ogy: Advice from successful students and prominent psychologists. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Keith-Spiegel, P., & Wiederman, M. W. (2000). The complete guide to graduate school admission: Psychology, counseling, and related professions (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Wegenek, A. R., & Buskist, W. (2010). The insider’s guide to the psychology major: Everything you need to know about the degree and profession. Washington, DC: Amer- ican Psychological Association.

Sayette, M. A., Mayne, T. J., & Norcross, J. C. (2010). Insider’s guide to graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology (2010/2011 edition). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Walfish, S., & Hess, A. K. (Eds.). (2001). Succeeding in graduate school: The career guide for psychology students. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Depending on the specialty area in psychology you want to pursue, and the type of degree you wish to earn, graduate school can be extremely competitive or not so much. Nor- cross, Kohout, and Wicherski (2006) reported that approximately 27% of undergraduate psychology majors continue their education within two years of receiving their bach- elor’s degree. Roughly speaking, more than 40,000 full-time students are enrolled in psychology gradu- ate programs. Table 8.3 provides a glimpse at the different specialty fields, with number of programs, average percentage of applicants accepted, and number of students enrolled in doctoral program and master’s degree programs (from Norcross et al., 2006).

Within two years of receiving their bachelor’s degrees in psychology, 27% of graduates choose to continue on with their education. What are your plans after you receive your degree?

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Table 8.3: Graduate school admissions in departments of psychology by subfields

Doctoral Programs Master’s Degree Programs

Subfield Number of programs

Average percentage accepted

Total students enrolled

Number of programs

Average percentage accepted

Total students enrolled

Clinical 211 21.2 3,324 98 52.7 1,671

Clinical Neuropsychology

20 25.8 213

Community 12 31.0 43 22 53.8 416

Counseling 34 21.5 447 108 65.5 2,764

Health 12 30.9 87 3 70.3 23

School 52 37.4 392 49 48.9 682

Other health services provider subfields

48 25.7 477 64 64.5 1,395

Cognitive 88 32.4 353 10 52.8 25

Developmental 99 27.2 374 19 47.9 166

Educational 31 50.0 170 15 57.3 149

Environmental 2 39.1 10

Experimental 31 37.6 163 38 55.4 261

Industrial/ organizational

53 25.7 281 76 56.6 849

General 59 58.0 972

Neuroscience 49 26.9 148 6 32.3 50

Personality 15 19.2 45

Physiological 4 39.4 12

Psychobiology 13 25.0 34

Quantitative 14 42.6 32 5 72.7 18

Social 80 19.4 270 8 47.6 29

Other research subfields

76 33.2 339 41 60.7 443

Other fields 8 22.9 36 2 33.3 12

Total 981 27.4 7,247 624 57.4 9,925

Source: Norcross et al., 2006

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The data in Table 8.3 provide some indication about the relative popularity of programs (number of students enrolled), as well as the competitiveness (average percentage accepted). One fact about Table 8.3 to keep in mind is that the category “doctoral pro- grams” includes both Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs across specialty fields. When someone applies to graduate school, it is typically a more involved process than applying to an undergraduate institution. Here are the types of information that you might be asked to provide in the graduate admissions process (from Landrum & Davis, 2010): (a) curricu- lum vitae or resume; (b) biographical statement or personal statements with your career interests and goals; (c) overall GPA, GPA in psychology, last two years GPA (verified with official transcripts); (d) list of relevant courses completed in the major; (e) Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (may include GRE Psychology Subject Test); (f) let- ters of recommendation sent by you or sent directly from the school from (typically) three recommenders; and (g) application fee (if applicable).

How do graduate admissions committees evaluate and weigh the different components of the graduate admissions package? The answer is complicated and varies greatly by school and type of degree program. But you can get a sense of what is important to master’s degree and doctoral programs based on information from Landrum and Clark (2005) in Table 8.4 here.

Table 8.4: “High importance” ratings for postgraduate degree program admission

Doctoral Programs Master’s Degree Programs

Admissions criterion Percent rated high importance

Admissions criterion Percent rated high importance

Letters of recommendation 86.7% Letters of recommendation 72.8%

Statement of goals and objectives

83.3% GPA 68.7%

GPA 70.9% Statement of goals and objectives

63.7%

Research experience 69.2% Interview 47.0%

Interview 63.1% GRE/MAT scores 39.3%

GRE/MAT scores 53.1% Research experience 30.6%

Clinically related public service 16.4% Clinically related public service 20.4%

Work experience 15.1% Work experience 19.9%

Extracurricular activity 3.8% Extracurricular activity 3.0%

Source: Landrum and Clark (2005)

One last piece of advice to offer before I point you in the direction of more resources for more in-depth answers: In studying mistakes students make in applying to gradu- ate school, Appleby and Appleby (2006) chronicled the “kisses of death” in the graduate school applications—avoid these mistakes in your own graduate admissions journey. The following presents the kisses of death to avoid in graduate school admissions.

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What to Avoid in the Graduate Admissions Process

Personal Statements

• Avoid references to your mental health. Such statements could create the impression that you may be unable to function as a successful graduate student.

• Avoid making excessively altruistic statements. Graduate faculty members could interpret these statements to mean you believe a strong need to help others is more important to your success in graduate school than a desire to perform research and engage in other academic and profes- sional activities.

• Avoid providing excessively self-revealing information. Faculty members may interpret such infor- mation as a sign that you are unaware of the value of interpersonal or professional boundaries in sensitive areas.

• Avoid inappropriate humor, attempts to appear cute or clever, and references to God or religious issues when these issues are unrelated to the program to which you are applying. Admissions committee members may interpret this type of information to mean you lack awareness of the formal nature of the application process or the culture of graduate school.

Letters of Recommendation

• Avoid letters of recommendation from people who do not know you well, whose portrayals of your characteristics may not objective (e.g., a relative), or who are unable to base their descrip- tions in an academic context (e.g., your minister). Letters from these authors can give the impres- sion you are unable or unwilling to solicit letters from individuals whose depictions are accurate, objective, or professionally relevant.

• Avoid letter of recommendation authors who will provide unflattering descriptions of your per- sonal or academic characteristics. These descriptions provide a clear warning that you are not suited for graduate study. Choose your letter of recommendation authors carefully.

• Do not simply ask potential authors if they are willing to write you a letter of recommendation; ask them if they are able to write you a strong letter of recommendation. This question will allow them to decline your request diplomatically if they believe their letter may be more harmful than helpful.

Lack of Information About the Program

• Avoid statements that reflect a generic approach to the application process or an unfamiliarity with the program to which you are applying. These statements signal you have not made an honest effort to learn about the program from which you are saying you want to earn your graduate degree.

• Avoid statements that indicate you and the target program are a perfect fit if these statements are not corroborated by specific evidence that supports your assertion (e.g., your research interests are similar to those of the program’s faculty). Graduate faculty members can interpret a lack of this evidence as a sign that you and the program to which you are applying are not a good match.

Poor Writing Skills

• Avoid any type of spelling or grammatical errors in your application. These errors are an unmis- takable warning of substandard writing skills, a refusal to proofread your work, or willingness to submit carelessly written work.

• Avoid writing in an unclear, disorganized, or unconvincing manner that does not provide your readers with a coherent picture of your research, educational, and professional goals. A crucial part of your graduate training will be writing; do not communicate your inability to write to those you hope will be evaluating your writing in the future.

Misfired Attempts to Impress

• Avoid attempts to impress the members of a graduate admissions committee with information they may interpret as insincere flattery (e.g., referring to the target program in an excessively complimentary manner) or inappropriate (e.g., name dropping or blaming others for poor aca- demic performance). Graduate admissions committees are composed of intelligent people; do not use your application to insult their intelligence.

Source: Appleby and Appleby (2006)

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Graduate school will resemble (in some respects) your undergraduate educational expe- rience, but Cox, Cullen, Buskist, and Benassi (2010) highlighted some critical transition issues from an undergraduate experience to a graduate education experience, including (a) no longer being the smartest person in your courses; (b) extremely high academic stan- dards; (c) increased reading of dense material; (d) balance of coursework with research, teaching, and working on a thesis or dissertation; (e) increased interactions with faculty members and peers; (f) increased emphasis on honing public speaking skills; (g) the need for exceptional time management skills; and (h) more mentoring with key faculty mem- bers to promote professional development. Looking back on your undergraduate career, some of these types of activities may have already occurred, but in graduate school, the stakes and expectations are higher. Making the most of your undergraduate experience and effectively networking with undergraduate peers and psychology faculty members can help ease the transition from your undergraduate educational experiences to your pending graduate education adventure.

8.5 Finding a Job with Your Psychology Degree

In psychology, the vast majority of baccalaureates (those who receive a bachelor’s degree) will not continue on to graduate school in psychology. Even if you do attend graduate school, your eventual goal is a good job anyway, so the ability to secure a good job, regardless of the degree earned, will be helpful information at some point in your future. You should know that the career information about psychology majors that is available is not universally positive (e.g., Light, 2010; Rajecki & Borden, 2009), but that transitional materials are available (Briihl, Stanny, Jarvis, Darcy, & Belter, 2008; Hettich, 2010) to help make the most of your commencement toward your future.

One of the most important discoveries that you can make about your future career is deter- mining, in essence, “What you want to be when you grow up?” Beware, because this is a much more complicated question than you might expect. Although it is extremely helpful to know what you don’t want to do, do you have an idea about what you would like to do for a living? Or do you know someone who has your perfect job? Self-exploration of the working world can be helpful in planning your career path (more on this toward the end of this chapter). It could be that you’ve had quite a bit of experience in the world of work, and you’ve come back to school because you realized you wanted to do something else. A great trait of colleges and universities is that they will be there whenever you are ready—education is truly a lifelong process and investment, and if you want to make a major career shift later in life the educational opportunities will be available. In fact, the career maturity theory (Crites, 1978) suggested that competent career choices can occur following accurate self-appraisal, the collection of occupational information, goal selec- tion, and future planning, all accompanied by proficient problem-solving abilities. If you are unsure about what your next steps are regarding career exploration, fulfilling each of these steps can provide you a solid foundation to build on.

Exploring Career Options

If you can, try to explore career opportunities and options during your undergraduate years. Visit with the experts at your campus career center and let them help you explore

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your interests and your voca- tional talents. Consider doing an internship so that you can see what others do for a living, day in and day out, with the educa- tion they have obtained. You might discover that to do what you want to do, more education is warranted, and sometimes more education in psychology might not be the best route toward your goal. Internships can be great because they pro- vide hands-on, real-world expe- rience. You may think that you’d like to work with developmen- tally disabled children for your career (a very noble goal). Com- pleting an internship with a local agency might confirm your beliefs—you may discover your “heart’s delight,” and know what you want to do. However, you might also realize that as much as you want to help, you don’t have the patience or think you can develop the skill set required to work with this population. As mentioned earlier, discovering what you don’t want to do is also valuable, and better to find this out sooner rather than later. Try finding that person who has your “perfect job” and inquire about his or her education and how he or she landed in that career. Also, in addition to the resources listed at the end of this section, take advantage of the power of the Internet in helping you find valuable career information. Try using O*NET, which is the Occupational Information Network (http://online.onetcenter.org). O*NET presents details about over 1,000 different occupa- tions—including the knowledge skills needed, abilities needed, interests, general work activities, work contexts, and general salary information (Landrum & Davis, 2010).

When Landrum and Harrold (2003) provided employers with a list of 88 potential skills and abilities and asked them to rate the importance of each one, employers reported the following top 10 desired skills and abilities. For you to be strategic during your career preparation, think about how you can acquire these skills and abilities across your under- graduate career. These skills take time to develop. Here’s the top 10 list, with 1 being the most important:

1. Listening skills 2. Ability to work with others as part of a team 3. Getting along with others 4. Desire and ability to learn 5. Willingness to learn new, important skills 6. Focus on customers/clients 7. Interpersonal relationship skills 8. Adaptability to changing situations 9. Ability to suggest solutions to problems 10. Problem-solving skills

Undergraduates looking for ways to explore career options in their field should visit their school’s career center or ask about academic internship opportunities.

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Once you have settled on some general ideas about your desired world of work, you can turn your attention to tasks that are relatively similar across many different job applica- tion situations. For instance, you are going to need to create a résumé and secure refer- ences for your job applications, you may be asked to interview, and you may also be asked for a work sample, if appropriate (by the way, if you are writing a formal paper for your course, your paper—revised, of course—could be used as a work sample). Not only are there books dedicated to each of the above tasks in the job search process, but some books cover all of these topics more in depth than we can go into here. The following tips pro- vide at least a glimpse at the type of information you will probably need to be successful in your job search. These tips (from Landrum & Davis, 2010), are some general résumé preparation tips for you to think about as you create or update your résumé.

• Make the first impression count. A good résumé may get you to the next stage of the process. A poor résumé may stop you from going anywhere.

• Keep your résumé current. Make sure it has your new phone number, email address, etc.

• Make sure others proofread your résumé before you show it to potential employ- ers. Typographical and grammatical errors are unacceptable. Mistakes in your résumé will cost you the opportunity to advance in the employment process.

• Have your résumé reviewed and critiqued by a career counselor and your men- tor in psychology.

• Run a spell check and grammar check on your computer before showing your résumé to anyone.

• Find a competent friend (an English major would be handy here) to do a gram- mar review of your résumé.

• Then ask another friend to proofread it. The more sets of eyes that examine your résumé, the better.

• Be concise—try to limit yourself to one to two pages. If the employer sets a page limit, follow it exactly.

• Use white or off-white paper. • Use standard size, 8.5-inch × 11-inch paper. • Print on one side of the paper, using a font size between 10 and 14 points. • Use a non-decorative font (like Arial or Times New Roman); choose one font and

stick to it. • Avoid italics, script, and underlined words. • Don’t use horizontal or vertical lines or shading. • Don’t fold or staple your résumé; if you must mail it, mail it in a large envelope. • Electronic résumés have different formatting demands. Many websites can help

you prepare a web-friendly résumé. It is your responsibility to make sure that the company’s equipment is compatible when sending an electronic resume.

At some point in the job application process, you will need to provide references for a potential employer to contact, or you may be asked to provide letters of recommendation. In any case, it would be wise to get to know some of the faculty members well enough that you can ask them to serve as a reference and/or write a letter of recommendation. As a tip, when you approach a faculty member about this topic, ask, “Would you be willing to write me a strong letter of recommendation?” If the faculty member asks you to remind him or her of your name, this is not a good sign. You are going to need to get to know your faculty

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members well enough so that they can speak to your professional skills and abilities. If you are at a large university, or you take large classes, you are probably not going to get to know your faculty mem- bers all that well, which means that it will take outside-of-class activities for them to get to know you. Those activities could mean participating as a research assis- tant or teaching assistant, serving as an intern, becoming involved in departmental activities, serv- ing as an officer in your local Psi Chi chapter, and a myriad of other ways of becoming involved. Get- ting to know faculty members also means that it will take time.

The following list (from Landrum & Davis, 2010) presents additional, specific characteris- tics that can make for strong letters of recommendation. These are the characteristics that faculty members want to write about, so consider them: Do you possess these characteris- tics, and do you exhibit them on a regular basis to your psychology faculty?

• Adapt to organizational rules and procedures • Comprehend and retain key points from written materials • Deal effectively with a variety of people • Display appropriate interpersonal skills • Exhibit effective time management • Gather and organize information from multiple sources • Handle conflict successfully • Hold high ethical standards and expect the same of others • Identify and actualize personal potential • Listen carefully and accurately • Plan and carry out projects successfully • Remain open minded during controversies • Show initiative and persistence • Speak articulately and persuasively • Think logically and creatively • Work productively as a member of a team • Write clearly and precisely

At some point in the future, you will be invited to an interview. Perhaps you have already had job interviews. Interviews are typically a sign that you are a serious can- didate for the job you are applying for. Make sure you prepare for the interview effec- tively and think about the types of questions you may be asked. For general tips about interviewing, as well as potential questions you may be asked during an interview,

A good résumé can help you stand out from others applying for the same job and get you to the next level of your career.

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see Landrum and Davis (2010). How you present yourself is vitally impor- tant in these situations; make sure to utilize campus resources such as your Career Center and faculty men- tors who can help you prepare for the interview process.

As promised, there are many more resources available for you about each of these topics and other impor- tant aspects of the job search process not mentioned here. Planning now, during your undergraduate years, is a wise investment that may help you navigate the path to the type of career that you want and the type of future you want for you and your family. Resources for information about a career with a bachelor’s degree in psychology include:

Hettich, P. I., & Helkowski, C. (2005). Connect college to career. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Kuther, T. L., & Morgan, R. D. (2007). Careers in psychology: Opportunities in a changing world (2nd ed). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Landrum, R. E. (2009). Finding jobs with a psychology bachelor’s degree. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Landrum, R. E., & Davis, S. F. (2010). The psychology major: Career options and strat- egies for success (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall.

Morgan, B. L., & Korschgen, A. J. (2009). Majoring in psych? Career options for psy- chology undergraduates (4th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Schultheiss, D. E. P. (2008). Psychology as a major: Is it right for me and what can I do with my degree? Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Silvia, P. J., Delaney, P. F., & Marcovitch, S. (2009). What psychology majors could (and should) be doing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Wahlstrom, C., & Williams, B. K. (2004). College to career: Your road to personal suc- cess. Mason, OH: South-Western.

Wegenek, A. R., & Buskist, W. (2010). The insider’s guide to the psychology major: Everything you need to know about the degree and profession. Washington, DC: Amer- ican Psychological Association.

Transition Tips for Success Expert advice about transitioning from college to career for psychology graduates comes from Hettich (2010), who outlined four different aspects of this college to career transition:

The interview is a crucial step in the career process. You always want to be prepared and professional.

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youth to adult, college to workplace, skills employers seek (rather than skills professors seek), and characteristics that help get you hired and promoted (and not get you fired or demoted). As you can imagine, there is a wealth of interesting and valuable information available, and in this context we can only skim the surface. For more details, consult Con- nect College to Career by Hettich and Helkowski (2005).

For instance, if you want to keep your job, these are the behaviors you will want to avoid in the workplace—starting with the most frequent reasons new college graduate hires are fired: lack of work ethic and commitment, unethical behavior, failure to follow instruc- tions, missing deadlines, inappropriate use of technology, and being late for work (Het- tich, 2010). Although these typically don’t get you fired, they may lead to disciplinary action—ineffective teamwork, lack of initiative, inability to speak effectively, and inabil- ity to write effectively. Not to belabor the point, but many of these negative behaviors are behaviors that your college faculty also attempted to shape, such as imposing a late penalty for work not handed in on time, or having you adhere to the instructions of an APA-format-required assignment because paying attention to detail is a valuable trait in the workplace.

To end on a more upbeat note, there is also advice for those transitioning from college to the workplace regarding how to get noticed and promoted (Hettich, 2010). Not surpris- ingly, these are often opposite the behaviors that will get you demoted or fired. If you are willing to take initiative, self-manage properly, display positive personal attributes, demonstrate commitment, exhibit leadership, and possess the ability to show and tell in an effective manner, you likely have the right stuff to excel in the workplace. Demonstrat- ing these qualities as a undergraduate student probably served you well and helped you achieve high grades too.

8.6 What Do You Want? What Will You Do?

Self-reflection is a good thing, and something that many of us do not do enough of. An important focus of this chapter is to provide information that is critical for you to be a successful psychology graduate. You are encouraged to explore career interest tools as well as life development ideas. In particular, I focus on the Self-Directed Search (SDS), a career-planning tool developed by John L. Holland (1994). The SDS developed out of Holland’s theories of vocational choice (1958, 1959). According to Holland (1973), four working assumptions drive the theory:

1. In this culture, most persons can be categorized as one of six types: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, or conventional.

2. There are six kinds of environments: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enter- prising, and conventional.

3. People search for environments that will let them exercise their skills and abili- ties, express their attitudes and values, and tackle agreeable problems and roles.

4. A person’s behavior is determined by an interaction between his or her personal- ity and the characteristics of his or her environment.

The basic notion of this theory is that people are happier and more successful in a job that matches their interests, values, and skills. Scoring of the SDS is linked to occupational

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codes and titles. Thus, by deter- mining your preferences for styles or types, the SDS gives you some indication of the jobs that you might like and that would make the most of your skills and interests. The funda- mental idea is that people and work environments can be clas- sified according to Holland’s six types; thus, if you know your own type and understand the types that are associated with particular careers, you can find a match. Holland’s SDS (1994) is a relatively straightforward inventory. There is an Inter- net version (http://www.self -directed-search.com/), which, for $9.95 (at the time of this writ-

ing), you can take on your computer and receive a personalized report with your results. Individuals answer questions about their aspirations, activities, competencies, occupa- tions, and other self-estimates. These scores yield a three-letter Summary Code that des- ignates the three personality types the individual most closely resembles. With this code, test-takers use the Occupations Finder to discover which occupations best match their personality types, interests, and skills. This comprehensive booklet lists over 1,300 occu- pational possibilities—more than any other career interest inventory. Although it is not possible for you to take the SDS here, the six personality types and examples of corre- sponding careers are presented in Table 8.5.

Table 8.5: Types and occupations of the self-directed search

Realistic Investigative

Personality Type Occupations Personality Type Occupations

• Have mechanical ability and athletic ability?

• Like to work outdoors?

• Like to work with machines and tools?

• Genuine, humble, modest, natural, practical, realistic?

• Aircraft controller • Electrician • Carpenter • Auto mechanic • Surveyor • Rancher

• Have math and science abilities?

• Like to explore and understand things and events?

• Like to work alone and solve problems?

• Analytical, curious, intellectual, rational?

• Biologist • Geologist • Anthropologist • Chemist • Medical

technologist • Physicist (continued)

The Self-Directed Search can help you find a career that fits your personality and skills best.

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Table 8.5: Types and occupations of the self-directed search (continued)

Artistic Social

Personality Type Occupations Personality Type Occupations

• Have artistic skills and a good imagination?

• Like reading, music, or art?

• Enjoy creating original work?

• Expressive, original, idealistic, independent, open?

• Musician • Writer • Decorator • Composer • Stage director • Sculptor

• Like to be around other people?

• Like to cooperate with other people?

• Like to help other people?

• Friendly, understanding, cooperative, sociable, warm?

• Teacher • Counselor • Speech therapist • Clergy member • Social worker • Clinical psychologist

Enterprising Conventional

Personality Type Occupations Personality Type Occupations

• Have leadership and public speaking ability?

• Like to influence other people?

• Like to assume responsibility?

• Ambitious, extroverted, adventurous, self-confident?

• Manager • Salesperson • Business executive • Buyer • Promoter • Lawyer

• Have clerical and math abilities?

• Like to work indoors?

• Like organizing things and meeting clear standards?

• Efficient, practical, orderly, conscientious?

• Banker • Financial analyst • Tax expert • Stenographer • Production editor • Cost estimator

The SDS presents some interesting career options. Although you haven’t taken the SDS, you can look at the six different types and realize that perhaps one or two of them fit you very well. The idea here is to not be afraid of some self-exploration; it is important for you to figure out what you would like to do for a career. College is a great time for career exploration; if you put some work into it, you will enjoy the rewards.

Your career can take many different paths and progress through different stages or models. For instance, Harr (1995; as cited in Wahlstrom & Williams, 2004) differentiated job, occu- pation, and career this way: Your job is defined by the specific job duties that you fulfill within your occupation. Your occupation is the specific form that your career might take at any given time. Your career is the overall path you will take through your work life. There are different depictions of how a career might progress. Driver (1988; as cited in Wahlstrom & Williams, 2004) describes some of these career progressions: The linear career looks like climbing the stairs, in that you are climbing in the organization’s hierarchy. Each job along the way imparts more responsibility and requires more skill. In the steady-state career, you discover that you are comfortable with a particular occupation and you stay put. A promo- tion might mean more responsibility and more job stress, and you want to avoid that. The

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spiral career suggests that one job builds on the other, being upwardly mobile. You might have a number of jobs that are different yet build on one another.

Journalizing is powerful because answering powerful questions yields powerful, clear answers. When you write in a journal regularly, you become the type of person who can define what he or she wants, has definite plans, and can articulate desires. Combs (2000) suggests the following journalizing questions:

• What are the activities that you love and enjoy most today? • What would be your ideal work environment today? • How would your ideal workday go today? • How would you define success today? • What might be your purpose or destiny? • How do you want to be perceived by

your friends? Coworkers? Parents? Sig- nificant other?

• What magazine would you most like to be featured in for your tremendous accomplishments in 10 years?

• What would you like to be the best in the world at?

• Who are your heroes and what is it about them that you most want to be like?

• What do you really think should be changed in the world?

• What do you most want to be remem- bered for at the end of your life?

• Whom do you envy and what is it about them that you envy?

As you can see, these are powerful questions that should provoke thoughtful responses. College is a good time for career exploration, but it is also a good time for life exploration as well.

8.7 A Final Note

Psychologist Charles Brewer of Furman University once stated that “the fundamen-tal goal of education, from which all others flow, is to teach students to think as scientists about behavior” (1993, p. 169). If you adopt this as one of your goals of majoring in psychology and, perhaps equally important, if your instructors adopt this goal, then you begin to understand the centrality and importance of research methods like those discussed in this book. If you want to comprehend why most psychologists think of themselves as scientists, and if you want to understand why there is so much emphasis on methodology and statistical techniques, it is because our fundamental goal as psychology educators is to help our students begin to think like psychologists do. Amsel (2009) wrote about the importance of instilling these behaviors in undergraduate students, including

Writing in a journal regularly can help you figure out your goals for the future. What other benefits might journalizing have?

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students enrolled in an introductory psychology course, and he presented important ideas about the pedagogy (teaching practices) that psychology educators can use to help instill these cognitive strategies. But if you are interested in grasping how psychologists think, try reading Stanovich’s (2010) How to Think Straight About Psychology. Chapter by chapter, Stanovich presented illuminating examples of the fundamental characteristics of psycho- logical and scientific thinking, which include:

• Falsifiability, and how we test hypotheses (disproving versus proving) • Operational definitions in psychology with precise measurement when possible • Reliance of replication (and not anecdotal evidence) • Correlation versus causation in psychological studies • Experimental control for meaningful comparisons • Laboratory versus field experiments, considering generalizations • Converging evidence and incremental support of hypotheses • Comprehending the role of chance in drawing conclusions

Stanovich (2010) distilled three core beliefs for how psychologists think about behavior: systematic empiricism, replication and peer review of knowledge, and the search for test- able theories. The rules and techniques that you have learned about via this textbook have provided the foundation for systematic empiricism—psychologists want the results of observations to reveal something about the underlying interrelationships of the variables being studied (Stanovich, 2010). By methodically testing hypotheses and rejecting the null or failing to reject the null, we build a database of knowledge about human behavior founded upon systematic empiricism.

In your reading of journal articles, the existence of the articles themselves reveals the frui- tion of replication and peer review. In fact, one of the reasons for the details presented in the Method section of journal articles is to provide enough information that a particular study could be replicated or repeated by someone else. After the process of writing a manuscript in APA style and format is complete, another process—peer review—must occur to enter the manuscript into the published literature. That is, experts within the field closely review all aspects of a work prior to the work’s publication in a scholarly journal. Publicly reporting the methodology used and openly inviting learned scholars to scruti- nize work prior to its publication creates a scientific approach to knowledge generation that is a key component of what it means to think like a psychologist. If you wish, you can think of the peer review process as “consumer protection” (Stanovich, 2010)—knowledge becomes “scientific” through this rigorous system of checks and balances that relies on very public involvement.

The third core belief that psychologists hold is that the only testable theories are the sub- ject matter of science; that is, we seek to answer questions that can be arrived at through scientific means. That is, we attempt to test theories by applying psychology such that the result could lead to the support of or refutation of the theory. Stanovich (2010) described the process in psychology as

theory prediction test theory modification

As scientists, we seek out solvable problems that have hypotheses that can be supported or refuted—this means that inherently interesting questions, such as “Are humans good

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or evil,” “What is the meaning of life,” and “Does God exist” are not within the realm of scientific answers because we are unable to design a study such that the outcomes could support or refute the supposition. Now, we can certainly study people’s atti- tudes and opinions about good/ evil, the meaning of life, and God’s existence, but a prepon- derance of evidence (i.e., major- ity opinion) for one belief or other does indicate a causal con- nection. For causal conclusions about behavior, we need to uti- lize the tools and techniques pre- sented throughout this textbook to be able to ascertain causality.

However, the principles you have read about throughout this book (and hopefully, what you have studied and applied in this course) can help provide a framework as a way of thinking like a psychologist and a method of answering complex questions about human behavior. Perhaps the most useful advice is to seek out your passions in life, whether they be personal and/or professional. If you can discover which aspects of your life you are passionate about, working hard toward meaningful goals becomes self-motivating and highly rewarding. We invest our time and talent in those aspects of life that we are passionate about. Whether you focus on your loved ones or your education or your pro- fession or your neighborhood or our planet, I encourage you to explore the passionate pursuits of your life and then use the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you acquire throughout your undergraduate career to help yourself and others. If you are fortunate enough to have one of your passionate pursuits overlap with what you do for a living, then going to work will hardly seem like going to work. Meeting these challenges is up to you; now go do it.

Chapter Summary

Psychology is an active discipline, and to be successfully active within it, one must go beyond reading and thinking about psychology but go out and “do” psychol-ogy. Thus, it may be completing an applied project after it has been proposed in a course. Psychologists network and get to know one another not only to further the sci- ence of psychology but also to make interpersonal connections that can lead to personal and professional benefits. National organizations exist that can help foster and provide opportunities to do psychology, and participation in these types of events can provide invaluable insights into the next steps in one’s career, whether that be pursuing a good job with your bachelor’s degree in psychology or pursuing a graduate education in psychol- ogy (or in some other discipline). Multiple resources are provided for post-baccalaureate

The knowledge you gained during this course can help you answer complex questions in your personal and professional life by using a psychological approach.

Polka Dot/Thinkstock

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routes as well as specific transition information to ease the process. Tips for self-reflection and career exploration are provided, and students are encouraged to embrace these ideas and exercises. Finally, the ability to think like a psychologist is presented in the realm of critical thinking and how a general, evidence-based approach in psychology can be useful to broad applications of these critical thinking skills in daily life.

Concept Check

1. In the research versus teaching debate in psychology, the text states that

A. neither is more important. B. there is no debate in the field. C. teaching is more important. D. research is more important.

2. Regional psychology associations

A. discourage networking among members. B. do not allow undergraduate participation. C. number 10 across the United States. D. each hold annual conventions.

3. Which of the following is NOT a recommendation for attending conferences?

A. Be outgoing. B. Wear professional footwear. C. Pace yourself. D. Attend student events.

4. Silvia, Delaney, and Marcovitch (2009) associate what with “binge thinking”?

A. Academic conferences B. Publishing research C. Networking with colleagues D. Conducting research

5. What percentage of people who hold bachelor’s degrees in psychology pursue graduate degrees within two years of graduating (Norcross, Kohout, & Wicher- ski, 2006)?

A. 5% B. 52% C. 27% D. 83%

Answers 1. A. Neither is more important. The answer can be found Section 8.1.

2. D. Each hold annual conventions. The answer can be found Section 8.1.

3. B. Wear professional footwear. The answer can be found Section 8.1.

4. A. Academic conferences. The answer can be found Section 8.1.

5. C. 27%. The answer can be found in Section 8.4.

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Questions for Critical Thinking

1. Practicing some of these self-reflection skills, think about your Applied Project course—is it what you expected? Did you learn from the course what you needed to learn and what your instructor wanted you to learn? Did you maximize the opportunity, or perhaps was this a course to “get out of the way”?

2. You are near the end of your journey as an undergraduate psychology major. Given the sights you have seen over the course of the journey, would you do it all again? If you were starting again from Day 1, would you still be a psychology major? Why or why not?

3. To complete our big-picture thinking here, think about your educational choices. Have you truly engaged in your own educational processes and outcomes, or has your education been a series of hurdles to jump or tasks to get out of the way? What benefits have you reaped by being a student? What potential drawbacks may you face for being a student? If you were asked by a friend, family member, or loved one about your undergraduate experience, how would you describe it? Would you recommend this major and this university to a prospective student? Why or why not? This type of self-reflection can truly be helpful in shaping thoughts and perceptions of your current and future experiences.

Key Terms to Remember

American Psychological Association The oldest of the most important psychological organizations for undergraduates. Founded in 1892, it is the largest association of psy- chologists in the world, with over 150,000 members. APA’s mission statement is to “advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” APA is commonly affiliated with organiza- tions such as Psi Chi. See Psi Chi.

Association for Psychological Science An organization founded in 1988 as the American Psychological Society that cur- rently has over 18,500 members worldwide who specialize in scientific, applied, and teaching aspects of psychology. APS hosts annual conventions where students can get involved in the psychology field.

conferences A forum for researchers to present their research findings in a public environment among individuals involved in a certain area of interest. These forums can be national, international, or regional in nature and may host oral and poster presentations.

Council on Undergraduate Research An organization that provides an oppor- tunity for undergraduates to produce and present their research findings in a multi- disciplinary setting.

Graduate Record Examination A stan- dardized test used to determine eligibility for graduate study that includes verbal, quantitative, and written categories and is typically required for the graduate school application process.

GRE Psychology Subject Test A standard- ized test that focuses on a specific subject, such as psychology, to determine mastery and eligibility for graduate study. Certain graduate schools require completion of this exam for the application process.

journalizing The process of documenting experiences that enables an individual to define what he or she wants, to plan, and to articulate desires.

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journals A forum for researchers and academics to publish and present find- ings from research. Typically they are peer reviewed academic sources that serve as a vessel to share, critique, and challenge up-and-coming ideas and findings in a particular field of study.

McNair Scholars Program An organi- zation that provides an opportunity for student researchers to present research findings in a multidisciplinary setting as well as provides scholarships for students with excellent academic achievement.

O*NET The occupational information net- work that provides details about more than 1,000 different occupations, including the knowledge skills needed, abilities needed, interests, general work activities, work con- texts, and general salary information.

oral paper A method of presenting research in a conference setting where the presenter gives an oral presentation and speaks to listeners about the key points in their research study and then typically allows questions regarding said research.

poster sessions A method of presenting research in a conference setting where the presenter creates a poster to sum up to main points of his or her research study and converse with conference attendees in a less formal setting than an oral presenta- tion. See oral presentation.

Psi Chi The international honor society in psychology created to foster excellence of scholarship and advancement that is specifically geared toward psychology stu- dents. Membership requirements include having a GPA in the top 35% of your respective class (sophomores, juniors, or seniors), a minimum of 9 psychology cred- its completed at the time of application, sophomore standing, and having selected a psychology major or minor.

Self-Directed Search A career interest inventory developed out of Holland’s the- ories of vocational choice that determine a job most compatible with a test taker’s interests and strengths.

Web Resources

This website provides details of occupations for those who are interested in investigating potential job opportunities. http://online.onetcenter.org

This website is where the international honor society in psychology has all information relevant to the organization and keeps members up to date on upcoming events and relevant publications and news. http://www.psichi.org

This website outlines career options within the field of psychology and certain tools that you want to have to maximize your degree. http://career-advice.monster.com/job-search/company-industry-research/career-options- psychology-degree/article.aspx

This website serves as an online psychology career center and lists career tips, job list- ings, internship opportunities, and other useful sources. http://www.socialpsychology.org/career.htm

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