UMBC Mic'd Up

A Career with Impact - IO Psychology

March 03, 2021 UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise Season 1 Episode 4
UMBC Mic'd Up
A Career with Impact - IO Psychology
Show Notes Transcript

The field of IO Psychology is vast. From specialized focus to a more generalized strategic approach, IO Psychologists can impact organizations on many levels. 

Today, we’re joined by Dr. Leslie Overmyer-Day, an advisory board member of UMBC’s graduate program in IO Psychology and Senior Lead Technologist with Booz Allen Hamilton. 

Dr. Overmyer-Day shares insights on the dynamic nature of the IO Psychology field and ways students and professionals can prepare for a rewarding, successful career.  

To learn more about UMBC's Graduate Program in IO Psychology, visit:

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Welcome to this episode of UMBC Mic'd up. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Progress. We're joined by Dr. Leslie Overmyer-Day. She serves on the advisory board for UMBC's Graduate Program in industrial and Organizational Psychology. We'll be talking with her about the career outlook for IO professionals. We hope you enjoy this episode. Can you speak to the industry needs of IO professionals? OK, so in terms of the industry needs overall for IO's, they're vast. When you think of IO psychology, it actually has many subdisciplines within it and we're presented with a variety of issues. And you you have the choice as an IO to be a generalist and dabble in a number of different areas represented with a number of different projects. Or you can be a specialist and do a deep dive into one particular area. There are also really different kinds of work that are presented to us. Some are more on the Ie side, the industrial side, and some are more on the O side, on the organizational side. It kind of runs the gamut from you may be presented to do job analysis, competency, model, development, assessment, validation. You could be doing front end analysis or organizational analysis that would feed a number of different things like training or software development. You may be asked to evaluate programs, user acceptance of tools. You may be involved in standing up a new organization. How do you grow one from scratch? How do you design a job that's never been designed before? These are all the kind of cool things that an IO has in front of them right now. And more and more of these opportunities are being presented to us all the time. There are definitely opportunities for psychology people. Yeah, there really are many, many opportunities. And sometimes out in industry, they don't necessarily know what we are. But then when we describe what our capabilities are, they're like, Oh, I need that. What is the value of education can have on an emerging leader in the IO Psychology field? The value of having a formal education. And I really gives us a solid grounding in both the theory and the methods that are used to do this kind of work. Know you'll find that a lot of the problems that come into us would go to anybody in business. But our advantages, we actually have a scientific grounding in how to appropriately address these things and problem solved. We can give our clients a data driven answers to the problems. We were equipped with a solid understanding of why you'd choose this particular method to address that problem. What type of data do you need to inform your solution or really thoroughly diagnose what's going on up? But that blend of theoretical grounding and knowing why we do what we do and then the tool kit from the methods really sets us apart from anybody else who just kind of falls into that kind of workers presented with those types of problems. What kind of qualities do you feel would help that person get that job? Well, again, that really depends on the job they're going after because some of the jobs are going to be more specialized or more niche and some are going to be more of a generalist. So it really depends. But I think basic characteristics are qualities that you want in a really outstanding IO is that solid grounding and methods that I have a thorough understanding of going in, knowing how to go in and assess what the problem is, because you'll be presented with a statement from a client. This is what's going on. And they already have the solution that they will want you to implement. The reality is we we we don't necessarily take that at face value. We hear their problem, but then we dove a little bit deeper. So what's going to help somebody stand out is knowing how to ask the right questions, how to then turn around and grab the right tools to use and methods to apply to their situation. But if I'm interviewing for that position, I would express kind of an innate curiosity as well and enthusiasm and that that ability to ask good questions, it's helped the client understand there may be more to it and that, you know, you've got the capability to offer them perhaps some more insight into what's going on than they would have expected. I would also say confidence, you know, going in. One of the things that we really emphasize with these folks is, you know, I've learned it all along the way, is hone your listening skills, you know, really learn how to be an active listener, learn how to kind of process what you're hearing as you're hearing it and then going through that filing system in your head based on what you've learned in terms of, oh, I've heard this before, or this sounds like something that's familiar because that's going to lead you to a potential suite of methods, lines of questions on how you would help both diagnose fully what's going on and then how you would potentially offer solutions. It's really kind of know how to listen. Know how to ask questions and have some confidence that you know why you're doing this. They may not. But is that something something special? It's and it's going to it's going to intrigue them that you're asking interesting questions. You're bringing thought to the conversation right out of the gate because your job primarily is engaging people, diagnosing problems, what the real problem is, and then helping working with them to come up with solutions. If you don't understand what a client's needs are, it's impossible to do the job. Yeah, it is in it's very, very common that they will present you with a problem and they already have what they think it is. In my world. Nine times out of ten. It's a training problem. It's almost never a training problem. Almost never. And I work in training. It's like I can tell you when it is a training problem. But, you know, that's first blush. Knee jerk reaction is it's a training problem. Well, let's look at that. Chances are it's a little more nuanced than that or it's not that at all. It's a communication problem. It's a leadership problem where you're asking them to do things and then putting barriers in their way to accomplish it. Training won't fix those things. It's that being able to objectively just pause and listen to what they're saying and then be able to contribute to the conversation, asking thoughtful questions, probing a little bit deeper. That's something that really kind of does set us apart. And it really helps us build credibility in. It's not what they're expecting. Because we're not just reiterating what they want to hear and giving them the can solution, they haven't won. Yes, I would think that towards the end of that conversation. They are very appreciative that you took that leadership role that communicated leadership role, and it didn't just give them what they wanted to hear about you challenge to them to create a better opportunity and growth. And usually you can get cues when you reach them because their posture will change, their expressions will change. You know, it's kind of like especially if you're dealing with somebody who is their mind is firmly made up. They know exactly what's going on. And by you pausing for a moment and coming at it from a different angle and ask the question, you know, visibly see a change in them where they're you're kind of forcing them to think for a moment. Well, maybe that isn't the answer. Or maybe there's more to it than that. It's a fun thing to see happen, because then you see are you know, maybe there's an opening here to do more, to learn more. It really does kind of open the door for that engagement. Client. Can we talk about specific skills that a person should develop to be successful in this field? We talked about qualities, and they might kind of go hand-in-hand, but is there anything additional that you can add that might be helpful to somebody listening to this audio file about what they can be doing, honing in on certain skill sets? Curiosity is a core kind of capability. That's not necessarily a skill, but it is kind of a demeanor. And I would encourage people to stay curious when they're doing this. But in terms of skills, particularly those that they can be honing as they're in their coursework, I would say really pay attention and get the research methods under your belt. Really know from a technical standpoint, that's your tool kit. Other things that will serve you well are really strong communication skills, both written and oral. Because you will be presenting very often, even when you don't think you are. You're always on. So being comfortable speaking to a variety of different folks and that includes interviewing people and incumbents in the lowest level jobs one on one to presenting to the executive boards of organizations, know agency heads with findings or asking them questions. You know, briefing results get very comfortable and very skilled with your oral communication skills as well as written. And these days, it's not the research paper. No. Your research methods. But learn how to rate for business because that's what you what your clients are going to need. They will need you to be able to take complex things that you've done and put it in very basic language and very actionable language that what do I do with this? This is wonderful. A really hear what you're saying, but I don't know what to do. So it's have that mindset of their hiring you to fix a problem. You can have a complex or sophisticated method you're using to do that. They're not going to want to read about that, learn how to write about what you've done in a very plain, straightforward manner that's actionable for your client and addresses their problem. What career advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in IO Psychology? I guess I would start out by recommending get your feet wet, dabble a little bit in all of the kind of subdisciplines, all of the topics. And I go to figure out kind of what really appeals to you. Because it is such a broad field. And as you learn more, you may be really curious about all of it. In which case you may decide. I really want to be a generalist. You know, I want to dabble. I want a career where I'm exposed to a lot of different kinds of work. Or I or you may decide, I really love doing this one thing. I really love doing assessment work. I really love doing competency models. So I really love doing, you know, the very detailed work, become a specialist. But I think you need that broad exposure first early in your academic career. And then as you learn more, you'll find things that you have a little bit more affinity for and maybe try a project or an internship or a practicum in something, try it on. And if it doesn't fit, there's plenty of other options within IO that might be a better fit. At some point you will come to that that decision of what feels right and some things to kind of guide that are if you're kind of more of a linear thinker, you really like details. You know, you've like things have to make sense. Your your you have a great affinity for structure. You may find yourself gravitating to more of the I work because a lot of that industrial psychology work is a little bit more detail oriented. It's a little bit more on the stats. You know, it's it's just a different flavor. If you're more of a systems thinker, a little more non-linear, you know, you're a big thinker, you're your strategist. You may gravitate more to the other side because we tend to play in strategy land over there, you know, big things like we're designing organizations. We're looking at how all these systems and an organization interact, as well as what happens in the outside world. Know looking at what are the trends that are going to impact this organization and how will that change the workforce? How will that change the way work is done? But I would say start with an open mind. Keep it broad. Learn a little bit of everything. Try it on and you'll find, you know, kind of where you want to go. Great advice. Right now is a great time for really honing your skills and learning how technology impacts people and building that skill set, because we're going through a lot of changes in many organizations, particularly under the land, under the time of covered, as many organizations are completely reinventing the way they do work and digitizing things. And it calls for new thinking, new analysis on what are we going to change from the way we used to work, to the way we work now. And what is the introduction of new tools and techniques and processes where it is automation come in? What can we automate now that we used to do manual? These are big hot topics right now that are running across industry and in federal agencies, which is where a lot of our work resides. Introduction of artificial intelligence. What's the impact on the workforce? What's the impact on the job? All of these things from human factors perspective and I know with a with an understanding of this, you bring the people into the equation. If you're not there, you may have systems, developers developing tools that no one can use. That's the risk that you run. You were you are the voice of the user as these things are being developed. You're the one who's saying, hey, how will that affect this shop or do they need to learn something new? What's going to what are they going to stop doing when this tool is introduced? And if you take a broader view, how will this fundamentally change the nature of the work of this organization? So having kind of that human factors lends to the repertoire of Io's skills and being brought into those kinds of projects. This is very timely and very relevant. There's actually quite a number of opportunities for us to be engaged in other things related to human factors that you would fall in that realm would be user acceptance testing. There's a user acceptance testing that happens in the software world. This one's different. This one really has that that IO flavor to it. It's like, are they really taking advantage of it? Do they fully understand how to use it? What is their attitude towards it, towards using this new tool? Or do they are they inclined to use it or are they just going to use it? Considered a work around there. It's really important that that we're there to represent that end user as these things are being introduced. There's a lot of relevance. I mean, digital transformation is super hot right now. We've got it. And the big topics are we've got user experience and usability in pretty much anything. I mean, Zoom, you know, people were there doing assessments on as we throw at it, we're having everybody use teams and we're doing video calls. You may be asked to do surveys on how is that working out? What's the user acceptance? What's their attitude or is it working? Were they having difficulty? What's the climate like? What's happening with attitudes? What's happening to productivity? Are they willing to use it or are they resisting it? That's one of our roles. I love it when we get called in on the front end of a new system that's being designed because we're the ones who will go out and talk to the engineers and understand how do you do your job today and then talk to the developers. How will this actually what is this tool going to do? And then we look at how is this really going to fundamentally change their job a little bit? Somewhat or it's going to completely up and their world as we know it, so that you can have those conversations with the leadership because there's been a change management component that follows on. They have to be able to. Prepare the users, prepare the organization to adopt these things. That's what we like. Nobody else does that. Is there anything else that you feel should be added to this conversation that we haven't talked about, that I haven't asked you? It really is kind of an exciting time to be considering these things, especially with, you know, we've talked about this for years, the explosion of technology. This situation right now, though, is really a forcing function. A lot of organizations that were dabbling with run the slow roll for adoption of changing the way they do were digitizing things. All of a sudden, it's it's put to the floor. Right. It's like we've got to adopt it now. We've got to figure this out. Where do we start? And that is exactly where we play here. Let me let me ask some questions. You know, let's find out whether it is looking at if we turn an entire organization to telework overnight. What happens? What are the tools they're going to need? How do we change the climate? And just the workflow. How does it affect the culture of our organization? I mean, it's just a really exciting time for IO. It's a terrible, terrible reason why it's happening. I just see more of the need for this kind of work as we go forward, just as technologies change in is the nature of work changes fundamentally for a lot of folks. Yeah, it certainly has brought a lot of change to everybody. My role as a filmmaker role is completely upended because I can not be in front of people with my my cameras. So I'm relying on technology. And I already knew how to use Zoom, but not everybody does. And so trying to interview people who don't understand the technology is a challenge. And so there's is a training aspects to what I do now. For some people. So it's definitely yeah, it's definitely a different landscape, a different climate. I see a climate change within just the organization that I work with you, NBC, in terms of the collaboration and the mixing and mingling and understanding, being being a team, being a solid team during these really challenging times has taken on a whole new look. Yeah, that's an interesting point. I mean, the whole notion of what does it mean to be a team that is right in the wheelhouse of an IO Psychologist it's in ,,,,that should be somebody's thesis. What does it mean to be a team in a virtual environment? And it's not just a virtual environment, but in a virtual world where the larger global environment is under such turmoil. You know, where you're where you have to maintain a team. They have to be productive. But there is so much anxiety, stress unknown occurring around them. That's great fodder for an AI psychologist to dove into and study it. Really. So that's that's where we play, right. Oh, I would imagine that would be fascinating, really, when you think about the just the all the elements and what you can do, the research that would be involved in being able to just figure it out and explain it and and help people along and help people through this kind of a there's actually a lot going on already. One of my colleagues shared something the other day. Some of the firms there's some small businesses out there and some academics are doing research on it already. They're looking at impact on individuals and their stress levels and coping mechanisms. And are they? And there's a buffering term that they're using. How would people kind of accommodate and there's been this as the as the quarantining has gone on and it's become somewhat normal in the beginning of this. Everybody was very dysregulated, even though we pretended we were OK. We're just going to work from home now. It was the first few weeks were horrible for many people, especially the extrovert, straight because they're suddenly thrown into this and they don't know how to structure their own day from home. They're not accustomed to working that way. And the resolve, the added stress of such a huge unknown. I've covered the first few weeks like less. Second part of March was a complete wash. And then as it started to go on and, you know, you're getting all kinds of misinformation that just adds to the stress. But as it goes from April to May to June to July, they're seeing just this morphing of people's. Moods, behaviors, their their acceptance, what they can't accept, what they can't. It's really fascinating on how different people cope in different ways. Yeah, absolutely, it's. I've seen it in my role and I felt it and I felt it in my role and impersonally as well. You're absolutely spot on when you say that the last two weeks of March were just really unknown and completely took us a little off their access. Yeah. Yeah. They sent us home on the 13th of March and it was a we don't know when you'll be back. OK. And some of us who who have worked have Teleworked in the past were like Yes. And then others were like just completely felt like the rug was pulled out from under them. They had. They didn't know how to structure a day working at home. It was really difficult for the ones who had young kids at home, too, especially the the preschoolers and under, you know, to have no daycare for four very young children and have to work full time and figure it all out and make sense of and try to establish a routine and a pattern. It was it was too much was too much. I think it's as things have settled down. Some folks are coping with a better some are still having a very hard time with it. I missed that come readership. I missed walking by somebodies office with a cup of coffee and stopping by and saying hello. That connection is missing. And so there's this whole if it's long term, we don't know. I have no idea how long this will be, but it's at least through the fall semester for us. We've got to develop new ways of being able to create that connection. And so we're trying as a division. And it's it's it's nice because we come together as a division and division will make meetings and discuss ways and brainstorm ways to stay connected and in a personalized as well as professional way. And so it's been fun to see the different ways that people have adjusted and are coming together to do that. Its growth and its creativity at its best, as far as I'm concerned. We'll figure it out. I'm confident we'll figure it out. In reality is a lot of the work that many of us do can be done. Remote labor. I think a lot of organizations are finding that out now. A lot of them. What I'm seeing, too, is the client I'm supporting now is they're looking around, see why do we need a headquarters building anymore? Ninety percent of this agency, Tella, works now. Why do we need this very, very expensive building in downtown D.C. in prime real estate? It's like. We don't know. So we can save a lot of money, but a lot of organizations are doing that. It's like, wow. It will fundamentally change the way we work. I I'm convinced so that I mean, that is right in the wheelhouse of an IO psychologist. It's like, how will it change? And the beautiful part is we if we're if we're included in the conversation, can help shape what that is. If we're called in early enough, if we're included in those conversations that we should be because we're the ones who are thinking about what. What are the impacts on the climate? What are the impacts on the culture? What are the impacts on the workflow? And when do you need the high touch? You know, do should we have new. I don't say rules, but it's guidelines on when is it appropriate to do a video call versus one, could it just be a phone call? And you know what? How are we going to communicate now? Because right now there's no no rulebook for those. And it feels like one thing I've noticed, too, is there's a tendency across the board with everybody. I'm seeing too many meetings. It's like everybody feels like we've got to have meetings. Jam your day full of meetings. Now, it's like we didn't do that before. It's like, wait a minute, you know? So it's kind of like, how are we going to establish boundaries for structuring your workday? Just because everybody's home and online all the time doesn't mean you're always available. And that's a good idea to jump on the video call. You know, it's it's. What are some of those old norms and practices from the old days that we do want to keep? And reinforce that, you know, we're not always accessible. And it is a good idea and it's it's a courtesy that we send invitations to meetings. We don't just hit somebody up just because we see there are there online. But those are the kinds of things that I can come into the conversation with him and offer ideas about what should it be? You know, what what what's going to fit with our culture? What do we want? How accessible do we want to be? How how structured do we want to be? Yeah, it's it's a time of great change. So there's a lot of opportunity. Absolutely. This has been an incredible conversation. I totally enjoyed it. It was really enjoyable. Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to listen to this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up. We hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more UMBC's Graduate Programs in IO Psychology, visit us at