Interview with a Psychology Professional

When most people think of a graduate degree in psychology, they usually imagine a career in some sort of clinical setting. However, the field of psychology offers much more than the theoretical, clinical aspects that are most familiar. Scottie Girouard holds a graduate degree in psychology and is an excellent example of a professional working in one of psychology’s lesser-known areas.

As a vice president of talent management at RedPrarie, a Waukesha, Wisconsin-based software and optimization company, Girourad practices in the industrial/organizational area of psychology. The Chicago School of Psychology alum shares her graduate experience, as well as her professional journey with GradSchools.com.

How would you characterize the job market in the field of psychology, industrial/organization psychology in particular?

Last year, there was incredible demand for people who are in the talent recruitment and selection part of the business. Plus, there is always a demand for executive and leadership coaching.

Q.Why did you choose to focus your graduate studies on the industrial/organizational section of psychology?

A.  I felt that industrial/organizational psychology was a really good combination of psychology and my personal interest in group dynamics in the business world. There are many opportunities for managers to do things better and to ensure employees are learning much more effectively. The clinical side was not my niche—there are drawbacks to the academic “ivory tower,” and I believe that there is a place for both aspects of what we do.

Q.  How did you get your career started?

A.  I have been very fortunate to be in a position where I just went into a work development role. I had an executive sponsor that wanted to look for weaknesses and do interventions, which gave me the opportunity to apply my trade without going on the street and knocking on doors. I am managing and leading a human resources department now, and have had a fairly unique opportunity to get exposure to everything one could do in HR. I did not have to endure the typical “growing up” pattern of most graduate students.

Q.  How does your degree relate to your job?

A.  Absolutely—I use it everyday!

Q.  What is the level of commitment and difficulty in the field?

A.  This is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. There are not a lot of managers who even know there is such a profession. Not being over intellectual about process, the tenacity and building of business cases are real challenges. Understanding and seeing things from the outside can be very helpful, but it doesn’t mean others will give you the funding to do so. But we must work around these challenges. It is important to be able to speak to business leaders in a language they can understand.

Q.  What advice would you give students in the field?

A.  I would tell psychology students in general to remember the tactical realities. It is not all theoretical. They can make a real impact on real people in different ways. I would tell industrial/organizational psychology graduate students that just because the research says so, doesn’t make it so. You also need a little more business acumen and to know where the main points are to present your case. There is a huge need and opportunity for professionals who can do that.

Q.  Are there any subjects you wished you had studied for your job?

A.  I could have done with a little financial exposure and some basic business. It would help to have classes to learn what really is something that would make companies spend some money, as well as the financial realities folks are working in.

Q.  Did you join any organizations as a student that helped you with your career?

A.  I became a member of a number of organizations as a graduate student, including the Society for Human Resource Management, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SHRM) and the American Psychological Association. I got my PHR (Professional in Human Resources Certification) from the SHRMAcademy in after graduation, and I’m now co-chairing the talent-acquisition department at the local SHRM chapter in Milwaukee.

Q.  How much training did you receive in graduate school for your career? Was it heavier on theory or practice, or a bit of both?

A.  It was a bit of both. The program was very well done and offered a good combination of theory and practical applications. At the ChicagoSchool, we tended to work with real companies with a real need. I was fortunate in that I had a role in which I was applying what I was learning everyday.

The skills that clinicians get—listening, drawing things out of clients and guiding them to solutions—those skills can be used in industrial organizations. There is a lot of energy and action in the industrial/organizational psychology community—we are doers. But those are core, important skill sets we could work on in this community.

Q.  What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?  Most challenging?

A.  Seeing intervention reach fruition is the most challenging. Once the feedback starts coming in and you feel you are making a difference in people’s lives, it is very rewarding. The frustration can be challenging. We do surveys, get the results and take action with an intervention, but sometimes we’re not in control of the implementation.

Written by: Scottie Girouard, VP Talent Management—software and services provider to logistics organizations

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