Not in Kansas Anymore: Transitioning to a Faculty Position in Management as a New I-O Graduate

CSIOP Contributor and Management Professor Stephanie Gilbert describes her experience of transitioning into faculty role in a management program following an I-O doctoral degree. She explains the challenges and advantages of working in a business school and some reflective questions that could help I-O scholars decide if teaching in a management program may be a good fit for them.

I-O Scholars are very fortunate to have so many options following graduate school in terms of job opportunities. We can become practitioners or remain scholars (or do both!), and we can pursue academic roles in Psychology, Management, or in other fields. I appreciated this aspect of I-O so much as a student to know that many doors remained open to me following graduation from my PhD. In the final year of my doctoral program, I applied widely to faculty positions across North America, in various programs. In the end, I decided to take a position as assistant professor at Cape Breton University in the Shannon School of Business. Working within a management department rather than a psychology department as an I-O scholar has felt a little bit foreign and intimidating, but there are also some significant benefits to working in such an environment. Hopefully, this blog can help students to decide for themselves whether management or psychology is the best fit for them while on the academic job hunt.

My First Year in a Business School

My first year in a faculty position has been both challenging and enjoyable, but one of the more interesting aspects of my transition has been acclimating to a faculty position in a management department as an I-O scholar. I am no longer surrounded by I-O students and faculty who have a similar understanding of research methodology or I-O principles and theory. Instead, my colleagues teach in areas like economics, law, finance, and entrepreneurship. In this setting, there is a more applied focus, greater use of business jargon, and more of a need to ‘sell’ the kind of research I do and its practical implications. It can be more difficult to find a common ground with my colleagues. I have been challenged to learn how to communicate my research in layman’s terms, but also to adapt to working much more independently on my research.

The Benefits of Teaching in Management

Given these differences, there are certainly some advantages to working in a business school and these include the excellent ties to local business owners and alumni that make applied research more accessible and the opportunity to work on interdisciplinary research teams. I have also had opportunities to apply I-O theory and principles to new contexts such as entrepreneurship and small business management: work that, for me, is enriching and motivating.

A few things have helped me to make the transition to a business school this year. Getting involved with local businesses through, for instance, industry partnership projects, has allowed me to meet the local business community and raise awareness about the field of I/O. For example, I am currently working with a technology start-up to test their workplace communication software and how it can improve employee outcomes. The results will help the company market their software and I will hopefully publish the results. Getting to know faculty in other departments with an emphasis on research has provided me with many mentors and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Brushing up on my general business knowledge has reminded me of the ‘language of business’ and has improved how I communicate I-O research to the business community. And finally, maintaining ties with my I-O colleagues has been critical towards furthering my research program and remaining connected to the field of I/O. Attending I-O conferences and continuing to collaborate with colleagues in I-O has helped me to maintain ties and develop new ones.

Is Management a Good Fit for You?

Many I-O graduates are choosing to take positions in management, and there are a few notable differences between management and psychology departments. Although the switch may be challenging initially, there are many benefits for I-O scholars working in business schools and I believe that business schools benefit from our unique skillsets as well. For example, I taught my undergraduate OB class this year around a theme of evidence-based management, which was a new concept for the students and I think contributed to their understanding of research and how it can be utilized in practice.

If you are unsure about whether a management or psychology department is a good fit for you, you could consider the following questions: Do you enjoy working in interdisciplinary teams? Can you effectively conduct research independently? Are you proficient at communicating about I-O in layman’s terms? Do you have a basic knowledge of the foundations of business (e.g., accounting, economics), or are you willing to learn? If you answered yes to these questions, then a business setting may be right for you. I would also argue that I-O scholars on the faculty job hunt need to consider the culture and fit of the department regardless of the discipline. My current department is very collegial, positive, and I felt comfortable there all along, so these factors facilitated my decision to accept their job offer.

I’m interested to hear from I-O graduate students planning to apply for a faculty position. Will you apply for management or psychology positions? If you are working within a management department as an I-O scholar, what has your experience been like?

Stephanie Gilbert is Assistant Professor in Organizational Management at Shannon School of Business, Cape Breton University.


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