Why I Chose I/O Psychology

I have had to explain my career choice a few times recently. These conversations have had a few different reasons. One of them was for a recent job interview. Another was in defense of the profit-motive in my work. Responding to this question used to be fairly easy. I used to say something flippant about how I wanted to make lots of money. Don’t get me wrong, I do like money. I love it, in fact. But this is not the whole answer, or even the most important factor in my career choice. To craft an honest and more complete answer, I have had to probe deep into a place in my mind I seldom visit anymore.

So why did I choose my line of work? The short of it is that I wanted to help people. Cheesy, right? Since this reason can be cited for just about every career choice I can think of (I find it very helpful when someone assembles my Big Macs for me), I should probably elaborate. I am an I/O psychologist (Industrial/Organizational Psychology for those of you new to my blog). The simplest explanation about what we do is to say that we study how people fit into and behave in their jobs and organizations. Understanding the human condition at work is tremendously important. If you really think about it, most adults spend at least half of their waking hours at work. This figure inches up a bit when you factor in the time we spend preparing for and commuting to work. We spend so much of our lives working, but how many of us would rather spend our lives doing something else entirely? If you don’t believe me, check out what a collection of HR professionals said they would do if they won the lottery. So the way I see it, if I really want to make a difference in people’s lives in a meaningful way, improving their work lives is a great way to start.

The “what” and “how” of it is a long story; a post for another day as I am fond of saying, but feel free to read a blog post I wrote on behalf of my previous employer. But that is pretty much the whole of it. I see no reason that work has to be a soul-crushing experience. It is important to note that employees are best served when their organizations are successful. The converse is also true: organizations are most successful when their prosperity is not built at the expense of their employees. Not to sound all “Kumbaya,” but things really seem to work best when everyone is happy and everyone is making money. So, I see my job as just that; I find organizations where a disequilibrium is causing a “sickness” and I “prescribe” a few behavioral interventions.

We all have our calling. This one makes me feel valued and valuable. Anyone care to remember and share what led you to your career choice?

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~ by George Guajardo on August 10, 2009.

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