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Eye on Psi Chi: Spring/Summer 2013

The Need for Networking:
Contacts Are Power

Jason Young, PhD, Psi Chi President, Hunter College, CUNY

In an earlier column, "Psychology Is a Contact Sport (Young, 2012),” I emphasized that the most valuable education in psychology (or, for that matter, in any field) will always include immersive experiences in which you learn the craft of psycho- logical research and practice with those who are experts at what they do. Seeking such opportunities on or close to your campus is the first step toward getting such experience. Yet another useful, depending on how far you want to go in psychology, and perhaps critical step is to attend research talks at which professional researchers present their respective state-of-the-art specializations. Such talks can take place on campuses, but especially occur with critical synergy at professional conventions and conferences. Chances are some of your professors have attended and presented at these and, when the opportunity presents itself, you should try to attend as well (regardless of whether or not you personally know anyone presenting). Attending these events will not only expose you to some of the most recent work being done, but it can be a thrill to see the faces behind the names you encounter throughout psychology textbooks.

General Conventions:
 Many Subfields Under One Large Tent

A common venue for networking with potential psychology colleagues is at a convention where
many different research topics across all subfields
 of psychology are presented. These conventions
may be international, national, or regional in scope. The biannual International Congress of Psychology meetings are an example of the former; APA and APS conventions tend to be more national in scope, though they are working to expand their audiences beyond U.S. borders; and the annual conventions
of the regional organizations (such as the Eastern and Western Psychological Associations*) provide smaller, but still general, opportunities to network. 
A major benefit of these "omnibus” conventions is the opportunity for cross-fertilizing ideas across the subfields of psychology. Remember, never under- estimate the power of serendipity in research; some of the greatest ideas occurred because a researcher unexpectedly struck up a conversation with someone from a completely different subfield.

Focused Conventions and Conferences:
 More Focused Exposure to One Subfield or Topic

In addition, some of the subfields of psychology have developed their own annual or biannual conventions—for example, the Society for Research in Child Development and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Although undergraduates are sometimes welcome at these more discipline-focused conventions, graduate students are particularly attracted to the opportunity to compare notes with their grad student colleagues at other institutions while also meeting with key faculty researchers in their specific fields. Finally, another key setting for professional networking is the research conference, which is often a smaller gathering (perhaps no more than 100–200 people). Conferences typically focus on a specific research area or professional topic, for example, "Issues Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder,” or "Recent Research on the Neuroscience of Affect and Social Cognition.”

At any of these events, it can give one a visceral "rush” to shake hands with an eminent scholar (and, heck, even with an up-and-coming scholar...), but there is no substitute for the opportunity to directly ask these professionals your own questions about their research and other interests. Studies (cf., Silvia, Delaney, & Marcovitch, 2009) have repeatedly indicated that getting face-time with researchers
has a compelling influence on engaging students enough to get them interested in research and other psychology-related careers. One of the most valuable opportunities that Psi Chi provides to its members
is invited distinguished researchers who speak at each of the national and regional conventions. At each convention, we also arrange sessions at which the distinguished speakers meet with a small group of students to talk more about their research and also discuss their personal backgrounds (e.g., how they became interested in psychology when they were in college, how and why they undertook their particular areas of research, what recommendations they have for current undergraduates interested in specific types of careers, etc).

This issue of Eye on Psi Chi includes interviews with several of these distinguished speakers who recently spoke at psychology conventions around the U.S. Psi Chi invited each of these speakers because they have something valuable to share with our members—both about their research and career accomplishments, as well as the back-story of what originally motivated them to get into their respective fields. While reading their interviews, marvel at their accomplishments, but consider also what they were like when they were at your stage of their education.

Follow in their footsteps, but make your own path.

References
Silvia, P. J., Delaney, P. F., & Marcovitch, S. (2009). What psychology majors could (and should) be doing: An informal guide to research experience and professional skills. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Young, J. (2012, Fall). Psychology is a contact sport. Eye on Psi Chi, 17(1), 4.

* There are, in fact, six regional Psychological Associations in the U.S.—Eastern Psychological Association, Southeastern Psychological Association, Midwestern Psychological Association, Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, Western Psychological Association, and Southwestern Psychological Association. Each of these organizations holds an annual convention during the spring months.


Jason Young, PhD, is associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), and is also on the graduate faculty of the School Psychology program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Dr. Young teaches courses in Research Methods, Attitudes and Persuasion, Social Cognition, and Evolutionary Psychology, as well as graduate-level courses in applications of social psychology to social issues. His research focuses on the influence of emotions on various judgment and decision-making processes. Since 1995, he has been faculty advisor to a very active chapter of Psi Chi that has offered major programs to Hunter’s psychology community, including the Annual Hunter Psychology Convention, at which students from Psi Chi chapters from the New York metro area and beyond attend to network and present research. He served as Psi Chi’s Eastern Region Vice-President from 2007–2011.

Copyright 1996 (Volume 1, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology

 

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Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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