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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2013
Psi Chi Officers Can Develop
the Skills Employers Seek

Dava Stewart

Early in his teaching career, Dr. Drew Appleby taught at Marian College, a small school without a Psi Chi chapter until one of his students decided to bring Psi Chi to the Marian campus. Displaying an admirable level of determination, the student wrote a successful application for a Psi Chi chapter and then served as its first president.

Years later, Dr. Appleby had lunch with his former Psi Chi president, who was working as a successful commercial property manager. By this time, Dr. Appleby had begun to do serious research into what skills psychology majors gain in pursuit of their degrees compared to the skills employers are seeking when making hiring decisions. He asked the student how his undergraduate education had helped him become a successful professional.

"The first thing he mentioned was the Psi Chi application, which he said provided him with an opportunity to use his writing skills to accomplish something other than completing a term paper or answering an essay question.” In writing the application for the charter, the student said he had to apply the skills he had learned as an undergraduate to achieve a particular outcome. He continued to use those skills in his capacity as a property manager when he wrote important documents, such as leases, insurance claims, dispute resolutions, by-laws, and covenants.

From the beginning, Dr. Appleby was motivated to help students struggling with the job market. He approached the problem from a research perspective because he said, "I had to educate myself about these skills before I could successfully educate my students about them.” The conversation with his former student confirmed the findings of his careful research: Psi Chi officers do develop important, useful skills that can be successfully applied in the workplace.

For his first research project on the topic of psychology majors and the job market, Dr. Appleby asked the director of Marian’s Career Center for the names and addresses of employers who sent recruiters to Marian who indicated they were willing to interview psychology majors. Dr. Appleby then contacted those employers and asked them what it was they looked for in new hires.

As he reviewed their answers, it occurred to him that the employers were not "looking for knowledge, but for skills.” He uses a quote from Alfred North Whitehead to illustrate the point: "Knowledge does not keep any better than fish.” The specific information students learn is not as important as the process they use to learn it. Dr. Appleby says, "It is crucial to help our students understand that the knowledge we teach them is less important than the skills we are requiring them to develop in order to acquire that knowledge.” These life-long learning skills are the essential core of a college education.

Dr. Appleby describes himself as an "educational idealist” because he believes that an undergraduate education in psychology can and should be a genuinely transformative experience, not just a race to obtain a diploma as quickly and easily as possible. He also urges his students to participate as active partners in this transformative process by working as hard as they can to answer the following five crucial career-planning questions:

1. For what occupations can I prepare if I major in psychology?

2. What specific skills must I possess to enter and succeed in these occupations?

3. How can I use both the curricular and extracurricular opportunities my undergraduate education provides to develop these skills?

4. Who can serve as a mentor to guide me in the selection of and engagement in these opportunities?

5. Once I have developed these skills, what strategies can I use to convince employers that I possess them so they will hire me?

Dr. Appleby believes that the answer to the last question is especially important. Many students join Psi Chi because they think it will look good on their resumes. While this may be true, employers will be far more impressed if the resume shows exactly what they did as an officer, committee member, or participant in activities or projects. Dr. Appleby states succinctly, "Employers want people who know how to learn, and that is where being an officer goes from being a line on a resume to being much more.”

 

How to Use Your Resume
to Showcase Your Skills

Drew C. Appleby, PhD,  Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Dr. Norine Jalbert’s 1996 Psi Chi President’s Message (Jalbert, 1996), "Psi Chi Should Be More Than One Line on Your Resume,” provided a compelling argument for the validity of her title. Seventeen years later, the results of the research described in this article provide evidence that her argument is was not only logically sound, but is also supported by empirical data. The take-home message for Psi Chi members is clear: although being elected to Psi Chi is an honor, it is not an end in itself. Wise Psi Chi inductees should understand that their membership is just the beginning of an amazing opportunity to serve their chapter as an officer and to develop an impressive portfolio of job-related skills in this role. The following example of an entry on a resume clearly demonstrates the types of skills valued by employers.

President of Terra College’s Psi Chi Chapter (August 2011-August, 2012)

  • Scheduled, organized, and ran chapter meetings

  • Created annual goals for the chapter and each of its officers

  • Delegated duties and followed up to ensure that duties were performed

  • Planned and executed three major events under significant financial and time constraints

  • Created Terra College’s first Honors Day by collaborating with the presidents of the other Terra College student honor societies and the Dean of the Terra College Honors Program

Psi Chi Officers Can Develop a
Full Portfolio of Career-Related Skills

Drew C. Appleby, PhD,  Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Joseph R. Ferrari, PhD, DePaul University (IL)

A Psi Chi Thelma Hunt Research Grant enabled us to investigate the characteristics of Psi Chi alumni and the impact of their Psi Chi membership. We surveyed 4,000 Psi Chi alumni to gather their demographic characteristics, undergraduate research experiences, and career or graduate school status, and we published the results of our project in Eye on Psi Chi (Ferrari & Appleby, 2005). The final question on our survey asked, "If you were a Psi Chi officer, what specific skills did you acquire as a result of your duties that helped you in your continued education or employment since your graduation?” We asked this question because we were interested in the skills Psi Chi officers report they develop during their service to their chapters.

Our quantitative analysis showed us that Psi Chi officers report they develop many valuable skills while they carry out their duties. But what are these skills and how are they related to the skills college graduates need to be successful when they complete their undergraduate educations? To answer these questions, we switched to a qualitative research approach by performing a content analysis on the 317 reported skills in which we used the categories of skills included in the United States Department of Labor’s 1991 SCANS Report as our organizational structure. (This very comprehensive report identified the skills that the members of the American workforce of the 21st Century should develop during their education so they can succeed on-the-job.) The left column of the following table contains 10 of the SCANS skill categories and the right column contains the specific skills reported by our sample of Psi Chi officers that fit into each of these categories. The take-home message from this table is clear. Former Psi Chi officers report that they developed a wide range of skills while they were carrying out their duties and that these were the same skills they used on-the-job when they entered the workforce.

SCANS Skill Category (number of times mentioned by Psi Chi alumni)
and Specific Skills Listed by Former Psi Chi Officers

1. Leadership skills (61)

  • Organizing, planning, and running meetings
  • Motivating others
  • Developing thorough and thoughtful planning skills
  • Setting goals
  • Learning the benefits of being in a well-organized and motivated group

2. Communication skills (55)

  • Giving oral presentations
  • Developing interpersonal communication skills
  • Learning to make contact with a target audience
  • Developing writing skills
  • Listening to others' perspectives
3. Organizational skills (46)

  • Learning to pay attention to details
  • Keeping very good track of paperwork
  • Acting as the chapter's historian

4. Interpersonal/People/Social skills (32)

  • Networking
  • Getting to know, communicating with, and working with faculty
  • Meeting new people
  • Being considerate of others' situations
  • Advising and mentoring
  • Learning how to deal with people in stressful situations
  • Displaying diplomacy
  • Learning to work effectively with other officers
5. Managing time (20)

  • Working under time pressures
  • Learning to be accurate and on-time
  • Calendering
6. Facilitating/Managing group work (20)

  • Delegating responsibilities/duties
  • Recruiting
  • Managing volunteers
7. Working with others on a team (17)

  • Making sure everyone has a job
  • Learning to follow up to make sure assignments are completed
  • Learning that cooperation is necessary to reach goals
  • Acting as a liason
8. Acting in a responsible manner (13)

  • Developing self-discipline
  • Being accountable
  • Developing a willingness to go above and beyond to fill a position that was time-consuming, but which benefited a large number people
9. Thinking skills (11)

  • Being creative
  • Becoming involved in research
  • Developing skills to work in an academic situation
  • Making decisions
  • Developing better understanding of psychological information
10. Operating within systems (8)

  • Learning how to communicate effectively with faculty
  • Learning the ins/outs of departmental operations
  • Understanding hierachies
  • Learning how to communicate within bureaucratic systems
  • Becoming aware of community agencies
  • Understanding the benefits of getting involved
Authors’ Note:
The authors would like to thank Robert Athey for data entry.

References
Ferrari, J. R., & Appleby, D. C. (2005, Winter). Alumni of Psi Chi: Does "membership have its advantages” on future employment/education. Eye on Psi Chi, 9(2), 34–37.

Jalbert, N. L. (1996, Fall). Psi Chi should be more than one line on your resume. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(1), 64.

United States Department of Labor: The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Retrieved from http://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/whatwork/whatwork.pdf


Dr. Drew C. Appleby received his BA from Simpson College in 1969 and his PhD from Iowa State University in 1972. During his 40-year career, he served as the chair of the Marian College Psychology Department, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the IUPUI Psychology Department, and the Associate Dean of the IUPUI Honors College. He authored over 100 publications and made over 600 presentations (including 20 invited keynote addresses) to a variety of professional and nonprofessional audiences. He was honored for his outstanding contributions to the science and profession of psychology by being named as a Fellow of the American Psychological Association’s Division One (General Psychology) and Division Two (The Society for the Teaching of Psychology), the Midwestern Psychological Association, and as the 32nd distinguished member of Psi Chi. He also received 39 national, regional, and institutional awards and recognitions for teaching, advising, mentoring, and service. His work with IUPUI’s varsity athletes led him to be named "My Favorite Professor” by 61 student-athletes. He was designated as a mentor by 659 IUPUI psychology majors, 201 of whom indicated he was their most influential mentor by selecting the following sentence to describe his impact: "This professor influenced the whole course of my life and his effect on me has been invaluable.” Dr. Appleby retired from IUPUI in 2011 with the rank of Professor Emeritus.

Joseph R. Ferrari, PhD, is a professor of psychology and "Vincent DePaul Distinguished Professor” at DePaul University, Chicago, IL.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Dr. Ferrari received his BA in psychology from ST. Francis College (NY), in 1978; his MS in experimental psychology from SUNY, College at Cortland, in 1981; his MA in general psychology and PhD in experimental psychology from Adelphi University (NY), in 1985 and 1989, respective. After teaching at several private and public two- and four-year colleges and universities in New York State, he joined the faculty of DePaul University (IL) in 1994.

Dr. Ferrari is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, Society for Community Research & Action, and elected into membership to the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. Since 1995, he is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community (Haworth Press: Binghamton, NY). He has over 265 scholarly publications, 14 books and book chapters, and over 500 conference presentations.

Dr. Ferrari was faculty advisor for DePaul’s chapter of Psi Chi from 1998 to 2004, and from 2005 to 2008. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1996 and in 2004. He received two Thelma Hunt Research Awards through Psi Chi.

He lives in Lisle, IL, west of Chicago, with his wife Sharon. They have three children—Catherine, Christina, and Jonathan.

Copyright 2013 (Volume 18, 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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