If you had told me 20 years ago that I would one day work at the American Psychological Association, I would have laughed and said, “No way!” I was committed to one day working in a hospital as a pediatric psychologist. But after 8 years as Associate Executive Director of APAGS, I can say that this is a job that I have relished. Who knew?
Developing the APAGS Strategic Plan with the APAGS Committee, Washington, DC, 2012.
How did I get to APA as a staff member? Primarily, it was because I got involved. I served 4 years on the APAGS Committee as Member at Large and Chair of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns. I also was the student representative on the Ethics Code Task Force, revising the APA Ethics Code. After 4 years as a student leader, I took some time off from APA while I started my dream job in a department of pediatrics at a county hospital. I returned to APA leadership a few years later as a founding member of the Committee on Early Career Psychologists, followed by a term on the Board of Professional Affairs. It was halfway through my term on BPA that the AED position opened up at APAGS. My leadership experience at APA and other organizations (primarily Ohio Psychological Association and the Society of Pediatric Psychology) opened up the doors.
So, you’ve put hundreds of hours into your research – you know the theories inside and out. You can talk about the relationships between your variables. Your methods. Your findings. Your implications. But, can you do it in 30 seconds or less?
Convention necessitates we prepare our ‘elevator speech’ to engage quickly (but meaningfully) with colleagues while we are crunched for time moving from session to session or waiting for a session to start. Maybe you’re looking to solidify your introduction for a seminar or conversation hour you’re leading. This is your opportunity to communicate the importance of your work and how it benefits our field. Think of this as a way for you to provide a clear, brief message on who you are and what interests you.
Here are some quick and easy tips to help you prepare your ‘elevator speech’ and build connections at convention:
• Think about the major themes of your research. What are the questions you are trying to answer? What are the topics that excite you? Why are these issues important? Given the diversity of our field, it is likely that you will interact with psychologists and students who are unfamiliar (or vaguely familiar) with your research area, so be sure to eliminate all jargon.
• Talk about what motivates you. Your goals for life post degree. Why is it that you are doing this work? Are you seeking to impact clinical practice? Are you trying to influence policy? Are you looking to join the academy, clinical practice, think tank, etc.?
• Write it down and practice. This might seem silly, but it is crucial. Here is your opportunity to refine what you are trying to say and become comfortable communicating it with others. You can practice with your family, friends, and classmates. Here is your opportunity to work out the bugs and practice these conversations. Check out an outline here and watch Duke University students practice their elevator speech (literally) here.
• Let them know who you are. Find out who they are. Remember, this ‘speech’ is an opportunity to make a meaningful connection. Make it personal. It’s likely you may want to follow up with them in the future, and your 30-60 second interaction may blossom into a relationship or mentorship. After all, your elevator speech opens the door for further conversation.
Lastly, remember to breathe and enjoy convention.
Editor’s Note: Check out these additional posts about how to have a successful Convention experience.
When I began grad school in 2008 to pursue a degree in Counseling Psychology, I planned to become a practitioner, possibly a professor and academic researcher. To be honest, that’s all I knew about psychology – I didn’t realize there were so many more career options. But as I finished my M.A. in Counseling Psych at Loyola University Chicago, I knew that therapy wasn’t for me. I decided to pursue an additional research-focused degree and enrolled in another M.A. program, this time in Human Sexuality at San Francisco State University. If you’re going to learn about research it might as well be on a fun topic.
As my second degree came to a close, I was tired of being a broke student. I loved doing research, but the thought of another 4-6 years in grad school pursuing a Ph.D. was too much. Living in the most expensive city in the country was taking its toll, and my student loans were already sky-high. I needed a job – preferably one that pays well.
I was also disenchanted with academic research. I disliked that it took years to finish a study and it seemed the results, while meaningful long-term, weren’t immediately making an impact. But what I really hated were lit reviews – designing studies and analyzing data were much more fun. I dreamed of a job where research moved fast, results were immediately clear and actionable, and lit reviews were a thing of the past. I didn’t think such a role existed, but I was about to stumble upon it.
It is a time of turmoil and dramatic change in the United States. This is reflected in divisive executive orders, the rise in hate crimes, and hate rhetoric targeted at marginalized groups.
So what can you do? This article calls on psychologists and psychologists-in-training to use their expertise and privilege to combat prejudice and discrimination as well as promote inclusion across the spectrum of diverse identities.
By Kala J. Melchiori, PhD (Asst. Professor of Psychology, James Madison University)
Dear low-income graduate students,
If you come from a less privileged background, graduate school can present unique social and cultural challenges. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for low-income grad students after financial worry is belonging. Students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds report lower feelings of belonging during graduate school and beyond[i]. Students who feel they do not belong are more likely to drop out of their programs and steer away from high-prestige academic positions (like R1 or R2 tenure-track jobs) after they graduate. Below I offer some advice I wish I had heard before starting graduate school.