Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Keeping My Head on Straight

I have had a lot on my mind lately!! This may just be an update as to finding my way, but I think that some people could relate to what is going on in my life right now, as things are getting rather exciting! I feel as if I am standing at the edge of a cliff and about to jump (with a hang glider, of course) into the next steps of my career, life, etc. 

Now, if you know me, I am TERRIBLE at transitioning into the next steps. I hated college when I first got to it, I hated grad school at first, and I hated leaving things behind to go forward. As many of you may know, I refuse to leave certain things behind just because people say to, so that is NOT my purpose in sharing this about me. I just have never been on the front of change, I stay back until I’m ready, which is changing right now! 

I found out that, after petitioning some classes, that I will be graduating in August! (Because university policies state that I have to apply for graduation and even though I’m done in May, I have to wait until August). I took the steps necessary to just complete the Master’s at UTA and to not continue into the PhD program there. For a while, as some of my previous entries have stated, I felt very conflicted about this decision. I knew in my heart that doing something else (not experimental psychology) is what I’m meant to do, but I did talk to close friends, mentors, bosses and family to make sure my head was in the right place as well. 

I have decided to apply to several universities to get a PhD in Managerial Sciences with a specialization in Marketing or International Business. I really had to take a hard look at what I was good at, not so good at, passionate about and what is the most practical. I mean really looking into yourself and planning how to get there just isn’t really my forte. I like to have a general goal and then change it as necessary depending on new information, life experience, etc. That hard look really revealed to me and others what I should be doing!
I encourage everyone to do that “hard look.” Really look at where you are, how you got there, where you want to go and how to get there. The first two things are important as it may be difficult to remember why you chose a certain path at the time and what is has now led to. It is insightful to look at this because then you can begin to see your tendencies in decision making. The last two things are the hardest to hammer out.  That took me several weeks and hours of conversation (because, hey, I’m a talker) to figure out. Once that is figured out though, it feels so exciting! Not every detail has to be planned, but that feeling of really accomplishing something and finding what you are meant to do is awesome! 

Now I know most people may have already gone through this (because like I said before, I’m always the last to change) but I think doing this every so often will really help to keep your head on straight. If anyone has any stories, I’d love to hear them in the comment section!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Conferencing with Twitter

This week, I’m going to go a little more “young professional” in this blog. I’m sure many of you have attended a professional or recreational conference at one time or another. For people who are not excessively sociable like me, I’m sure that the networking and talking gets to be a pain, names and faces run together, and you only end up remembering 5 people that you spoke with.  Sound familiar?

I have had this problem in the past and really wanted to remember people and topics discussed at the latest conference that I attended, the annual Society of Industrial Organizational Psychologists conference in Chicago this year. I wanted to strategically meet people who shared interests, such as social media and globalization and how those things impact the field of I/O in general. I planned to go to the sessions, poster presentations and panel discussions to learn what was going on in those areas from a research standpoint and to gain knowledge of who was driving that line of research. 

It was harder to remember people than I thought. Outside of the scientists and practitioners that were presenting (and I had a copy of who they were in my program) I kept forgetting who I talked to or met just attending the sessions. But one thing changed that once I discovered its full potential, and that would be Twitter. 

Now, I’m sure we all know of Miley Cyrus and Ashton Kutcher’s utilization of Twitter and that reputation that it’s just an oversharing nightmare where celebrities share too much. I have been using it more lately to read blogs and get up to date sports news (and other things), but I had never imagined how it could help with my conference situation. 

I could tweet my opinion on certain sessions and hashtag (or put a number sign, #) in front of the word SIOP or SIOP 2011 to be searchable in the Twitterverse, as well as searching about what other people were saying. It sparked great discussion and healthy debate, but actually made me remember who I met and their stance on certain subjects. I could engage in conversation long after the awkward 10 minute meeting and begin to develop more in depth relationships. 

I am actually continuing a lot of those discussions, currently, long after the end of the conference. My impression is that conferences were built to share ideas and meet new people, and Twitter really enables an individual to get a more thorough understanding of the topics and cultivate relationships over a period of time. This SIOP was awesome for me, and I got a lot more out of it by simply checking my tweets!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Ain't Settling!

I’ve been trying to make some really big decisions as of late and I thought that I could share my experience, conflict and some conclusions with all of you! Firstly, as I’m sure a lot of you know, I am behind in finishing my Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology, but I have been done with classes for 2 YEARS! It’s been massively frustrating to know that, but to placate myself; I applied and was accepted to my school’s PhD program (which is not in Industrial Organizational). The PhD program is in Experimental Psychology, which isn’t one of my strong interests, but I have been trying to make the best of it.

I am now at a juncture. My Master’s thesis is on a topic I am not interested in at all, the method is not something that I will be using in the I/O field and I feel as if I have received no guidance from the I/O professors (which is definitely at least half my fault, due to work schedules, living in a different city, etc). Because of that, I have been harboring some really strong feelings of inadequacy, frustration and overall hopelessness. I was to the point of coming up with a plan to graduate with some help from my fellow academic friends to present to my advisor to ensure graduation by December, but I got a call last week offering me a terminal Master’s and the option of not doing a thesis at all, but just a capstone statistical project. 

I honestly thought about this all day every day for a week. I felt if I took this option, I’d be giving up on my dreams, my future and my overall career. But then, man to be done with all of this stuff and to try and apply to a PhD program that actually interested me was exciting! I realized that I have come to absolute LOATHE school. When did I get to that point?! I LOVED school growing up, during undergraduate and even in graduate school.

I began to research some of the PhD programs in the area (because I love DFW and my job right now). I felt like life was breathed back into me. That I could focus on an achievable goal that was not hindered in any way, and even though it would probably be more work on my part, something that wouldn’t create so much cognitive dissonance (ha! Look that one up!) to do.  I basically had to talk myself into thinking that the current track was the way to go because it was the easiest, as I am almost done with PhD classes as well. But, the place where I really struggled was the research side, and now I was going to subject myself to an even less interesting field just to get a degree? No way, I don’t operate that way.

I still haven’t come to an ultimate conclusion, but what I do know is that I WILL get my Master’s in this subject sooner, rather than later (because it’s something I really have a passion for) and then find a PhD program that really goes along with my strengths, passions and interests. I really enjoy doing research (even though I was told recently, that I clearly don’t) and relaying what I find to all kinds of people. Sometimes, research findings are difficult to translate, as we are encouraged to speak in jargon and math without considering potential audience members that just don’t have that type of background. I LOVE explaining what I do to people, even though now it’s more of a rehearsed little speech. :) 

I’m not sure that I have found my way yet through this specific obstacle, but I know in my heart that I will. And if anyone is going through anything similar, whether it is professional, relational or otherwise, my advice is always DON’T SETTLE! Do NOT do something because it seems to make the most sense, be the most practical or be the easiest path. Even though it seems that way, settling for something will create more problems than it avoids.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spanish Flava!

So this week will focus on the more positive experiences I had while traveling abroad and what it really got me to think about; it jumps around, but I think it’s all important! First of all, I am serious that every person should go to Europe at least once in their lifetime and with a small group of people. I also am serious that you should NOT GO until you are at least 21. I found it very interesting that Elizabeth and I were really the only people of our age group on a lot of the tours, at the sites, and just around in general. When it came to comparing us to the other Americans that were present in Barcelona, people were genuinely surprised that we were American. I have a few insights as to why, but I’d love to hear if anyone else had any thoughts!

Firstly, Elizabeth has been to Paris before. She warned me that Americans are seen as loud and obnoxious, so we both made an effort to blend in. Though it sounds insane that all Americans are this way, I did witness it more often than not. It wasn’t that they were trying to bother anyone; they were just excited to be there and overly friendly (A point I will revisit later). That made them look like they were being inconsiderate and loud, when really they weren’t. It was definitely enlightening to see my culture through someone else’s eyes.
The other thing I noticed was that MOST of the Americans I encountered were young kids (and by that I mean late middle school, high school age) there in VERY LARGE groups. They were those girls that text incessantly and eat a variety of chips while not even glancing up at one of the biggest cathedrals in Spain. They were the guys who were pushing and shoving each other in front of cars and just being overly rambunctious. They were interested in drinking and partying and not the experience.  And I had a light bulb effect, of “Ah, that’s what they think we ALL are; individuals who don’t appreciate the awesomeness that is in front of us, who don’t branch out and try the local cuisine, who make things difficult for those around them.” And it quite frankly, isn’t fair. 
When talking to some of the locals, I found out a few funnier stereotypes and I found out what nationality they thought me and Elizabeth were, which was fun! Europeans don’t only think that Americans are fat (which honestly, I saw fat people in Spain as well, just no one on scooters) they also think Americans are tall. One guy actually said “Oh you both are too small to be Americans in both ways.” We also at least attempted to speak Spanish to people (even though Mexican pronunciation and usage was VERY different), which most didn’t expect. Elizabeth was thought to be a Spaniard in every setting and I got Dutch or German mostly. I guess I have never thought of myself looking anything other than American, so that was a fun time!

Going back to the whole language thing, most Europeans speak at least 3 languages and most of them do speak at least a little English. That is one of the biggest criticisms of Americans is that they only speak English. Well, if I lived in close proximity to all of these different languages, I probably would have learned a few too, naturally. There were SO MANY differing languages surrounding us that we could pick up on a few and a lifetime of that would ensure knowing at LEAST 3. If the US was like that, Elizabeth’s quote was “It’s like if I went to Delaware and they spoke a different language; I would probably know it.” I actually am considering spending more time abroad to learn a few more languages more naturally. On a side note, it was so hard to switch back to English greetings on my return. I did say “Hola!” to a few people by accident.

I really missed the American friendliness that I talked about earlier. I had never been SO HAPPY to get back to the States where I could rely on people to be helpful. And yes, I did hug a Customs Agent in JFK, because she told us that there was a shuttle from JFK to Newark that wasn’t too expensive. The people in Newark were just as helpful too. And seriously, I was never happier to have that back. Being in Europe, when I sneezed, no one said “Bless You” or even looked up. If someone was struggling with something, no one stopped. That was one big thing that I missed and one thing I’d like to spread. Americans are nice people, even in regions that you think aren’t. I definitely would stop and help or say “Salue” because I think people are worth it, and I think that we all do this naturally, why not be examples of consideration? Just something to think about. I know its long! But I hope it gives a little insight into my experience!