The Career Experiences of Industrial and Organisational Psychology Graduates

Article excerpt

Attention has recently been given to the contributions that university programs in industrial and organizational (I/O) make to the profession and to organizations (O'Driscoll, Burt, Cable, Carr, Cooper-Thomas, Gardner & Lobb, 2010). Given the focus of these university programs, including the areas of recruitment and selection, and the general functioning of organizations, the expectation may be that graduates of these programs would be more knowledgeable than many in these topics and hence well prepared to enter the job market and launch their careers. Although knowledge of the general state of the practice of I/O psychology in New Zealand (NZ) has recently been published (Cable & O'Driscoll, 2010), much less is known about how individuals entering the practice fare in employment. Introductory text books offering information on the career paths available to I/O students abound (see for example: Aamodt, 2010; Levy, 2006; Woods & West, 2010), but much less information can be found that focuses on the post graduate career experiences of I/O psychology students. This study sought to fill that knowledge gap by surveying recent graduates (the past decade) from the four universities in NZ offering I/O psychology programs, being Auckland, Canterbury, Massey and Waikato, and exploring their early career experiences. As Scurry and Blenkinsopp (2011, p. 644) argued "recent graduates are of particular interest and potential concern due to the high levels of investment made by individuals, organizations and societies in this group".

Little has likely changed since Nicholson (1993, p. 138) noted that "career development ranks almost universally as a top employee concern". This 'concern' may be higher for individuals who are in the early stages of establishing a career, particularly at a time when employment opportunities may be limited. As Arnold and Cohen (2008, p.3) asserted, "... the external conditions in which careers are enacted cannot be ignored". One of those 'external conditions' is obviously the economy with the current economic recession likely having a considerable impact on career opportunities. Although the job market may recede in an economic recession, a more relevant impact may be the prevailing phenomenon of underemployment, particularly amongst university graduates (Cable & Hendy, 2010; Scurry & Blenkinsopp, 2011) who may be forced into accepting positions below their expectations, further compounding the situation for those job-seekers 'lower' in the employment hierarchy. Additionally, the overall life context within which careers are enacted has evolved (Lee, Kossek, Hall & Litrico, 2011) with individuals seeking greater work-life balance, amongst other societal changes, as familial duties and responsibilities are re-assigned to accommodate dual-income families, and the career interruptions of career moratoriums or breaks by spouses to accommodate new additions to the family. Although the influence of the pursuit of work-life balance shifts the focus of careers from primarily relating to work experiences to also include life experiences, it does reinforce the emergence of development models of careers within which career stages are mapped against life stages. As graduates most likely have the divided focus of establishing both career identity and emerging adult life identity, these influences discussed are potentially at their strongest.

Paralleling the economic and societal influences on the enactment of careers has been the shift in responsibility for career development and management. Under the old psychological contract, and the notion of a linear career and a career for life, the organization played a major role in the development of individuals' careers. The new psychological contract, within which the concepts of protean and boundaryless careers and the notion of psychological success have emerged, has seen responsibility for career management and development shift primarily to the individual (Briscoe, Hall, & Demuth, 2005; King, 2004). …