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Amber Stark

Early Career Takeover: Meet Nate Voss

Deciding to start a graduate program can be scary, but what can be even more daunting is post-graduate life. There are many unknowns surrounding the transition from student to career professional, even for students who held a job or internship during the course of their program.

To help clear up this ambiguity for upcoming graduates (and give potential I-O students a glimpse of a day-in-the-life), we will periodically interview early career SIOP members throughout 2022. Below is Dr. Nate Voss’s take on his PhD program and taking the first step toward starting his career.

When did you graduate from your PhD program?
I graduated from Kansas State University in May 2021.

What did you enjoy most about the program?
There were many positive aspects of the program. Overall, I really enjoyed being able to expand my knowledge of various I-O topics, learning how to become an evidence-based researcher, and cultivating many data-related skills through a rigorous statistics program. When I look back at where I was at with things during my first year in the program and compare this to where I was at by the time of graduation, it is a bit crazy to realize how much I learned over that time span. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the program, however, was the people. I was very fortunate to have a tight-knit and supportive cohort. Being able to go through graduate school with a group of friends who always had each other’s back definitely made this process more enjoyable (and bearable)! I also had the opportunity to work with many great professors and other wonderful colleagues throughout my time in graduate school.

How long after graduation did you find employment?
I began my job search the semester before graduation (Fall 2020). Given the many uncertainties surrounding the job market brought upon by COVID-19, I wanted to give myself sufficient time to find a job that aligned with my interests and skills. After many months of searching and applying, I eventually accepted a position as a Human Capital Consultant with FMP Consulting in Spring 2021. I began this job at the beginning of May 2021, which was 2 weeks before I officially graduated from my PhD program. In hindsight, I’m glad I took this approach to the job search as it allowed me to easily transition from graduate school to industry without having to experience any employment gaps.

Was there anything intimidating about starting that job?
Being that I was in school my whole life up to this point, this was in many ways my first “real” job (not including internships and other temporary consulting/contract work I had done previously). Given this, there were some intimidating aspects about starting at this job. One of my biggest concerns was how effectively I would be able to translate what I learned in graduate school into a consulting setting. It’s one thing to read about consulting and scientist–practitioner topics/issues in graduate school, but it’s a whole other thing to be proactively involved in this area. It was also a little intimidating to be interacting directly with clients as soon as I started the job. One of the unique challenges of consulting is that it requires learning the culture and workings of multiple organizations (e.g., the culture/processes of where I work and the culture/processes of multiple client organizations), which is something I did not fully appreciate until I had to do this. Fortunately, FMP Consulting is a very supportive organization so these concerns were quickly put to rest. Although the job can still be intimidating at times, I have found that it is helpful to treat every challenge as a learning opportunity, always be open minded about how problems can be solved, and not be afraid to seek advice from others.

What is an average day like at your job?
It’s challenging to describe an average day at my job because things change so quickly within the world of human capital consulting! At a general level, I am currently working with multiple clients on projects in the areas of competency modeling, strategic workforce planning, and survey development and administration. Although most days are spent working on these projects to varying degrees, the specific tasks that I am engaging in are extremely variable. For example, on any given Monday I might find myself pilot testing a survey, and then on Tuesday I will be putting together a career planner, on Wednesday I might be working on part of a position analysis, on Thursday I might help facilitate a focus group, and then on Friday I will begin researching how federal legislation is going to impact a project. These are just a handful of examples of tasks I might work on. When I am not working on client projects, I often find myself getting involved in business development work/writing proposals or engaging in other thought leadership activities (e.g., writing research-oriented blog posts, participating in committee activities for the company, working on publications with collaborators, etc.). This variability in the I-O related work that I do is one of the things that makes my current job so exciting and rewarding.

What is your favorite part of working in I-O?
At a broad level, my favorite part of working in I-O is being able to use organizational science in a way that can help people have more positive work experiences. Given how much of life is spent at work, I think it is important to make work enjoyable (or, as SIOP Member Adam Grant might say, to “make work not suck”). At a more specific level, my favorite part of working in I-O is being able to operate as a scientist–practitioner and continually develop my skills in this area. When I was looking for a job, I was very intentional about working for an organization where I could apply evidence-based principles while also keeping a foot in the larger I-O community/science side of I-O. I am fortunate that this is something I can do in my current job and find it very rewarding to simultaneously apply evidence-based solutions for clients while also still collaborating with researchers on various I-O projects (if anyone is looking to collaborate, feel free to reach out!). Although my career is only just beginning, I am very glad I made the decision to study I-O psychology. It is a really exciting and highly relevant profession that I think has the potential to meaningfully transform organizations and people’s lives for the better.

Students and those early in their careers can learn more with these SIOP resources:

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