Robert GatewoodMeet Robert Gatewood

MS '67, PhD’71, I-O Psychology
Faculty Emeritus
University of Georgia

What inspired you to pursue your PhD in I-O Psychology?

This was a fairly long process.  My first two years of undergrad classes I had no major or particular interest.  The summers before my sophomore and junior years, I took the first two courses in psychology. These focused me.  I almost immediately understood the field and how all the chapters of the books fit together.  So I declared a psych major my junior year and was assigned a faculty member who advised me on courses to take. For some reason this adviser put me into nothing but grad psych courses.  So there I was a young junior in classes with only MS and Ph.D. students.  I was so clueless I didn’t realize this was probably the wrong way to start.  I remember doing multiple regression problems with my group on Marchant calculators.  In my 3rd semester of these grad classes, I was put into an I-O class. I liked it and thought it interesting.  My first interest was clinical but I soon realized I could not go through the stress of conducting psychological therapy and not feeling I was getting anywhere.  I thought that if I could help make work situations better I could probably help many more people.  Remember this was the late 1960’s. Helping was in.

What drew you to Purdue specifically for your graduate studies?

I asked my I-O prof what were the good I-O grad programs.  He said “Purdue is the best.”  So that was it.  I didn’t visit, contact anyone, look anything up.  I just applied.  I thought grad school application was like undergrad.

What would you say has been your secret to a successful career? 

When I get one, I will tell you.  For me, my career has been a serious of decisions about what seemed important or interesting to me.  I was married all of grad school and became a father at the beginning of my second year.  Like getting placed in all grad courses, this was probably not the best way to start grad school.  I needed money and was able to become a sort of project director for a research contract that a psych faculty member had.  She moved to U. Pittsburgh and joined a research/consulting company after I past prelims. So I and family moved to.  We finished the project and then I became a research/consultant.  While doing this I decided to try teaching at night at U Pitt’s psychology dept.  My first course was intro measurement.  So I walked into my first class and realized I was one of the youngest of the 35 people in the room.  All were working adults furthering careers.  Without really realizing this was probably not a good way of starting an academic career, I plunged in.  I was enthusiastic, tried to use funny examples, walked around the room, did not read notes, asked questions, and had in-class group projects which we talked about. I really enjoyed it and the class seemed to go well.  The department head invited me back the next semester for the same course.  After teaching two classes, I decided that university teaching was more fun and more interesting work than being a consultant.  So I applied to three universities.  Again I didn’t visit, find out much about them, or contact anyone.  I wrote letters and included my resume.  I did decide to apply only to business schools (I had a family and b-schools paid more than psych depts.) that were in the south (I was tired of cold weather in Pittsburgh and Lafayette).   I got two job offers and moved to the Management Department of the College of Business at the University of Georgia.  Two close friends from Purdue were there and assured me it was a good place to be.

Based on your experience, what advice do you have for managing one's career?

I think there are two general career-types. The first is those who have a very clear idea of what they want to do and how they are going to do it.  These people plan their careers.  That group should do all the thinking and steps that compose most of the career development literature. The second is those who have a good idea of what they want to do but not a definite plan of specific activities and how they will do them. You can guess which one I think I am in.  That group should try a variety of activities within the area in which they want to work. Be very aware of possibilities that come up and consider what the costs and benefits of those possibilities are.  For many IOs, the first choice is consulting/business or academia.  Try both.  As a grad student, take on an intro course if you can, work on someone’s research project, tutor students, assist a faculty member in a class or a consulting project without being paid, get a summer internship.  Attend various professional meetings of both SIOP and the Society of Human Resource Management, maybe go to local chapter meetings of the latter.  Try to find projects in both business and academia that you can attach to and experience what happens in both arenas. Then decide which one fits your interests, personality, KSAs better.  No matter what decision you make, it is not life-long.  However, if academia is at least tied with business, then start in academia.  It is harder to switch to academia unless you have some publications and papers you have completed while working in business.  Periodically, do a self-evaluation of how you think your career is doing.  Are you enjoying what you do, how successful have you been, what does future work and success look like. Keep looking at possible changes.  For example, I realized about half way through my career that I was more interested and probably had abilities more suited to transmitting IO research into definite actions and systems for those working in business than I did in full-bore research. So I did more executive training, consulting, coauthored Human Resource Selection, and helped small organizations address their HR issues as they grew.  I also took advantages of opportunities to take positions as Department Head, Associate Dean, and President of the HR Division of the Academy of Management.  In the first two cases especially, I was able to implement changes to the selection, performance review, and compensation systems for faculty based upon HR research.  I really enjoyed all of these activities and this phase of my career.    

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