Success Story | UMBC I/O Psychology Alumna Shares Her Experience

A success story | We sat down with recent UMBC I/O Psychology Master’s Graduate, Barbara Blau. She discussed how the benefits of her professional graduate degree extended far beyond the classroom. In her own words, here’s what she had to say about her experience.

There were dozens of opportunities open to me during my time as a student that led to a success story. My instructors, classmates, and alumnae regularly shared exciting job and internship opportunities. This resulted in multiple job offers, an internship offer, and promotion.

success storyDuring my first semester in the program, I worked on several projects with classmates employed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda. I learned what it was like to work at NIH. They are using their I/O psychology skills to support the mission. Subsequently, I received two job offers with them. I accepted a position within the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

During my final year in the I/O program, a professor connected my class with a great opportunity. We could apply for a prestigious internship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Washington, D.C. They chose me for the internship! I spent several months learning how I/O psychologists apply their expertise to employee and labor relations cases. Additionally, I created my capstone presentation based on my experience with EEOC.

My capstone centered around the appropriate use of personality tests in the workplace. I researched the validity and reliability of various personality tests and constructs. In doing so, I determined which were and were not appropriate for workplace environments. Then, I created a reference guide for the EEOC auditor staff nation-wide. As a result, they could easily reference information on dozens of different tests when reviewing cases or complaints. The guide also included recommendations and best practices for businesses. I recommended how to avoid causing adverse impact or other potentially harmful effects.

My findings included:

  • Most personality assessments are not valid or reliable for workplace settings.
  • Certain methods of assessing candidates allow for lower impact and less discrimination than others. Especially in regards to using the personality test. For example, the multiple-hurdle method has a higher potential for adverse impact. The reason is because candidates who “fail” the personality test do not move forward.
  • The most validity and reliability for personality constructs usually comes from tests that have been around longer. Also, they come from those that are developed specifically for workplace use. And additionally, they have the most peer-reviewed research. Businesses should be cautious of newer tests.
  • The expertise of I/O Psychologists is absolutely essential to the work of the EEOC. Especially knowledge in data analysis, methods of assessment, survey, Employee/Labor relations, job analysis, and many others.

After sharing that part of her success story, Barbara further explained how she discovered and landed in her current position.

Great Opportunity

Through an alumnae of the I/O program, I learned of an opening on NIH’s Workforce Analytics team. They focused on survey design, strategic planning, process optimization, and data analysis. I was able to connect with the team through an alumnae. She met with me to answer questions and help me decide if the position was right for me. Thanks to her help, the NIH offered me the position and accepted the promotion!

I would not be working at NIH now if not for the program. And, I would certainly not have had the opportunity to work in the I/O field with such a fantastic group. I am excited to be using the skills I learned from our program to help NIH achieve its mission. Some of the skills I learned from the UMBC I/O program that I use every day in my current role include survey design and development, data analysis, methods of assessment and organizational behavior management.

UMBC’s Survey Development Course

UMBC’s Survey Development Course was fundamental to my current work at NIH. I learned the survey design process and best practices, which I use daily. Also, Dr. Milatzo had us write a Lessons Learned document for our survey project. I had used this in my interview.

One of the most valuable things I have taken with me from the I/O Psych program at UMBC is a strong network of alumni contacts. I have connected with UMBC I/O alumni across dozens of different institutes at NIH, and many other agencies within the Federal Government. Also, I’ve recommended many students for jobs here. Moving forward, I continue to look for UMBC I/O graduates when we have job openings. I do this  because I know they will be hard working and well-prepared to handle the challenges we face at NIH.

If you’d like to learn more about how to get started in a career in I/O Psychology, register for our upcoming Info Session on January 25th.

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