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Early career psychologists and ‘the revolving door’

As I walk in a little late to a session for early career psychologists, Barry Chung, PhD, is speaking about a common topic at this type of convention — “the revolving door.”

The revolving door is a metaphor for “recycled leadership” in association governance. Basically, the same people hold the power year after year. Some people have served in various leadership positions for many years without ever rotating out of APA governance. The result is that there is a huge barrier that prevents new leaders from breaking in to APA governance. It also does not allow for new ideas and promotes group think/the formation of cliques. In the wake of the Hoffman report, this has become a hot topic around convention.

Chung adds that APA has a problem — it’s getting old. With an average membership age in the mid-50s, APA is struggling to recruit new people. This is why it is an APA imperative to get early career psychologists (ECPs) involved in leadership within the association.

Also at the session is Angela Kuemmel, PhD, who serves on APA’s ECP Committee and shares some facts about ECPs. First, she defines ECPS as within 10 years of receiving their terminal degree. Also, ECPs represent only 20% of APA membership, they tend to be more diverse in terms of identity and work in more diverse settings. They also tend to have a better scope of the career prospects in psychology and are more in touch with the contemporary issues facing the field.

A slight smirk then comes to Angela’s face as she describes another phenomenon  — “unempirical supported stereotypes about ECPs.” She describes microagressions that  damage the credibility of ECPs. She says that while ECPs are seen as having “lots of energy and being technology/social media experts,” they are not seen for their expertise within psychology. She goes on to describe the importance of not equating ECPs with students, which more seasoned folks too often do. These  beliefs discredit ECPs’ expertise in psychology.

I think of my own experience within APA governance and how often I have felt these microagressions. At this point, I feel a sense of irony blogging this event and fulfilling the stereotype. I am also aware of how often I am asked if I am a student.

Then Katharine Oh, PhD, a former ECP Committee member steps discusses the importance of modeling and leadership. When an ECP considers getting involved in an organization, it is crucial that they see other ECPs as models. She also discusses the importance of mentoring and helping ECPs get oriented within their leadership positions. She describes several leaderships programs she has been part of including a few “leadership development academies” designed to help early career leaders develop and gain experience for future leadership positions.

I think to my own mentors and how they helped me gain experience and leadership positions. If it weren’t for these people, I would have felt lost upon entering governance.

When I leave the session, there is a general sense of hope and optimism. It feels like the revolving door is starting to close. Only time will tell if significant changes happen, but it is truly encouraging to see this programming at convention.

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