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Finding an Institution to Match Your Goals

Posted on October 19, 2007

Changing your institutional affiliation is sometimes the right thing to do, explains Ruth M. O'Hara (bio).


Well, I think there’s a couple of factors that would really be involved in deciding or not deciding to make changes that may appear to you at the time to be potentially detrimental to your career although necessary. One of the factors that was most important for me in making better career choices – subsequently – was having the experience of working in two research shops – actually being at two institutions. Because it allowed me to realize that indeed there are institutions that may suit you better. I think it’s very important to remember that when an institutional setting doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on the institution. It may not just be a match with your aspirations, with your research agenda – with your goals. And therefore, having an opportunity to know how other shops operate can give you a tremendous sense of perspective on what works and what doesn’t work

My first change – career wise – going from UCLA to Stanford University was imposed on me by virtue of having a family circumstance. But it was revealing in terms of finding that institutions can operate very differently. And while I had tremendous individual mentor support at UCLA, institutional support for psychologists was more limited at that time. Again, I think that’s changing. Suddenly I found myself in an environment that was highly supportive and from an institutional perspective –very focused on what you were bringing to the department and to the institution and in helping you do what was mandated in an academic setting. They wanted you to succeed. Having those comparisons can sometimes really underscore for you, that it’s okay to make a change.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2006 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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