Help me sort out a career in Org Consulting, Org Leadership, or Org Change.
November 5, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I want to get my doctorate (PhD or EdD) in something like organizational leadership/organizational development/human and organizational learning. I also want to move into the career of organizational assessment and change (being a consultant maybe?) with a distinct interest in higher ed. Can you give me advice, help me think of pitfalls, and generally guide me in decision making?

I currently work in higher ed/student affairs, and I already have my Masters in counseling. However, I don't have any published research so getting into a research heavy, competitive doctoral program (like Vandy) is probably out of my reach.

I am naturally a problem solver and information gatherer. I love building deeper relationships with people, finding out the deeper nuances of a problem and thinking of the many different ways a problem can be solved. I also enjoy thinking of the "what ifs" and ideas for the future...thinking outside the box in terms of human interaction, learning, and development.

I have ALWAYS wanted to continue my education and get my doctorate, and I'm currently looking at the PhD in Organizational Leadership at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and Human and Organizational Learning at George Washington. I am in love with the course descriptions and feel like I will learn exactly what I'm interested in. Yes...I'm aware of the expense I'll be taking on. I am not doing this to get paid more. I have a keen interest in the profession.

TL;DR: Are you a consultant or work in the field of Org Development/Leadership? Can you give me some pros and cons of this field? Other doctoral program options? What questions should I be asking myself? What questions should I ask other people? How can I do this while still working enough to meet living expenses? Where should I look for jobs while I work on my doctorate (managing this with my current job is unlikely)?

Make me think, Metafilter!
posted by MultiFaceted to Work & Money (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how much useful advise I have for you here but I do know a number of people who have completed a Masters in Leadership atRoyal Roads. They haven't had to make changes to their current situation whilst they complete the Masters but many have gone on to interesting opportunities since completion.

I'm not sure if they go beyond a Masters. I presume you are already Masters prepared but sent this on the chance that you may find it interesting.
posted by YukonQuirm at 9:34 AM on November 5, 2011

You'll want to narrow down a bit to what aspect of this topic you want to look at and instead of looking at the course listings, consider the ADVISOR that you'd work with.

Also if you're currently working in higher ed, can you possibly get your PhD for free as an employee?
posted by k8t at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2011

I have worked in OD, Learning and Org Design for over 20+ years and I'm currently part of the faculty for this program at Northwestern University. I can speak to organizational learning and organizational development specifically, which is a bit different than organizational behavior or assessment.

Re: Org Development/Learning:

I pursued my graduate degree while working full-time and there are many programs that allow that. We have an alternative delivery track that requires you to be on campus only once a quarter for 3 days in a row while the rest of the class time during the 10 week quarter is conducted via synchronous and asynchronous learning technology (we use Adobe Connect video/audio for synchronous, and blogs/email/discussion boards and online journals for asynchronous). Our program does not offer a PhD or EdD at this time, though we have a very rigorous mix of experiential/project-based learning and some original research/capstone thesis work. We use both academically-minded practitioners and practical academics as faculty members. Because our program is located within the School of Education (fairly unusual), we often share graduate students with the higher education program, and students are a mix of corporate, not-for-profit and higher education context practitioners. Some are switching careers entirely, others are just adding to their CV's or skills set.

You want a program that places as much emphasis on building relationships and community within your cohort as it does relaying content and building skills within the program. My own experience during/after graduate school (and that of my students) is that those relationships will play very heavily into where you are able to find work when you graduate. And the support of other students and alumni can be very, very helpful in tough job markets. It also gives you access to continuing educational opportunities AFTER you graduate, important in this field since it is such a young field (compared to, say, the hard sciences or finance) and keeping your skills and knowledge updated is critical.

While the field of OD is deeply grounded in organizational behavior, psychology and learning and most of your courses will be there, you will absolutely distinguish yourself with at least some knowledge of performance and measurement systems within organizations (that includes universities as organizations). This means knowing how human capital decisions interface with financial, measurement, market, technology, operational and other systems. You don't have to become a financial genius, but knowing how to discern the implications for OD/Learning in a university budget or connected to the market strategy of the university is what makes a truly valuable OD/Org Learning professional, IMHO.

Now, Organizational Assessment...are you interested in assessing individuals in organizational contexts (motivation, behavior, career preferences, etc.)? Or assessing the system of individuals in an organizational context (culture, engagement, etc.)? These can be related but are different.

The terminology is somewhat confusing and definitions aren't always entirely shared, even in the field. Try to think about what you want to use your degree for...what work or career will it enable you to do, or what specific class topics excite you? That may help you to determine your emphasis a bit, which will help to narrow down the program that you want. Go to info sessions (in person or via telephone/online) and listen to how faculty talk about the program. Is there a lot of faculty turnover (not a good sign), or is faculty all research with no practitioners (not a great sign), etc? Are faculty connected with the conferences and organizations in the field (Academy of Management, Org Dev Network, etc.)? What are current students and alumni saying about the program? (Any good program will put you in touch with those people for informational interviews.) What positions are they working in? What kind of exposure to people in the industry does the program offer? What financial assistance do they offer to part-time or full-time students?

It is a great field. It has its fun parts (always different, engaging my curiosity and ability to solve puzzles/find patterns/create clarity out of confusion), and its less fun parts (change can be emotionally difficult for those who are changing, you need to like ambiguity and occasional uncertainty, working with certain types of executives can be frustrating, shaking off the reputation of "Personnel" from the '80's is a constant challenge). But at the end of the day, I am never, ever bored and enjoy my colleagues and the work immensely.
posted by jeanmari at 2:32 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, if you are addicted to control and want to be in charge of "fixing" things...the field of org change and OD might not be satisfying (though many people enter it thinking that they WILL be able to use it to gain control over complex and confusing situations, and can be let down when they realize that much of the field is learning to be okay with constant ambiguity and, well, change.)

If that is the case, stick with some part of the field related to assessment...diagnosing but not fixing. Although, except for individual assessment work (like the kind offered by the Center for Creative Leadership for executives), I can think of very few positions in the field that let you diagnose without also fixing.
posted by jeanmari at 2:37 PM on November 5, 2011

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