A Look Back at AOM 2018
The Academy of Management 2018 conference ended two weeks ago and it was again one of the highlights of the year. Five super intense days that left me pretty exhausted by Tuesday evening but also provided so many new ideas, productive meetings, and highly meaningful interactions and sessions. Below, I will reflect on my most important experiences during the conference.
The City of Chicago
First off,can I just say that Chicago is a really nice city? Well, at least the part that I was in during the conference, which was located very close to the water an offered opportunities to go to the Navy Pier, Lake Michigan or for shopping within 10-15 minutes walking distance. We even had a supermarket close by that offered some normal/healthy food and fruit. I didn’t have anything like that in previous cities (e.g., Atlanta, Philadelphia) so that was a big convenience.What I especially liked, though, were the contrasts in the city: an enormous lake on the one side and then big skyscrapers on the other side. Walking through the busy streets of downtown Chicago, only to enter Millennium Park a few minutes later and seeing a classic orchestra practicing in a giant dome,with a large field of grass in front of them and the Chicago skyline behind them.There were many of these wonderful views and experiences, which really boosted my time in Chicago and made it even more enjoyable. So thank you Chicago for a great time! Let’s see if Boston can match up to that next year.
AOM Day 1 and 2: The Professional Development Workshops
It is really funny to think back to my conference experiences back when I started my academic career. The highlight of those conferences were the regular paper sessions, climaxed by my own paper presentation. I did not especially care for the PDW (professional development workshop) part back then. Oh how the times have changed! In recent years, I have been quite actively involved in mentoring activities during the PDW days, and this year was no different.
On Friday evening, we had the Careers in the Rough session, in which early career scholars submit a paper-in-progress and receive feedback from two senior scholars. Essentially, this is a “free review” without the risks of being rejected, and as a bonus they get 2 hours of talking about their work with the persons that reviewed the manuscript. This year was another productive session,in which I talked with Ellen Houben (KU Leuven) about her paper on learning and employability, together with the other mentor Maury Peiperl. I hope she found the feedback and discussion valuable and will be able to use it to her advantage when further working on the paper!
Saturday morning featured the Doctoral Consortium session, in which doctoral students get a chance to speak with senior scholars and ask basically anything they want to about a wide range of topics. I was involved in a round table discussion about leveraging formal and informal resources during a PhD, together with Mila Lazarova. Other round table discussions featured topics such as getting the best experience at AOM, balancing work and other tasks, preparing for teaching activities, and many more. Once again, I found it very enjoyable to share experiences with the participating doctoral students. Mila’s ultimate advice to them: the best dissertation is the finished dissertation. In other words: it does not have to win any Nobel prize yet, but you have to get it done as the first major building block ofyour academic career (or professional career, for that matter). The learning experience is extremely valuable and will help you to achieve even greater contributions afterwards.
Of course,it was not only work during AOM because social interactions are also very important. On Friday evening, we hosted the first ever VU Party at AOM. The party was organized in an art gallery and although it was quite a distance removed from the conference venues, it was extremely well attended. I arrived a bit late because of the Careers in the Rough workshop and by the time I came in, the gallery was fully crowed with people joining the VU party. In other words: it was a great success!
Another success was the Careers Division PDW social on Saturday evening. Gina Dokko,the PDW chair of 2017-2018, had chosen the perfect spot for the social at Eatalian. What a wonderful place that is! It feels like you are walking in ashop that sells Italian produce but then you suddenly see people walking around with wine and sitting at bars to eat fresh food. Really cool place! The drinksand food at the social were also very nice, and attendance was great, resulting in a Careers social that will be difficult to surpass next year. Unfortunately for me, that will be my challenge to master as I will be responsible fororganizing that particular social (more on that in a bit). Good thing I know the current program chair Jamie Ladge, who actually lives in Boston, so that helps. 😊
AOM Day 3: The“Used-to-be-day-off-but-now-busiest-day-ever” Day
I wasasking some people at the Careers Social on Saturday evening what their planswere for Sunday. Many of them replied: “enjoying Chicago and having a dayoff!”. It’s true: Sunday is usually the day in which you can recover from thePDW sessions and also prepare for the upcoming two days of paper sessions. AndI remember when my Sunday was also a day off during which I could explore townand enjoy the scenery a bit. Not anymore, though! This time, my Sunday startedat 8 AM (granted, this was a nice breakfast hosted by WU Vienna!) and endedaround 11 PM. In between? An editorial board meeting of Career DevelopmentInternational, an executive team meeting of the Careers Division, an editorialboard meeting of Journal of Vocational Behavior, and finally two (!) workingdinners with the executive team of the Careers Division, as well as the Journalof Vocational Behavior associate editors. Busy day but a fun day! I evenofficially received the award for the Career Development International BestPaper of 2017. This news had been shared a while back already but of courseit’s very nice to actually have the award now.
AOM Day 4 and 5: The Paper Presentations (but mostly project meetings)
Two days left and a LOT of paper sessions to potentially visit. Well, the choice for the first session was actually not very difficult as it was a session I co-organized. Led by Rowena Blokker, a PhD student that I supervise (we agreed that we can just say “my PhD” when I talk about her, although it sounds a bit possessive but it is so much easier than the longer version…), this showcase symposium focused on the 20th Century School-to-Work-Transition and featured six presentations on this topic. I think we had a great collection of scholars in the session, as well as a strong discussant in the person of Andreas Hirschi from the University of Bern. I even managed to present a paper that was not my own, although I am not sure I should make a living out of that… it’s pretty difficult! Anyway, the session was good, well attended, and we got some good questions at the end. Overall a great start of our Monday at AOM. After this one, I ran over from the Sheraton to the Hyatt for another session, this one being about career research on aging workers. It was a nice discussion about how scholarly research on older workers can contribute to a better understanding of pre-retirement and post-retirement careers, and we explored some potential research avenues for doing so.
Although there were some highly interesting sessions afterwards, I decided to skip most of them because I had some meeting with colleagues. After all, AOM is the perfect place to sit down and meet with people you don’t see at the office very easily. Among others, I sat down with Ricardo Rodrigues from King’s College London to further discuss our ongoing projects on graduate employability and school-to-work transitions. Guess now is the time to start analyzing some data and writing things down!
The afternoon had two more major sessions: our showcase symposium on sustainable careers(co-organized with Ans de Vos and Beatrice van der Heijden) and the Careers Division Business Meeting, in which we looked back at the past year. Thankfully,the business meeting contained mostly good news as our division is doing great,we had a lot of new members, and also some important new activities such as the virtual Careers in the Rough session. The Business Meeting was followed by another social event of the division, which again had a great turnout and was a lot of fun. During the evening, we had dinner with the associate editors of Career Development International. I may have officially left CDI as associate editor now but Jim Jawahar welcomed me anyway and it was a great evening with fantastic food. I may be moving on to Journal of Vocational Behavior as associate editor but I will continue to support CDI as much as I can, and I really respect and appreciate the people leading the journal.
And then it was already Tuesday, the final day of the conference. We started off with a symposium that featured several ongoing papers of the 5C group, which is a major international team of career scholars doing research on career success across countries and cultures. We also presented our own working paper on career success of young blue collar vs. white collar workers across 25 countries. It was great to see so many promising projects and I look forward to seeing them published in the future. After the session, I had several meetings again about ongoing projects with Wolfgang Mayrhofer and Dominik Zellhofer(about our paper that we presented that morning), Brenda Berkelaar (about a paper on employee relations), Daniel Spurk (about a paper on career success),and Scott Seibert (about a paper on career shocks). Busy, busy day but a lot of new inspiration and commitments for exiting projects. I have to admit that I was completely spent that evening but at the same time very much satisfied with another great AOM conference.
Looking Forward after AOM
With the end of AOM 2018, I have also officially started as the Careers Division PDW chair for 2018-2019 after winning an election a few months ago. It is a very special honor to have been elected as part of the division leadership for the next 5 years, and I look forward to managing the PDW part of the program for the 2019 conference in Boston. We have had inspiring PDW sessions over the past few years and I hope to contribute to another great edition next year. This of course depends on great submissions so definitely let me know if you have an idea in mind that you would like to share!
I have also officially started working as an associate editor for the Journal of Vocational Behavior. Again, it is a great honor to have been invited for this role in one of the leading journals in careers and vocational behavior. I hope to contribute to the quality of the scholarly discussions and will try my best to accomplish that goal.
And that’s a wrap for now! 😊