Ellie Hoekman on Career Coaching for I-O Psychologists

In this episode of Department 12, I sit down with the Ellie Hoekman, an I-O Psychology enthusiast turned career coach, to explore the paths that lead Ellie from a rejected quantitative psychology applicant to a fervent advocate and professional in the I-O psychology space. Ellie also shares her advice for I-O students, recent graduates, and faculty members.


This transcript is AI-generated and may contain inaccuracies. Please do not quote myself or any of my guests based on this transcript.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome to Department 12, where we talk about everything I-O psych. I’m your host, Doctor Ben Butina. And joining me today is Ellie Hoekman. How are you today, Ellie?

Ellie Hoekman: I’m doing well. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: You got your bachelor’s in psych at Washington State University. Is that where you found out about I-O psych, or was it somewhere later on?

Ellie Hoekman: It was later on. I started in psychology because I was interested in my own psychology, as I think a lot of people who start in psychology find their interest.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: That’s secret. You’re not supposed to tell people that.

Ellie Hoekman: Right? What’s funny is I just made a post about this on LinkedIn today. I went to Washington State University, loved it. There was very involved in my sorority, involved in the clubs that I was a part of. I had good grades, and so I applied to one school. I took the last couple of dollars that were left in my bank account and applied to one school. And I applied to a quantitative psychology program because I am a bit more math-brained as well. Long story short, I was rejected from that, and I couldn’t believe it. I was like, what do I do now?

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: Oh, that must have been devastating.

Ellie Hoekman: Yeah, it was at the time. But what I just posted about today is that now I’m incredibly thankful that that happened, because if that hadn’t happened, then I would not have found I-O psychology, which is my absolute love and my field of choice.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: It is amazing how many of us stumble into it in the beginning. You just don’t hear about it in high school or even in college for the most part. It sounded like you landed in the right place in the end. But now you’re doing something that applies I-O psychology to help I-O psychologists—a career coach for I-O Psych. How did you get into that?

Ellie Hoekman: Thank you for asking. I’m so excited to share because this is my bread and butter and what I love to do. And often when I talk about career coaching, I share that I got my start in recruiting, which is true. I share that I’ve been a volunteer career coach for over five years for colleges and universities, which is also true. And I’ll talk about, you know, how I got a certification. But I think what it really comes down to is my passion story. And my passion story starts with a candidate who I had when I was a recruiter, my first recruiting job. This is very early in my recruiting days. I was a very amateur recruiter and her name was Shayla. Shayla and I actually never talked. Our relationship started with me rejecting her. Her resume was just, for lack of a better word, a mess. And she was applying to a role that was just not in line with what we were looking for. She actually responded to her rejection email, asking for help and feedback. In recruiting, we do get these emails a lot. But something that stood out to me was that her email actually started with gratitude. She said, “Thank you for reviewing my application and thank you for getting back to me.” It was towards the end of the day, it was probably like minutes away from actually getting up and leaving to go home. And I just read these words, “If there’s anything you can do to help me, I’d really appreciate it.” I could get up and go home right now, or I could just download her resume, shape it up, take out the spelling errors, make it look better, and send it back to her. And I did that. Later, I found out that that’s a pretty big no-no, because that is not my role as an internal recruiter. My role is to hire people for my company, not help them go and get hired anywhere else. That’s why this is my passion story, because that is what I wanted to do. So, I was off the clock. It was past 5:00 when I did this, but I didn’t mind. With my volunteer experience, I did that. I would drive an hour to the college and go and do it for free. Yeah.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: I have to share, a long time ago, I was in a technical school wanting to be a computer programmer. I found myself staying after the classes ended to help other students. And that’s more or less how I found my way into instructional design and learning and development and other areas that are my bread and butter now. When you’re putting in extra unpaid time for something, that’s a pretty good pointer towards something you really like.

Ellie Hoekman: Exactly. And I did enjoy recruiting because especially when I started in the recruiting profession, I would tell people that I give people jobs. But I came to realize that I wasn’t a recruiter, I was an objector because I rejected 90% of the candidates that I came across and I couldn’t tell them why they were being rejected, and worse for me, I couldn’t tell them how to fix it. So that led into doing exactly what I’m doing now, where I’m helping people get interviews, turn those interviews into offers, turn those offers into better offers through negotiations. And it all comes back to that one story of doing it for free.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: Is it at some point while you’re in graduate school that you realize you want to help I-Os like folks particularly?

Ellie Hoekman: Yeah, great question. When I started career coaching, I was just a general career coach. But then over some time, I was like, I really miss I-O psych. And I’m a really big believer that we need more I-O practitioners in our world to make the world a better place. And so then I thought, okay, I’ll take my I-O experience and my passion for I-O and my strength in career coaching to career coach I-O professionals specifically. So it was kind of a culmination of all of those. But the decision was actually much more recent. And I had actually, after graduating, I had started a workforce analytics position, and I had done that for about two years, which is when I came back to that, realize that story, that story about Shayla and all this volunteer career coaching, where I realized that, you know, this job is paying the bills and it’s not bad. It was not a bad job at all, but it wasn’t my passion.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: What have you found so far? Ah, common challenges for I-O folks just entering?

Ellie Hoekman: I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear this. The main challenge is figuring out what opportunities we have, what paths we can go down, and what we can take. So not only making the decision but just knowing the opportunities that we have. I’ve done my est to try to create resources for anybody who comes to me and asks and says, “Hey, I’m getting my master’s degree, but I have no idea what I can actually do with this.” I’m working on building a video to go over all of the different niches, career paths, and opportunities that we have. And then the second part of that then becomes, okay, now how do I decide? How do I decide which of all of these I have? Which one do I decide to pursue? And a lot of times that actually comes down to the skills that you like to use and the skills that you’re good at using and finding. Especially when they’re students or brand new graduates, that’s one of their main challenges. Then the other main challenge I’m seeing in our market right now is landing interviews. And what that comes down to for me and how I coach is to teach visibility over anything else. So what can we do to become visible in the I-O space? Is it going to networking events? Is it going to the SIOP conference? Is it making an attractive LinkedIn profile? Is it having more conversations? And for everybody, it does look a little bit different. But those are some opportunities that we have to gain visibility in the I-O practice.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: Have you found that for most of your clients? LinkedIn is the go-to way that they network?

Ellie Hoekman: Absolutely. LinkedIn, SIOP, the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology, and SEBC, which is the Society for Evidence-Based Organizational Consulting. But yeah, LinkedIn is massive because even when we go to these SIOP meetups or SEBC meetups, we’re all throwing in our LinkedIn URL in the chat and following up with each other afterward.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: We get out there in the job market and there’s not that many jobs on Indeed just called I-O psychologist.

Ellie Hoekman: Right? It’s very rare that you would ever see a job title called I-O psychologists or I-O practitioner. Like I mentioned before, I was a workforce analyst; that’s the term I typically use when I’m talking to other people. But my title was Business Intelligence Analyst. But that title doesn’t lend itself to realize that I was in the human resources department. So it’s understanding what those job titles might be because job titles are what’s being posted on the requisition. But what I also know from my recruiting experience is sometimes the job title and what’s actually posted are also two different things. So the job title you’re going for might be business intelligence analyst, but they’ll post it as HR Analyst or workforce reporting specialist. I’ve developed for my clients somewhat of a master list of keywords that they can use when they’re searching. And I try to make it as exhaustive as possible, but it still needs to be updated all the time.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: We keep coming up with new names for things, right?

Ellie Hoekman: We really do.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: What else do new graduates have to deal with out there?

Ellie Hoekman: I think for my clients and for job seekers that I talk to who are new graduates or current students. What I see happening a lot is overconsumption of job search advice. LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok. There is a plethora of advice out there. What I haven’t seen people develop is critical thinking around what they’re reading. They come to me and they say, “I hop on LinkedIn and I’m told to make a chronological resume. And then I scroll down and I read a post about making a skills-based resume. And then I scroll down and I read a post about how I should just get rid of my resume altogether, and I have no idea what advice I should actually be following.” So what I’m coaching folks to do is to accept, adapt, or reject. So if you’re scrolling on TikTok and you see some career advice, you can either choose to accept it, you can take parts of it, or you can reject it. Mark Manson says this in his podcast: with all advice, it’s like clothes. You can try it on. If it fits, great. If it’s itchy and scratchy, put it back on the hanger. Oftentimes, once a job seeker I’m talking to actually becomes a client, then I become their source of truth. But they still hop on LinkedIn and get a bunch of advice.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: But career coaching, I think, it’s as much of a mindset thing as anything else.

Ellie Hoekman: Oh, yes. So much of what I coach and help my own clients with is centered around mindset. And my understanding is that your mindset comes first because your thoughts are going to drive your actions, and your actions then drive your outcomes.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: We have a lot of students who listen to the show, but we also have a lot of faculty members who listen to the show. What advice would you give them? How can they better prepare students for the job search process?

Ellie Hoekman: Okay. The first thing I have to say is that I used to listen to this podcast as a graduate student. I’ve been listening to you since 2020, so it’s great to be here.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: Thank you.

Ellie Hoekman: But in terms of faculty and advice that I might give, I hadn’t thought about this before. So this is off the cuff, but my initial thoughts are to introduce them to your network. So as a faculty member, you probably have alumni, people you’ve worked with, especially if you’ve been a practitioner yourself, that you could be introducing your students to. And it doesn’t need to necessarily be a one-on-one conversation where they have to go and have a 30-minute chat with every one of your students. Have them come in for a 30-minute workshop session and share more about what they do. That was what I experienced. It was one of our own faculty who was also a practitioner, just had an open panel slash office hours type thing where she was just sharing what it’s like to be a freelance consultant and what kind of rates she’s charging and what kind of work she does and how she manages clients. And that was so eye-opening for me, more eye-opening than anything that I’d read online. I still remember that. But also encouraging your student to take their career into their own hands. So not relying on getting three-way introductions but going out there and doing the outreach themselves, which I know is especially hard for folks who are introverted or potentially neurodivergent. I know that it’s really hard, but it’s just a skill. It’s a skill that can be learned and practiced. And do it themselves as well. Okay. Cool.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: Ellie, thank you so much for being here. If folks want to get a hold of you to learn more about the services you provide, where should they find you?

Ellie Hoekman: LinkedIn. That is where I am almost every day, except for Saturdays. I take Saturdays off. I’m open to connections. No need to add a personal note. Just send me a connection request, and I will definitely accept it.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.: Thank you again for being here. It was a great conversation.

Ellie Hoekman: Thank you so much again for having me. It’s such an honor to be here.