Handy Advice

If you are interviewing for a job, you have likely already thought about a lot of things: the facility, the staff, the clients, the questions, and the wardrobe. One thing you may have overlooked is What Should I Do With My Hands During The Interview?

Before you decide that this is not an important variable, I urge you to sit in front of a mirror and answer questions much like you would in an actual interview. Look at your hands. Are they waving around like you are swatting a fly? Tapping? Gripping the bottom of your chair (and maybe even spinning the chair)? Are they folded so tightly there are white knuckles or tucked under your armpits? Maybe you’re flicking your hair or biting your nails or awkwardly clasping and unclasping your hands to a subtle rhythm. Whatever you are doing with your hands, it is probably distracting to both you and to the interviewer. There is an easy way to take care of this situation: bring something to hold.

Before you stop reading, let me clarify that it is not only necessary to bring something to hold, but that it also needs to be the right thing. I have seen people interview carrying a variety of no-no’s: tote bags and purses, a roller suitcase, an entire supply of dry erase markers in a felt case, a ball point pen that was repeatedly clicked, cell phones, journals, Tupperware, coffee, boots (that they had changed out of), sunglasses, and a bottle of hand sanitizer. These were not good choices.

I always recommend that interviewees bring in a leather binder. That’s all. In the binder you can put a copy of your cv or directions or some paper and a pen. It is unlikely you will need any of those things, but it will make you feel prepared. The binder can sit on your lap and takes two hands to keep it steady. Even if you start gesturing with one hand, it will be short-lived, as you will need that hand to keep the binder in place. It looks professional without being huge, has a function, and it a wonderful resting place for your hands. Also, simply having holding something on your lap may help you feel more relaxed and less focused on how you are sitting and where your hands are located. These can be purchased at any office supply store and are inexpensive. In a pinch, you can bring a folder; however, folders are made of paper, might show a sweaty hand print, and tend to launch their contents at inappropriate times. Go get a binder.

Meanwhile, thanks to all of you employers and employees who share your stories with me. I continue to post job leads on the main list serv to prevent multiple email duplication.

Commuters These Days

Recently I’ve received many questions from prospective employees as they grappled with the possibility of taking on a job far from where they live. They were not planning on moving closer to their new job; rather, they were considering 1, 2 or 3 hour commute times (one-way) by either car or airplane. Considering I am someone who literally lives, works, and plays within one mile of my house, I didn’t feel like I was in a good position to comment. After some research, I’ve discovered that long commutes, often out of state, are not as aberrant, as I suspected.

First, a bit on commuting. nearly 10 million people now drive more than an hour each way to work. This statistic is up 50% from 1990. The average commute today is 25 minutes, up 18 percent from 20 years ago. Nine out of 10 people commute to work by car. It is estimated that 50% of new workers leave their home counties for their jobs, up from 24% estimated in 1990. New labels have sprung up to describe those who travel more than 90 minutes to work, one-way. Terms include "megacommuters" "supercommuters", "extreme commuters" and "sleepover commuters" (those who work one place during the week and come home on the weekends).

So why commute? The number one reason is money. Most people are willing to tack on a long commute for a better paying job. With more money they can live in more exclusive areas and generally have a higher standard of living overall. In addition, these workers often have flexible schedules, but the primary reason people state for being extreme commuters is money.

Before you quit your local job and apply for that high paying one a couple states over, let’s look a little closer at the real financial picture. There is something that economists call "the commuting paradox." Extreme commuters assume that the trade-off of the commute is worth the benefits of a better salary. This is not necessarily true. First, studies show that extreme commuters are much less satisfied with their lives than lesser commuters, or noncommuters. In addition, a commuter who travels merely one hour, one way, would have to make 40% more than his or her current salary to be as fully satisfied with life as a noncommuter. Why is this? In general, people over-estimate the value of things that the extreme commute will get them and they underestimate what they are losing.

What exactly are are they losing? Extreme commuters have been shown to lose social connections (it has been estimated that for every 10 minutes of commuting time, one’s social connections are decreased by 10%) hobbies, and even health. Specifically, commuting is associated with high blood pressure, musculoskeletal disorders, increased hostility (especially road rage), lateness, absenteeism, and cognitive decline.

I realize that all my research has painted a rather grim picture of extreme commuting. Although I was able to find case studies about various workers who extremely commute, some of them more satisfied than others, I was unable to find a single example of a mental health professional engaging in extreme commuting. If any of you out there are megacommuters or extreme commuters or sleepover commuters (perhaps you’re reading this on your flight to work?) I’d love to hear you story. Meanwhile, I’ll be within walking distance of my house, organizing information for the Placement Services.

If you are looking for work and would like job leads, consultation, or other assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at Dr.CarsiHughes@Yahoo.com

To Put Out Or Not To Put Out……A Shingle, That Is.

For some of you out there, your job search was a piece of cake. You are now gainfully employed with ample compensation and benefits. You are happy. You are fulfilled. You have no use for the IPA Placement Services. For others of you out there, the process hasn’t been quite as smooth sailing. Over the years I have talked to dozens of people who, at one point in their career, have grappled with the question, “Wouldn’t it be better/more lucrative/easier/less effort if I put out a shingle?” Indeed, many psychologists make their livings at least in part through private practice. It can be done. It can be done well. However, many psychologists fail in their attempt to keep a private practice profitable. So for those of you considering striking out on your own, a few things to consider before shingling up.

1. BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR SKILLS AND RESOURCES. Are you organized? Do you understand finances and simple accounting? Do you have enough money to pay people to do the things you are not good at? Will you miss camaraderie at the water cooler? Independent practice is named appropriately; you will be functioning independently. For those of you who can’t manage the administrative aspects of psychology (keeping up to date with insurance, paying rent, scheduling clients, depositing checks, tracking expenses), you will seriously need to think before terminating a stable full time position.

2. CONSIDER REFERRAL SOURCES.
So many psychologists have the Poltergeist Attitude…..If I Build It, They Will Come. This is not true. Before taking the leap into private practice, be realistic about referral sources. If you leave a job to start your own practice, you may be in violation of a non-compete clause if you open your own office. Start thinking about marketing long before you get your name etched in gold on an office door. Contact potential referral sources and see if they would be willing to refer to you. If not, find out why. You may want to get on insurance panels for the referrals they offer. You may not. Think it all through and if you feel that you can sustain a practice, continue on.

3. ESTIMATE YOUR INCOME.
Although most people tend to estimate their expenses and then assume their income will cover them, I recommend sitting with a calculator and doing some income estimation first. First, decide how many weeks per year you plan on working. Be honest. It is unrealistic to think you will work all week every week. Some time off will be client motivated, some will be personal. Let’s say you think you will actually work 48 weeks per year. Then estimate how many clients you will see, on average, each week. Let’s say you determine you will probably see 25 client hours, perhaps less at the beginning and building to more. Finally, how much do you think you will get for each client session? If you are doing managed care, the best might be $70, provided you get all the authorizations done properly, bill properly, and get the co-pay. If you run a self-pay practice, you can set your own rate, but then your referrals will likely be less. Maybe you will do a sliding scale for clients in need or for longer-term cases whose insurance runs out. For this example, let’s say that on the average, each hour pays $70. Your yearly income is then $84,000. But don’t quit your job yet! We have another step.

4. ESTIMATE YOUR EXPENSES.
Malpractice insurance, association dues, office supplies, billing and/or collection service, rent, office furniture, accounting fees, phone charges……it all adds up. One of the biggest expenses is rent. I have seen many clinicians bury themselves in a monthly rent payment that they could not afford. If you are just starting out with only a few clients per week, you may want to rent by the hour. $8-15 hour in the long run is often much less than a huge payment for an office that you use only a few hours per week. Of course, if you rent hourly, your flexibility is diminished and that may cost you in referrals. But a large rent payment can set you so far behind every month that you find yourself quickly begging for your old job back. In our ongoing example, let’s say you rent your own space as you intend to work full-time. You get something reasonable or fabulous for $500/month (depending upon location). You buy inexpensive furniture including soundproofing machines for $1000. The billing service charges you ten percent of receipts, so that’s $8,400. Your accountant is helpful but that’s another $200 over what you normally spend. Your malpractice runs about $1000 year, your dues about $500/year. Telephone is $50 per month. Office supplies, including faxing and letterhead, business cards and tissue is $200 year. And oh, you gave up medical insurance from your full-time job….so that’s at least $300 a month. Surely there will be some marketing, even if it is just taking your favorite physician to lunch: $250 year. Of course there will be miscellaneous monies spent (workshops, supplies, books) so let’s tack on $250. You may have more or less expenses (perhaps you have insurance, but need child care, you may contribute to an IRA or have office sub-letters), but this will get you started. Using our example, The GROSS income minus EXPENSES is now $62,000.

5. TAXES.
Depending upon your tax bracket, your federal taxes will vary. Let’s use 20 percent ($12,400) to make it easy in this example. And Illinois taxes 3 percent ($1,860). Let’s not forget FICA. As an employee, your employer contributed 7.65 percent and you contributed 7.65 percent. Now that you are both the employer and employee, you need to chip in that additional 7.65 percent. So your total FICA contribution is 15.3 percent ($9,486). In our example, we are now down to a net income of $38,259. That’s under $3,200 per month.

Are you pleasantly surprised? Discouraged? Filling out an application for Starbucks? Independent practice can be very rewarding and yes, profitable. Many people are afraid to go out on their own and many others have delusions about a permanent vacation-lifestyle with a never-ending supply of cash-only clients. If you go into independent practice with your eyes open and a willingness to work hard, it can be a positive career move.

Meanwhile, if you prefer working in a not-so-independent position, send me your email address and I’ll send you my job leads. For you employers, I am always looking to distribute job leads to my growing list of interested clinicians. Both of these services are free. I can be reached at DrCarsi@Ameritech.net or at 312.531.2375

Manners Matter

In one of my recent articles I spoke of two colleagues networking over a meal. That scenario had quite an effect on many psychologists out there, particularly those that tend to eat with others in public. Specifically, over the past few months I’ve heard stories of embarrassment, humbling, fear, and confusion when it comes to dining out. Though I did not expect to be consulted as a veritable Ms. Manners, it seems that in our profession there is a paucity of information regarding mealtime etiquette and dining skills. I beg your indulgence as I derail from my usual content and instead share the etiquette –related questions I’ve received since the last article.

Q: When eating with someone in a restaurant, I have a hard time keeping eye contact. It seem like I’m staring into their eyes and I feel like I’m crossing a personal boundary. However, if I look around the restaurant or through a menu, I am afraid I’ll seem disinterested.

A.
When you are sitting with someone at a table, it is imperative that you stay focused on the conversation and appear interested. Eye contact is the best way to do that. If you are uncomfortable with sustained eye contact, try looking at the space between and slightly above their eyes. By looking into this safety zone, you will appear to be maintaining eye contact but your comfort level should improve.

Q. I went to a casual restaurant with a potential employee and we were seated at a booth. Should I have sat next to her (the view was much better) or across from her?

A. Across from her, regardless of view.

Q. I was with a group of people at a restaurant and forgot the name of someone I just met. I know all the tricks to remember names, but I just forgot. Is it acceptable to just call someone “Doctor” or make up a friendly nickname like “Dude” to save face?

A. No, it is not acceptable. Say, “Please tell me your name again” and once they tell you, do your best to remember, Dude.

Q. I was with a group of colleagues seated at a table having lunch and another person entered the room. He came around to each of us at the table and introduced himself. One man stood up to introduce himself. Should I have done that?

A. Yes. If possible, you should always stand up for introductions.

Q. Why?

A.
It is respectful, courteous, and polite.

Q. Every year at convention we get those fabulous name tags and I never know where to put them. I find myself clipping it to my belt or stuffing it in my briefcase. Where should they go?

A.
A name badge should always be pinned near your right shoulder. This is so that when you are shaking right hands with someone, their eyes can easily see your name. This can be very helpful for new introductions reminders of those we’ve met before.

Q. Really, do table manners matter all that much? If I am hired by a potential employer, they’ll never actually see me eat.

A.
Yes, manners matter. Behavior of all kinds matters when you are being considered for a position. When someone is sitting at a table with you, they will notice your behavior. If you have good table manners, that is good. If you do not, it is not good.

Q. I met with some colleagues for lunch and they all said grace before the meal. I do not say grace before meals. What should I do if that happens again?

A. First, if grace is said and you choose not to participate in that custom, just sit quietly out of respect for those who do. Also, until grace is said and complete, do not touch anything on the table.

Q. Not even a napkin?

A.
Not even a napkin.

Q. About napkins—how do I manage a napkin properly in a restaurant?

A. First, wait until the host picks up their napkin. Take your folded napkin and place it on your lap, still folded. Unfold the napkin in your lap.

Q. Sounds fancy. What about for paper napkins?

A. Same routine with paper napkins.

Q. If I leave the table to use the restroom, what should I do with my napkin?

A. Place the napkin on your chair and push your chair under the table.

Q. What do I do with my napkin at the end of the meal?

A. Place your napkin on the table. Put it loosely to the left side of your plate.

Q. I was having dinner with a potential employee and I sneezed. I ended up blowing my nose in my napkin. It was terrible. What was I supposed to do?

A. Ideally, you would have had a tissue or a handkerchief with you to use in lieu of your napkin to block your sneeze. Since you did not, it was perfectly acceptable to place your napkin over your nose. However, you should never blow your nose at the table unless it is an emergency and you have a tissue in which to blow. Even in an emergency, you should never blow your nose in your napkin. Excuse yourself and do your nose blowing in the restroom. And bring back some tissues should this happen again.

Q. At convention last year I ate the wrong salad and accidentally drank someone else’s water. How do I know which one is mine?

A. Your food is to your left; your drink is to your right. Therefore, your salad plate and bread plate are to the left while your water glass and any other beverage are to the right.

In your job search, your good manners will set you apart from the norm and can only help you obtain employment. In addition to practicing manners at restaurants, if you are looking for work feel free to contact me at DrCarsi@Ameritech.net. I will happily send you my current list of job leads and put your email on my confidential listserv to receive leads as I get them. Employers, if you are interesting in posting a position, please send the specifics to the above email address or telephone me at 312.531.2375. There is no fee to place an ad and access to the leads is free to IPA members.

Networking is not a Fear Factor Event

Over the years, I have routinely encouraged potential employees to take advantage of networking opportunities to help further their careers. In fact, I have cited networking as a crucial component to obtaining a job. Most people hear that advice, give a slight knowing nod of understanding, and the topic is dropped. Recently I noticed something quite odd when I gave my usually plug for networking; in addition to the nods of understanding, there was a palpable sensation in the room. This sensation could only be described as FEAR. Perhaps in the past I had attributed the overt sweating and painful facial expressions to mass excitement, but now there was no mistaking it. Many psychologists are afraid of networking.

There is no need to fear, dear colleagues! Networking is not a nebulous, genetically-driven skill appropriate only for realtors and used-car salesmen. Networking is a clear concept associated with specific behavior that yields a desired result. This article will clarify the mysteries of networking and prepare you for your next networking opportunity.

First of all…what is networking? Simply put (credit to Webster), it’s an extended group of people with similar interests of concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance and support. Nothing scary about that! The remainder of this article will focus on exactly how to go about being a successful networker.

First: prepare yourself to network. For example, if you will be at the IPA Convention in November, decide which workshops you would like to attend and which attendees you would most like to meet. Your goal should not be to meet every presenter at the convention. Your goal should not be to become best friends with a certain attendee. Both goals are unrealistic and will set you up to fail. Once you know who you’d like to meet, prepare something to say.

What you say should have 3 parts:
1. A quick personal introduction.
Although this is very simple, you’d be surprised at how many people have sudden paralysis when it comes to introducing themselves. Say hello to the person (by name if at all possible) and identify yourself with something appropriate to the event. For example, at IPA you might meet me and say, “Hi Dr. Hughes. I’m Dr. Wonderful with the Sanity Clinic.”

2. Make a statement to initiate a conversation.
For those of you in the dating world, this is akin to “What’s your sign?” only without the astrological bent. Some examples are:
*How long have you been member of IPA?”
*Is this your first convention? What do you think of it?
*What did you think of last year’s convention?
*Have you seen Dr. Excellent speak before?
*What workshops are you attending today?

3. Ask several open-ended questions to keep the dialogue going.
This should flow naturally from the topic; just remember to keep things open-ended. Nothing shuts down a conversation faster than a yes-no answer. Some examples:
*What do you feel is the most important part of your research?
*How did you go about putting all the information together?
*What do you find the most surprising about your experience?

4. Schedule a follow-up and/or exit gracefully.
Along with the initial introduction, most people have a difficult time getting out of a conversation. If you are interested in being in contact with this person, by all means try to set up a follow-up. After that, it is best to leave the conversation before it fades on its own.

An example:
*This is all really interesting. Would you like to get together after the workshops to talk about this further?
*Can I send you an email with my input?
*Can I give you a call sometime to go over your ideas? Here’s my card.
Even if your potential connection does not want to speak with you further, you can still exit optimistically. For example:
*good meeting you. Thanks for all your help.
*best of luck with that…I’ll let you get back to your work now.
*I enjoyed talking with you, but I should really be moving along.

Now that you know the basics of networking, three general comments. First, have a good attitude. Topics of conversation should not be about how terrible your current job is, how you don’t know where to find the coffee, or how you got stuck in traffic. No one wants to meet a complainer. Second, watch your body language. When you speak with someone, face them. Look at them. Smile. Listen attentively and when listening, give non-verbal clues that you are paying attention (head nods, expressive eyes, and appropriate affect). Finally, PRACTICE NETWORKING. Practice initiating conversation with others. Practice keeping a conversation going. Practice exiting. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

FAQ
Q:
I don’t actually ever go to any workshops or conventions. How am I supposed to network?
A: Reconnect with colleagues. When was the last time you communicated with people who have really helped you with your career? Probably years. Touch base with these people on a regular basis.

Q: I hate to only contact people when I need something. It just doesn’t feel right.
A: Then be sure to contact people when you don’t need anything. Perhaps you can help someone out with information or a referral. If not, contact them just to check in.

Q: So I’m supposed to plan out dialogue scenarios. Won’t I appear fake and rehearsed?
A: Perhaps if you are reading from an index card you might. More likely, if you have practiced and achieved a comfort level with your conversation skills, you will actually be more relaxed and confident than before.

Q: I heard somewhere that it’s best not to look directly at a person when talking but instead take breaks by looking around the room. Is this true?
A: No. Short of getting into a staring contest during a conversation, it is still best to keep your attention focused. Studies have shown that people who look around during a conversation can be perceived as either disinterested or untrustworthy.

Q: I’m sorry, but networking just doesn’t work. Last convention I brought along 100 business cards, handed them all out, and my career has gone nowhere.
A: Did you even read the article? First, change your attitude, pronto. Next, your goal should be to meet A FEW people each time you network. Now ask yourself, do I have anything to offer these people I want in my network? If you do, offer it. And finally, a key part of this process is taking time ON A REGULAR BASIS to stay in touch. A 10 second introduction with a cheap business card 12 months ago will produce the result you got: nothing.

Q: How did you know my business cards were cheap?
A: Lucky guess.

Best of luck with your newfound networking skills! If you’re looking for a job, start by networking with me. Contact me at DrCarsi@Ameritech.net to receive job leads (free to current IPA members) or to post available positions (free to everyone).

Lights, Camera, Interview!

Last fall, while discussing interviewing strategies with my pre-medical students, one young man asked for specific advice about videoconferencing interviews. A topic I know a great deal about (my spouse has spent his entire career in the field), I assured this gentle student that the medical school community had not adopted this procedure and probably wouldn’t any time soon.

Less than a year later, with the surge of teleconferencing systems, software, and web tools, several medical schools have indeed begun to use videoconferencing in lieu of face to face interviews. Surely there are more schools, universities, hospitals and clinics utilizing this technology, not to mention the likelihood of smaller entities simply using applications on their smartphones. With this in mind, here are some specific tips for interviewing via videoconferencing.

1. Just relax; you aren’t on TV.
Videoconferencing has become portable and mainstream. Those of us whose formative years involved watching “The Jetsons” may still feel blown away by current technological advances; however, for those who are only slightly younger, this is no big deal.

2. Prepare your space.
Make sure whatever is seen on camera is not distracting. Try not to be directly near windows, doors, other people, clutter, or attention-seeking art. Anything that is in your space will be seen by others. The more neutral the better.

3. Prepare your lighting.
Direct light can cast shadows which are both unflattering and distracting. Being lit only from behind is just as bad – no one will see your face. The best light is indirect, from shaded sources, or reflected from pale walls.

4. Make sure you know how to work whatever system you have.
Specifically, know how to adjust your camera and the microphone volume without becoming overwhelmed. There’s nothing worse than speaking in an interview, having your interviewer repeat over and over that she cannot hear you, and your not knowing that you inadvertently hit the ‘mute’ button. You should insist on testing whatever software you are going to use for the interview if you have never used it before. Do not make your first use the interview itself!

5. Wear things that won’t be distracting.
No white, no bright colors, no patterns. Your best bet is something pastel or neutral. Similarly, be careful with jewelry. Very shiny pieces may reflect light and anything noisy (like a wrist of bangle bracelets) can overpower the microphone.

6. Practice making eye contact.
This is often very easy to do face to face; however, in videoconferencing, your “eye contact” is the camera lens. Looking into the camera is more important than looking into the picture of the eyes of your interviewer. If you adjust your camera properly, you should be able to have a more natural eye contact with your interviewer, so make sure the camera is positioned near where the face of the interviewer will be – generally right on top of your monitor.

7. Speak up.
Video is wonderful, but if they cannot hear you, the interview will not go well. They can adjust volume at their end if you are too loud.

8. Be self-aware.
Videoconferencing these days is in high definition. That means that everything can seen by the other person. They can adjust their camera to look at you and your space from any angle. If you are fidgety or distracted, they will see it.

With these few things in mind, you all can have a very successful videoconferencing interview which has the potential to be convenient, inexpensive, and equally as valuable as a face to face interview.

Psychology in the Workplace Network (PWN)

The APA Psychology in the Workplace Network (PWN) is a grassroots network of psychologists comprised of more than 50 representatives from state, provincial and territorial psychological associations and some APA divisions. Alan Graham, PhD is our Illinois representative to the PWN and leads the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program committee within the Consulting Section of IPA.

The APA PWN works to strategically position psychology in a leadership role within the marketplace by developing strong collaborative relationships with the business and employer community and educating them about the roles and value of psychology in the workplace. One of the ways that the PWN representatives fulfill this mission is to lead the local Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program (PHWP) award programs in their respective jurisdictions and contribute to APA’s PHWP efforts.

The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards (PHWA)
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards (PHWA) are designed to recognize organizations for their efforts to foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity.

The annual awards cycle in Illinois begins in late January when nominations are opened for companies in Illinois. If a company would like to apply for the award, they can register at www.phwa.org and get their application started. The application process includes the completion of an organizational practices questionnaire; an employee questionnaire that must be completed by at least 10% of the workforce; and a site visit.

What Makes a Psychologically Healthy Workplace?
Psychologically healthy workplace practices can be grouped into five categories:

• Employee involvement
• Work-life balance
• Employee growth & development
• Health & safety
• Employee recognition

It is important to note that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to creating a psychologically healthy workplace. Success is based, in part, on addressing the challenges unique to each particular organization and tailoring programs and policies to meet the organization’s needs.

Communication also plays a key role in the success of any workplace program or policy and serves as the foundation for all five types of psychologically healthy workplace practices.

APA has created a database of articles; podcasts; newsletters; and social media outlets that are available on the www.phwa.org website. APA also sponsors Work and Well-Being Conferences around the country. The 2011 and 2012 conferences were held in Chicago and APA expects to hold another conference in Chicago in 2013.

If you would like to get involved or just know more about the PWN and/or the PHWP, contact Alan Graham, PhD at agraham@acp10.com.