Help Wanted

I really like my job. I have never regretted choosing to spend my career as a psychologist in a very rural area. I work at a regional mental health center, one of eight in my state.  Every center has psychologists and other mental health professionals. At the present time, there are 12 openings for psychologists at these centers, and it is extremely hard to fill positions.  I find this hard to understand, as I can’t think of a better situation in which to practice. One has the support of colleagues, professional autonomy, people who do all the billing, good benefits, and the opportunity to treat just about every mental health condition in the DSM-5.  Heck, at many agencies you can even get your student loans repaid through a federal program to entice professionals to under served areas. We have one opening for a psychologist at my agency. I am the only full-time psychologist there.

Due to historical factors too complicated to go into, the supervisor of psychologists at my agency serves two agencies, my agency  and the one in Bismarck, necessitating that person drive 200 miles round trip once a week to oversee things out here, and spending one night in our town. Several other administrators do the same thing. My supervisor recently quit to move to another center, so my agency and the one in Bismarck are currently without a supervising psychologist. I applied for the supervisor’s job and interviewed for it last week.

The supervisor’s position is mainly administrative.  There are hours worth of administrative meetings at each agency and I would have to go to all of them at both places  if I were in the supervisor’s position. I would have to spend one night and two days a week in Bismarck, driving 200 miles round trip, often in poor weather. I would also not be able to see many, if any, clients, and would have no time to do psychological evaluations. The pay isn’t that much higher. Since I am the only full-time psychologist at my agency, there would be virtually no psychology services there. Why on earth did I apply for the supervisor’s position?

I am at the point where I don’t want someone younger and less experienced than I am telling me what to do. I want to be able to exercise some power in decision-making and policy.  I interviewed in Bismarck for the position last week. Everyone was kind and congenial, all people I knew and had worked with before. It struck me that I was the oldest person in the room.  I was the only applicant for the job.  After a weekend of thinking and discussion with Husband, I withdrew my application.

I decided that power and control are pretty illusory, that I can tolerate a supervisor younger than I am, even if they turn out to be a knucklehead, and that I would go bats sitting through endless meetings. I want to see clients and do evaluations.  The folks who interviewed me were very understanding. It would be endless headaches for  them to make sure that the services I provide now were continued if I had accepted the new position. I noticed an instant reduction in stress and heaviness after I made my decision to stay as I am.  Now if we can only convince young professionals that a rural practice can be even more satisfying than city life with its amenities.

What factors are important to you in making your work satisfying, or at least tolerable?

53 thoughts on “Help Wanted”

  1. Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart (or at least one I am struggling through right now). I really like my co-workers, have a great work environment, get to do some fabulous not-my-day-job-but-good-for-the-company work (I get to fly my feminism flag fly in the name of building a stronger workplace). But I have reached a point where the job is not challenging in ways I find interesting. The core of my work has shifted and has left me a little un-moored in terms of direction – and the unspoken rules of what I need to be able to do to move up have changed to include experience I don’t currently have (and the role has been redefined a bit to be a bit less enticing). So feeling a bit stuck. Or at least standing at a crossroads without a any sense of which way to go next – forward? To the left? Veer right?…

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    1. animal farm?
      the new rules for advancing are fitting with those who advanced and not fitting for other paths?
      good luck in finding the way to make it work
      money is great but….
      you i happen to know from hands on experience are very good at what you do
      i hope you find the way to be allowed to do it

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  2. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Renee, you must be reading my mind! The Baboon Psychic Network is operating. I am probably going to transition my practice to another office. Since selling my practice I find myself impatient with the new owners, who according to my brain, “are doing it wrong.” I am not tolerating their inexperience very well. Since they have a right to their own mistakes and learning curve, perhaps I am the one who needs a change.

    In my earlier years I did not tolerate incompetent supervision very well. I had a string of supervisors who were controlling micromanagers. That trait combined with extreme cluelessness about everything was troubling. Needless to say, the relationship with those supervisors broke down quickly. In my early days, one such supervisor caused my name to be included in a lawsuit against the agency, just because I was in the office that day. Yes, I left that job. Lawsuits definitely cross the line.

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  3. my job description is challenging because I wear so many hats and look at so many others
    I was discussing this with a colleague on our start up and expressing my frustration in not being able to do what needed to be done in a timely or so succinct fashion.
    I do what I do well and if I can ask for help from others to do the things that I don’t do all is smooth if I have to do those things it becomes less than desirable for all parties
    my colleague said that her theory is that everyone excels in a certain area in what she calls a stupid human tricks ala Dave Letterman
    this shined a light on the realization that I’m very good at what I do and all I need is the support to make it work
    i’m thankful to have that right now and my new start up and looking forward to getting things up and running after a challenging first six months
    ain’t life grand to be able to talk about your new start up at age 60+

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  4. Most jobs involve a mix of activities that feed the soul and those that crush the spirit. “No job is perfect.” The challenge is to get in a place where we do as much of the rewarding stuff as possible with only a negligible amount of drudgery. It helps if you understand yourself: your abilities, your needs, your limitations.

    I enjoyed your analysis of your decision, Renee, because it showed how well you know which activities suit you. The supervisory job would have you doing things bad for your spirit. You would get to heal people less, which is an unacceptable loss. You’d see less of your husband and home. Plus you’d spend a lot of time on highways in grim weather. That’s something I know too much about. Somebody would have to pay me like an NFL quarterback to get me to drive long miles in North Dakota in winter!

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  5. Renee, your situation sounds sort of like mine in 1991 i was burned out, mostly on correcting papers. Also, I had created what I thought was a very successful college prep program. I had done huge work to make it happen, including writing all my text books. There were no new challenges of creating , just the daily challenge of getting each student to as high a level as I could. Then the distrcit decided to switch th;e college rpep approach, which theydid without asking parents and former students of mine about what I was doing. I chose not to say a single word but just accept it, thinking I would find a new challenge in teaching other grade levels and other sorts ofs tudents. I was down about the rejection of my years of work.
    I was suddenly offered a new out of the classroom, traveling arounf the Arrowhead. The new supt. who offered me the job was praising the wosdom of his creation of this opportunity. he said that among many other things, he was, by this new move, he was not loosing one of his best teachers, meaning me. He was and is a man I respect. Again I offered no protest.
    So I jump-shifted into the job, which turned into no real job but then that job became another job opportinity. I had to resign from the district and move into private business or go back to the district and work in what had become a diffcult placefor an principal who despised me and a supt. who did not think I was a very good teacher.
    So I again jump-shifted.into another job for which I was ill-suited.
    Both jump-shifts were wrong. I should have stayed despite the antipathy of my supervisors and the terrible work envornment and despite how over-worked English teachers were in the district.
    But my private life became so diffenret, such as moving here. And there were private factors, such as Sandy was developing diabetic night blindness and she worked at night three evenings a week. Gwtting her to stop driving would hav meant quitting her job when we needed the money, in part ofr growing medical expenses. So in some ways the new misery was btter than the misery I left.
    I guess there was no right decision. But I regret ending my career as such a failurfe in business.

    (apology for typing: dry eye issues and floaters are back. cannot see to read very well.)

    Liked by 4 people

      1. it is interesting how when we should be refining the path to be the best us we instead are responding to the snipers around us who make it necessary to defend our position protect our place instead of refining the fine tune issues we could be doing if left to our own devices
        focus on your stupid human trick and live happily ever after

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  6. In looking back, I have left one job for another in order to:
    – have a shorter commute
    – have enough money to actually live on
    – move across country
    – have more freedom in decision making
    – have more fun
    But the main think I noticed needing is positive attention and feedback. The worst jobs were temp assignments where no one had any interest in getting to now me or my work because I was… temporary. The second worst were when we “peons” had no way to improve our station.

    The best real job was being administrator (eventually named “internal consultant”) for the small consulting group (6) – people with great ideas and skills used to help business get “well”, usually through improved communication. We used our monthly day-long retreats to try out new ideas on the group, etc. It was a great six years, a period of much growth for me.

    I will have to say that since I wasn’t the only breadwinner, I had a lot more freedom to try out things I loved, like the little book business; or thought I loved, like the organizing. At this point I’m putting together a patchwork of volunteer gigs that I get satisfaction from, finding where to be a leader in some way. Changes daily, which keeps it interesting. I feel very lucky to be in this position.

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  7. Attributed incorrectly to Mark Twain. Real source unknown: “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

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    1. I was thinking of this quote in terms of the great challenge of leadership, management, supervisory positions. Some can fill those roles. I cannot. Some of us belong more at the point of contact. I am one of those. The Peter Principle says a lot about those differences. Two common fault is that we 1) place greater honor and reward on the management roles and not the point of contact and 2) we ask perfection of the management roles.

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      1. A story about management distant from the point of contact. They ablated Sandy’d thyroid when she was 15. She lives entirely on artificial thyroid. It has to be the brand Synthroid, which two previous switches to the generic proved, the second putting her in the hospital in very bad shape. Today she was told she cannot have Synthroid no matter what anyone says. BC/BS and Medicare will not pay for it and the pharmacy regulations say even if we pay the full cost she cannot have it because the generic is the same as the brand, as far as they are concerned. BC/BS have allowed the dr to appeal, but the appeal will take up to four months. Just when we thought we were getting some control over her health problems.

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  8. Every company I’ve ever worked for or had any sort of familiarity with has been a variety of dysfunctional family writ large. Businesses are brutal dictatorships, benevolent dictatorships, oligarchies, monarchies, plutocracies, or kleptocracies, but never anything like a democracy. That’s why it’s absurd to imagine that business experience qualifies anyone, even a stable intelligent person, to lead a democracy.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. The US government has often been led by successful businessmen in the past. A list would include Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge . . . all mediocre presidents. So I agree with your concluding statement, Bill.

      I can’t say all businesses resemble dysfunctional families. My dad tried to run his business as a healthy family. He described his leadership model as “paternal.” Just as some families work well, his factory was a place workers enjoyed.

      I wish I knew more about the company my daughter works for now. It is effective as a business while being unusually progressive in the way it treats employees. Call me biased for thinking this, but I see a connection between the humane business culture and the fact this business is led by women.

      While the Portland area has issues that make it far from perfect as a place to live, the area seems rich in well-run businesses. This is a complicating factor as we wrestle with the decision to relocate from here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You notice I said every business I’ve worked for and not more broadly every business when I made the statement about dysfunctional families. And of course families aren’t typically democracies either.
        The business of which I have the most intimate knowledge and personal association is the one that employed your erstwife and I.

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      2. Yes, you are too careful to say “all businesses are ___,” and I didn’t mean to imply that you had. The business you mention was founded and run by an iconoclastic man who was far from democratic. I think he was smart enough about the creative process to give his employees space to do their work. He was a unique person in my experience and the place he created was certainly unusual, if not unique.

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      3. He did not “give space” to his creatives at all. He was a filter, rather than an enabler of creativity. If you did anything that was different than the way he would have done it, he would order it redone. We all understood, when he returned from vacation, he would redo everything that was done in his absence.

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      4. Sometime when you want an earful Steve, I will go on a rant about why we need more women leading business, on corporate boards, and in non-traditional C-level roles (e.g., not just the HR and Marketing roles, but in finance, technology, etc.). There is plenty of research being done showing that diversity at the top makes for better business – it’s more profitable, more creative, and (likely) better for its employees. A second rant would be about the myths we have built about work/life balance and why we only talk about it with women, why we aren’t talking enough about working *parents* not just working moms…and yeah. I could go on for quite some time. You are probably right that with a woman at the top your daughter’s company is run differently.

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      5. I’m sure you are right, Bill. I spent far less time with him than you, so I drew a false conclusion. I’m rethinking. One thing I remember is that he often could not give clear suggestions about how his team could do something, but he always was ready to reject their work if it didn’t meet his standards. His leadership was often destructive in the short run. But he often got a good final product.

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    2. Anna, I’m eager for an earful from you at any time.

      I’ve been fascinated to watch an evolution in attitudes toward women in the workplace. It’s one reason I enjoyed “Mad Men” so much, as that was its real central subject.

      I’ve been a feminist (albeit often a clueless one) all my life, naturally wanting women to enjoy the respect and freedom men often take for granted. At one time those sentiments led me to argue that “women are like men,” meaning that they were capable of doing excellent work and were not the limited creatures our culture assumed they were.

      With more experience, I came to feel that women and men are clearly not exactly alike. Because of my own biases and history, I’ve had to be careful about my readiness to believe women do many things better than men (working with less ego, working collaboratively better, respecting the legitimate claims of family responsibilities, etc). It was in that sense that I ventured the observation that the superb culture of my daughter’s workplace might have resulted from the fact the business is led by women.

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  9. Since I’ve been in my current job for 28+ years, I guess I can say that I need:
    Variety – no day is just like another, many different types of tasks
    Organization – my job allows me to use my organizational skills
    People – I get to be in contact w/ folks from all over the world
    Travel – Three or four times a year – just right for me

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  10. My needs are simple at this point. Nice co-workers, good boss, decent pay and benefits, solid company with good reputation and occasional parties. Mission accomplished. I wish I could say I love my job or actually enjoy my work, but I don’t. I would like to do something else, but don’t have the moxie, energy, motivation, money or confidence to pursue it. Just stuck in the gilded cage of a nice job with a nice employer — which I am very grateful for.

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  11. Renee, I applaud you for making a decision that I believe will serve you well in the long run. I had every confidence that you would. Money and authority aren’t always the best tools for measuring career success. I learned the hard way that more responsibility and higher pay can be poor substitutes for job satisfaction.

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  12. I believe it was in my junior year of high school that we took a test to indicate what career would suit us in later life. My result came back “psychologist”. At that time I was interested in how bias worked. If only…

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      1. There was a guy in my high school class who always knew he wanted to be a mortician. And did. I’d like to offer that as a positive observation, since his clarity was in sharp contrast to my fuzziness about the work I wanted to do. But, alas, this guy confirmed every single creepy stereotype you can imagine and a kid who dreams about becoming a mortician. He was a huge fan of The Addams Family and had a sense of humor that could only be described as ghoulish.

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      2. That test we took back then any reasonably intelligent person could skew to a desired interest. My lowest when I took it in 9th grade was: wait for it, drum roll: teacher. I remember that because it was the last thing I wanted to be then. My sister came out the highest on teacher because she skewed it that way.

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    1. I took a test like that post-college and was told, inexplicably, that I would make a fine military officer and a lousy enlisted person. I believe tax auditor was also on my list of matches. And carpenter. (I skewed heavily to what were called “masculine” roles and interests…wonder if that same test still uses gendered language like that.)

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  13. I think I took some sort of “test” on this a few years back. Things that are important to me in work: freedom, integrity, positive recognition, and work independently (i.e. alone).

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  14. Thank you all, for your comments. I was so startled in my interview a couple of weeks ago to realize I was the oldest person in the room. I am only 59 , and I realized that my cohort has left the system I am working in. Husband says I should think of myself as making my last trip into harbor before I retire in 4 years. I spoke today at the noon meeting of the local college psychology club about rural mental health and the joys of community mental health. I have nothing to complain about.

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    1. i was thinking today you should tell them you want to offer to do a hybred with meetings when needed some done on skype, being director and still keeping your practice and just offering to get an assistant to pick up all the little didddly stuf that could be outsourced to free up time to allow both admin and theray
      your red gov could see it is run like a business

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, the governor is quite a businessman. It is the legislature that is quite inflexible. Good idea. If they can’t hire anyone for the positition, I might just suggest it.

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      2. suggest before they come to the conclusion they need to hire a bozo because they are stuck. it is a great way for you to put the 4 year hand off in place . train both the regional director and the psychologist to ease into your shoes when you are gone

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  15. Most people just want to feel they are good at what they do. For some of us, that’s not a very easy place to get to.

    It helps to have a supervisor who appreciates you.

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