Friday, July 6, 2012

I'M ON VACATION! (so I'll write about work)

This is my first week off in fifteen months. My bosses strongly encouraged me to take time off this summer so I wouldn't get burnt out. I'm surely that's partly because they need me to be able to work well when I'm there, but mostly, because they're nice and don't want me to get burnt out. In fact, when the intern who was supposed to cover Weds-Fri had a death in the family, I offered to put my vacation off a week. Lucie decided to close the office for those days and to take the voicemail and email herself. They don't ever close the office except on major holidays; one of the important things about having interns is to always have someone in the office. But they really wanted me to get away.

Today I actually got to spend some time with Judy, which doesn't much happen. Even though her office is right across from mine, she has a steady stream of patients and supervisees every day, and has to squeeze in the business of the institute into those little breaks. I often don't actually see her for days at a time. We do everything via email, so she can read and reply when she has a spare second; her time is very scarce. Lucie comes in on Monday and Friday afternoons. The rest of the week, she sees patients in her Brooklyn office. So she and I are constantly emailing, and usually meet for around fifteen minutes around 1:00 when she's in (she also sees patients in a room there, plus all of her committee meetings are on Fridays). I really look forward to her coming because I love working with her, plus we've gotten friendly and I really enjoy her. She has a great sense of humor.

Judy and Lucie usually meet on Mondays and Fridays from 3:00 to 4:00. But Lucie was visiting friends out of town today, so I got a hunk of that hour with Judy today. I don't know her as well, but she's quite marvelous, and endlessly competent and hard-working. She is also endlessly kind to me. She built the whole idea of a fundraising crafts fair around my being able to sell my jewelry (I will split the take with the institute). She brings bagels and lox every Friday - and when we have interns, she bring for the intern working that day. I think she's quite sorry that she can't pay me more, and always looks for ways to make my life a little easier.

I am appreciated at that job. Lucie began as Executive Director at the same time I started (she had been on faculty for quite a while), and the two of us fixed a lot of fuzzy rules and messy procedures; we spent most of last summer completely overhauling the handbook, which is a big, complicated document. It's not just that I'm appreciated because I'm keeping the office running smoothly, but also because I bring a lot of good ideas to the table, draft or edit almost every written word that goes out (I also do this for most of the committee chairs), and offer to help where it's not expected or required. It's a really, really good team.

My interns: I generally have two college interns in fall, spring and summer, and a high school intern in the spring. I realized recently that this is way more experience than I've ever had in interviewing, hiring, and supervising. I also realized that I'm doing it well, because my interns have performed beautifully and everyone likes them.

One thing I've done, another idea I've had, has widened the pool of internship candidates. In addition to our sometime-spotty yield from, where we run a notice all year, I decided to reach out to the undergrad psych departments of a half a dozen good colleges. Since we don't pay them, I figured it was a bonus for psych students to work at PPSC; plus a lot of the people we get from are  just looking for any internship they can get. And if I interview half a dozen people and none jumps out at me, I go back to resumes.

The interns generally come out at the end with good letters of reference, a substantial gift (usually an Amazon gift card for at least $100), a nice lunch out, and a lot of information about the difference between analysis and other forms of counseling and therapy. One of the spring interns came in wanting to take a doctorate in psych, and left wanting to get an MSW and train as an analyst after. She applied to Fordham School of Social work (where my mother got her MSW) and got in; I wrote one of her recommendations.

This summer, one of my spring interns is staying over two days a week; she's pleasant and conscientious and has good office skills; found her through John Jay, which has a good forensic psych program. (The school is John Jay College of Criminal Justice, so it's slanted to a lot of law-and-order studies.) But I had a problem getting a second intern. One of the intern issues is space; my office is so small that more than two people cannot work there at once. So I have to find interns who can work opposite times. (I still can't believe I managed to shoehorn the high school intern in at the last minute!) I started interviewing late for the summer, because I was very busy in April and May getting the school year over and setting up fall registration. It doesn't really calm down until the end of June. Someone from the first batch really impressed me, but he took another internship, and there wasn't a second-best in that group. I found someone really great in the second group, and she really wanted the internship and seemed like a perfect fit. I called her twice and emailed her three times to offer her the position, and I never heard back from her. Group number three: I saw someone I thought would work out well. I had one more person to see, and I think I had to cancel for some reason, and couldn't reschedule for some days. To much time was going by - this was a week ago - and I interviewed her over the phone and hired her on the spot. She just had the right personality. When I told the woman I thought would be OK that I'd hired someone else, but I would be glad to consider her for fall, she wrote back and said she couldn't do fall, but would be glad to work for me over winter break. Score! (The intern I had lunch with - the lunch I can't remember - had been an intern last summer and also offered to come back for this past winter break. Getting a winter break intern, for those few weeks between fall and spring, is really great.)

Personality is a big part of it for me. My starting guidelines are usually an interest in psychology and some office or customer service experience. But a lot of the people I interviewed were just too shy and timid. I have to have someone who isn't scared and isn't at ease around me or the faculty or candidates.

However - my high school intern this past term started out exactly that way. Judy has an arrangement with a special city high school, where all of the seniors have to do internships, and I think we all forgot about it until the last minute. So Kenny was the only person I saw and he was kind of thrust on me. He was a tall, skinny young man from a very traditional Chinese family; I recognized that right away, because my friend L. has a very similar background. He had no office experience. I thought he was a little freaked-out by old-hippie me, but when I went to his school for a reception, I saw that a lot of his teachers were a lot like me. (When I heard about the internships some of his peers had had - at a folk club, with a filmmaker, with a state senator - I felt terrible that my internship was such a bore by comparison. But then I spoke with his college counselor - who could easily have been my sister - she said that he always told her how much he liked working there.)

Apart from the fact that he could reach high places and carry heavy things, it turned out he was extremely good with computers and all kinds of tech. Good at Excel. Good at internet research. Polite. Conscientious - like the second he finished something, he'd ask "Is there anything else you want me to do?" Most of my interns will spend a few minutes web-surfing or whatever when they've finished something, and I totally get that - I do it myself. In fact, if I was in the middle of something or didn't have something ready for Kenny to do, I'd say, "Give me a few minutes, take a little while and surf," only then would he do it. He would ask for permission to answer his cell phone. And slowly, he got comfortable and opened up, we chatted some and joked around, and by the end of the term, no one wanted to let him go. He had to work for money this summer, but is going to college locally in the fall, and I asked him to think about coming back then. It might happen. Everyone ended up loving Kenny to pieces. I would not have chosen someone so shy if I'd had the choice, but I was amazed at how well it turned out to have him there, and how much less shy he was at the end.

I couldn't make it work without my interns.

I have a very good job, and will now spend a week not thinking about it.

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