Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Job front news

I had an interview today. First job interview I've had in almost two months. I've applied, to date, to a little over 30 open positions in a multitude of settings.

Well, in a word, it sucked. Or I sucked. One of those two applies.

I felt okay going in, and I aced the general questions, like "Tell us about yourself," and "strengths & weaknesses." I lied about what an ace I am with paperwork, but I did note that I had been the go-to IT guy for bringing my not-so-computer savvy colleagues up to speed with my previous employer's electronic medical record system.

But they asked some questions, I just absolutely blew. The second question in was, "What do you know about the disease model of addiction?" I didn't know if they wanted the medical model of disease - like assessment, diagnosis, treatment then rehab/recovery - or if they just wanted me to simply state the biological & environmental factors of the "disease" of addiction. So, I hemmed and hawed for a few moments before blurting out something about psychosocial factors & influences, then how drugs enforce a physiological dependence that can be fostered ... blah blah blah. It sounded like crap to me, and if I can't even lie to myself that the shit outta my mouth sounds like I'm spinning golden thread, then I know that others around me know that I know I'm full of shit.

I had an interview committee of three - some chick, this other chick, and some dude. Chick #2 asks me about a time that I handled a crisis; so I described the time that dude tried to hang himself in front of me in the prison ... discussed my level-headedness, my attention to my crisis response training, and my dogged stepwise progression from the initial aspect of the crisis through to its end. A few questions later, dude asks me how I handle disruptions in a regular day, meaning what if I have some guy in group raise hell on another member. Sooo, I discussed how I maintained a level head when verbal shit hit the fan in my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) group one time, used my DBT partner to maintain group order while I sequestered the offending individual, maintained attention to my DBT training for disruptions, et cetera. Chick #1, a few questions later, asked me about my involvement in ... crisis intervention. This pattern of redundancy was pretty pervasive, as each individual initiated at least one question that at least one other person on the interview team then asked me again, in some different form. I in turn assumed that they wanted some different aspect or take on the topic, so I gave them generally connected but fundamentally different answers.

The cap off was when the dude asked me what I knew of the DSM. Literally, "what's your thoughts on the DSM?" I almost choked on my water that I brought with me to the interview. What the capital-f does that question even mean?! I have 10 yrs experience with mental health & psychological services - eight with this very state alone, a Masters in clinical psychology, an MD on my reference list ... what are you asking me? So, I flatly explained that I've been using DSM IV since my bachelor's program, discussed my strenuous efforts to learn it for the Clinical Psychpatho class at Radford, and then my use of it up to and including the recent release of DSM-IV-TR. So, he clarified his question, because apparently I was thinking too basic ... or not basic enough. "What do you think of it?" Again, what the F does that mean??! So, I discussed what criticisms I have heard of it, my opinions of its efficacy ... "I mean, what's it used for?" "Um, the identification of symptoms of mental illness for the possibility of treatment?" Dude follows up with: "Now, how would you identify abuse? Give me three things you would look for." Shit, okay ... "any deficits in social or occupational functioning ... any apparent signs of changes, alterations or abberations in appearance, behavior ... and self-report, such as report of abuse of a substance, family history, or - resources permitting - a positive urine drug screen." I admitted that I wasn't sure how specific he needed me to be, as in a differential diagnosis between abuse or dependence, but he waved that off and said that my response was "good enough."

A couple more odd questions here and there, which allowed me to bust out some arcane info that I've stored in my head from back in the Radford days. I mean, my post-wreck recall abilities did me no favors whatsoever there, either. I blanked on names of theorists (like the author of the seminal work "Changing for Good," which I JUST THIS VERY MOMENT remembered is Prochaska), concepts, structures in theories, etc. It was suddenly like I was having my comp orals all over again. There was no middle ground to the questions either; it was either "discuss the assessment tools you've used and perhaps explain what you believe is the best to summarize a client suffering with addiction" or "What's cognitive therapy?" The only question of the whole damn thing that I have no doubts that I aced was an aside dude made, "How old is your daughter?"

And dude was not trying to hide his notes at all, so I caught a glance at what he was writing at times. And some disheartening news, he scored one of my best answers a "2" out of 10, which was either great (doubt it) or just bloody awful. He scribbled something down, no matter what I did ... I think he counted each sip of water I took, plus it was hot as a bastard in their conference room, so I had to roll my sleeves up, and he watched me do that for each arm then wrote something down about that. On his last page, I think he was grading me on the A-F scale, and his writing was the shitz, so I either got a B- or a D-, so I got close to a C or close to an F.

I think they telegraphed that I didn't get the job. They asked me for the questions I had, and I had three shots ready to go:

1) "Having worked with the state for so long, I'm just curious about the differences between your nonprofit organization and the state system?" Oh, we had a nice discussion about that, particularly me and chick #1.

2) "What changes has this organization undergone in the past few years?" I had been aware of this organization for some time in my tenure with a previous employer, so I was already aware that changes had been made recently, regardless how small, but I wanted to show my interest in this place of potential employment. They moved to a bigger building in the past few months, but overall things have remained steady, although they anticipate that Medicaid changes coming up would force them to be more flexible and creative. So we talked about Medicaid, and the two chicks and me were having a blast.

3) "How has this organization been affected in these harsh economic times?" I spoke program- and service-wise, because of all the changes that I saw occur during my state mental health job tenure. Fortunately, they've made some adjustments here and there, but they've been able to maintain the programs and services with little more than a hiccup.

So, to try going for the gold, to wash off all this uncertainty, I had one more impromptu question, based out of the discussion about flexibility. I had referenced the structure of the DBT approach - skills group, individual counsel, peer professional support - so I asked that, if hired, would there be opportunities to adapt my experience within that structure to the organization's system ... i.e. are ya'll running group services where I'll then be able to follow-up with those people one-on-one, or is it a different set-up?

Dude sez, "You're clearly well-versed in mental health ... we really do more substance abuse and addiction counseling ..." and in misinterpreting my question, dude told me all I needed to know. Any pokerfacedness I had was gone; I felt my face sink to the floor. I felt immediately stupid, humiliated, and disappointed in myself. I knew that I was interviewing for addictions counseling; they knew my background was in mental health. All the questions were about my experiences, and none of my experiences that I was being asked about involved any involvement with substance abuse counseling. The whole thing ended up being a train wreck. I believed, and I still do, that I did little more than waste those people's time, and my time, when we all could have been doing something more productive than them being entertained by my silly ass. I went in about as confident as I could be, and walked out humbled.

I don't anticipate a second interview with administration (which is apparently part of the process); if I get one, I'll be terrified going in because of this first interview, and it's not like I can bail because my daughter ... craziest thing ... SHE NEEDS ME TO GET THINGS FOR HER. I anticipate only a nice form letter that everybody else but one candidate for the position will get. I am far better an employee than I think anyone has ever really seen - definitely better than I think anyone would give me credit for, but I have no idea when or where I'll get the opportunity to show that again; I'm pretty certain it won't be at [the organization]*.

Sometimes the bull, he win.

*I ain't the kind of shithead that Facebooks drunken escapades, if you get me.


Ron said...

Remember, in the words of the Butthole Surfers, that you never know just how you look in other people's eyes. Sure, dude wrote down some possibly disparaging thing on his pad...but he is 1 of 3. You said your interactions went relatively well on some issues and it sounds like you asked some good follow-up questions. You also don't know who else is interviewing for the job, what the administration thinks about you on paper, and a number of intangible things. Don't necessarily get hyped that you are getting the job (that is the problem I always have....if I do even slightly good I think I'm getting it and then we I don't I get all sorts of messed up), but don't count yourself out yet.

Nate said...

I appreciate the support, Ronaldo. It was such a messed up situation, but among their mimimum requirements was that you had to have a bachelor's degree, so I might have been up against a host of new grads.

We'll see what happens. More news at 11 ...