I Quit My Job…

On Wednesday I quit my job.

After more than 7 years of being a psychologist, the senior psychologist, a programs coordinator, a provisional psychologist supervisor and various other related roles, it was time to take a massive leap and move on from what I have known.

For anyone who knows me well, it was an unexpected decision and one that was expected to be a while off yet. Yes, it was known that I have embarked on a new direction, having only kicked off my university studies for a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (primary) less than 3 weeks ago. Maybe 2. The past few weeks have been a blur. But I had expected to stick it out til the end of my university study period, which is somewhere between 2-2.5 years.

So why the drastic change of mind?

Unfortunately in many ways I felt I had little other choice. My workplace was no longer particularly supportive of my flexible working hours and part time arrangement. I started to get a bit of pressure from some of the senior management team. Unfortunately the worst of it came from my line manager, who as a mother, I expected more compassion. The decider was when I was told perhaps it was time to choose what is most important – yep, she was referring to my role as mother vs my role at work.

No mother or father should ever be asked such a question. There is no other answer. Being a parent will always come first. But that does not mean you cannot be an exceptional and competent professional also. And I was… I still am in fact.

So after some events that followed that pushed me to my limit, I sent my resume at random to a few companies I found via Google asking for a flexible opportunity for a part time psychologist. Lucky for me my experience is apparently highly sought after. The following Monday I had several interested parties.

I have chosen at this point in time to go with an organisation that employs independent psychologists to work under our Australian Medicare system, seeing students, teachers and parents in the school setting through GP referral. What stood out most for this role was not simply the benefit of working a school and getting my foot in the door for my future career, starting to build my experience now. No, it was the fact that the owner of this business was a mum. She understood the need for flexible hours, close to home, working as little or as much as suited me. She got it!

There is a bit of paperwork to organise in the lead up, but with my month notice at work, and a further month needed to complete my first university practicum, the timing is good.

Handing in my resignation though, it was tough. It was the first time I’ve ever really had to do it, having only been casually employed previously. But after giving the deputy a bit of a shock, I had a great chat with the director who informed me the door would always be open for someone as hard working and competent as myself. It was just what I needed to hear. Actually, it made the whole thing quite emotional.

Yep, there were tears that day. A little funny really, since I could not stand the place a week before. But it was merely tainted by one or two individuals and some recent events. That does not take away all the good experiences and many good people from over 7 years. For the most part, I have enjoyed my role. But it was the kick I needed to get out of my comfort zone and move forward.

I am excited for what comes next. Although terrified all at the same time. Tuesday comes with a first meeting with one of the managers from the company I will be joining, followed by a meeting with my mentor teacher for my first practicum and the class of year 2 students I will be working with.

What made me certain I had made the right choice though was the fact that I slept fine the night before. I was even calm right up until the moment I handed over my resignation letter. And even following those tears and the realisation that it was actually happening, I slept well again that night. If it was the wrong choice, there would not have been such a sense of calm.

My husband is a little nervous, naturally. I am going from a permanent part time position to contract based, paid per client work. Yep, that makes me nervous too, but thankfully he is also supportive and understanding that I needed to get out. He saw the impact of the last few weeks, months of stress. And he knows better than anyone it takes a lot to cause me stress.

So today starts yet another journey, hopefully full of exciting opportunities, learning experiences and wonderful memories.

Wish me luck!!

 

 

 

Going Part-Time Ruined My Career

Back a couple of years, my career was high priority. I progressed through the ranks with reasonable speed, and all the confidence in the world at that time. All was good in my corporate world.

Then everything changed.

We started our family & after 37.5 weeks of growing my bump while managing a team, carrying high responsibility & enjoying my professional career, it was time for maternity leave.

Maternity leave was the best time of my life, loving every second of being a mother & watching my beautiful daughter grow. There was no way I could give that up and return to my previous life.

I returned to work when my daughter was exactly 6 months old. It was heartbreaking, yet made easier by the fact that my work had been extremely supportive towards my return to work.

With a husband on late shift, work supported my return part time with 2PM finishes. Home before hubby left and eliminating the need to day care. It felt better knowing she had one or both parents all the time. And the cost of child care in Australia is hefty, sometimes making you not much better off if you didn’t work at all.

As my role was junior management, they went with a job share model bringing in a person a few years off retirement. He was challenging but I had my share well & truly under control. After 6 months, they decided the nature of the role needed a full time face & changed things.

This was frustrating as it suggested my failure, yet the issues were with other staffing areas. They put pressure on me to resume full time. I wasn’t ready…

So instead they split the role & divided the areas of responsibility. The other person went full time. I had half the work & the team was exceeding targets & performing exceptionally well, as always.

All the while my manager since my return was putting pressure on & suggesting things were a struggle. She didn’t know me before maternity leave & suddenly was in control of my fate.

Where it stands now, she’s again suggested it isn’t working… That the staff feel unsupported. All due to a conflict with the team & the person who has taken over half my role. Apparently this is my poor management & not his poor people skills & unrealistic expectations.

What I do know is there’s nothing wrong with my work. The fact that my team is one of the highest performing in the centre isn’t acknowledged. It’s just another excuse to eliminate the part time baggage they don’t want to deal with.

No such thing as loyalty in the big corporate world.

It would take a fool now to see the blatant attempt to encourage me to move during the most recent meeting. ‘Time to access what’s most important – motherhood perhaps?’. Of course it is, but it doesn’t mean I don’t need a job.

If only the worlds most important job – parenting – was a paid job!

But it’s not and I’m not giving up my mummy-daughter days. I guess I just strap myself in for the bumpy ride ahead, with more attempts to have my hours increased, my achievements minimised and my stress levels soaring.

None of this would be the case if I’d chosen against motherhood… Or gone back full time. Apparently putting such high value on family is a bad employee trait & the perfect way to ruin your career … But worth it!

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Flashback Friday – Reflections of a Prison Psychologist

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Embarking on a career as a psychologist can be a very different reality compared to the expectation. It’s nothing like the movies. It’s not all IQ tests and inkblots, CBT and behaviour modification. Nope. Especially not when you choose the path of a psychologist in the criminal justice system.

As a fresh faced uni student with the whole world ahead of me, I hoped my chosen field of study would be an exciting challenge, never dull and full of so many different experiences. This part was at least in line with the expectation.

However as you are jumping through the hoops needed to gain the qualifications you seek, and even once you start that early career in the field, there is so much you don’t know or expect.

I expected a challenging and exciting career working in a forensic setting. My passion was mental health. In particular – psychopathy and abnormal psychology. Private practice seemed like something you did later, when you were ready for quiet and repetitive.

My first and only psychologist role has been in corrections. I started out as a provisional psychologist, with no practical skills behind me. Newly graduated and ecstatic to have scored the first position I applied and interviewed for.

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It was daunting in the beginning. I had limited support due to resignations with people moving on to greener pastures. I had what I affectionately refer to as ‘Deep End Training’, which is simply being thrown in the deep end and having to sink or swim. It’s a quick, but not ideal, way of learning. I try and avoid doing the same to my own staff now that I am in a senior position.

Back then everything seemed exciting… and naturally a little scary. Of course right from the start you knew there were risks involved. Risks to your safety… to the safety of others… ethical dilemmas… policy and procedures that can be so rigid, yet unclear. Like a sponge, you absorb all this information and head out into the big wide world to try and make a difference.

It only took a short time before I realised my role was mostly about preventing suicide. A sad but true reality. We learnt early on that intervention in that environment has limited effectiveness and therefore was rarely utilised aside from the standardised group setting intervention programs.

So here I was, 24, a little bit introverted, completely inexperienced… and female, interviewing men of all ages from backgrounds you could barely imagine, some who had committed crimes that would make your hair curl or your skin crawl, and using all the tools in my psychology toolbox to encourage them to stay alive. Was this really what I had wanted? It in no way resembled CSI or Silence of the Lambs.

For the most part I enjoyed the work. There were days that were frustrating and stressful. There was that first (and only) time I realised a prisoner was masturbating under the interview table. There were tears when I got home that night. I’ve seen a whole lot of male anatomy since. The first time a prisoner yelled at me. I held my shit together til I got back to the office… then I cried like a girl. It actually hasn’t happened since… the yelling (or the prisoner making me cry).  Or those times when was the only registered psychologist on staff and having to manage the acute psychological needs of 500 men. Those times were tough.

There were a lot of positives. A diverse learning environment. Those moments when a prisoner said ‘thank you’, and genuinely meant it. That moment one of the most challenging and personality disordered violent prisoners I’ve known was due for release and was reduced to tears as he expressed his gratitude for all I had done to assist him over the years and for simply being transparent. That was something else.

Some of my most treasured friendships have come from inside those fences. Fellow professionals who have mostly all moved on to new and exciting roles elsewhere. I am grateful for all I have learnt from each of them… and for the laughs we had as a result of the truly warped sense of humour you develop working in a prison.

But then there is the one experience that I want to forget. The situation every psychologist fears most. And that moment where you wonder if you failed.

Starting out in corrections I knew there was a very real risk that one day someone would take their own life, despite our best efforts and procedures in place to prevent these things. Sometimes it’s still not enough. Yet until it happened, I guess I never really thought it would happen in my career.

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It still hurts deep inside to know a person who had the potential to turn his life around, who I had shared many a challenging day with, a laugh, a frown, progress towards rehabilitation, suddenly decided enough was enough.

Receiving that phone call at 11PM one night to inform me there had been a suicide was a moment when time seemed to stop, frozen in the horror of the news.

No matter how confident you are in your skills, you still end up second guessing yourself after an experience so tragic. You ask yourself every variety of ‘Why?’ and ‘What if?’ question, hoping it will suddenly make sense. It still doesn’t. It won’t.

If you asked me did this experience change things for me, well… yes. It probably did. Do I still love my job? Not so much. It’s not the only reason, but it was around that time the cracks perhaps began to form.

It highlighted the fact that despite our best intentions and efforts, a psychologist in such a setting is so limited in what they can achieve and knowing that very fact feels so hopeless. Sure you can make a little difference here and there, but with the amount of restriction and lack of resources, little is about as good as it gets in most cases.

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That’s no longer enough for me. That is why I am choosing to follow a different path soon.

What I am grateful for though, is the strength and resilience I have developed as a result of this challenging career choice.

My time for parole is nearer. I am ready for a new adventure.

 

So Uplifting

I mentioned earlier this week how I was spending the whole week training up as a program facilitator for work. While I am the co-ordinator of this area, I had avoided the training for my 7 years of work in corrections, believing it was not something of interest to me.

Long story short, my new manager nominated me… Much to my horror, but it turns out I’ve actually had a blast and enjoyed the training thoroughly.

One closing activity that is actually used when facilitating the program with the prisoner population is sending around a piece of paper with each persons name & everyone writing something anonymous & positive about that person.

We did this in our training group & it is such a wonderful activity, giving such a boost in confidence & joy. Here is mine:

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I Did It!!!

For the length of my career as a psychologist I have dreaded the thought of group intervention and program delivery. That completely irrational fear that public speaking could result in some horrendous personal fate is what lead to my complete avoidance.

For 7 years I have somehow dodged the bullet to attend the training for our correctional specialty programs, instead becoming something of an expert on everything related, without being directly involved.

However it finally caught up with me & I got placed on the training course. Today was day 3.

The training is for the facilitation of a high intensity 6 month substance abuse program designed for high security offenders. It’s pretty heavy. Yet what’s somewhat amusing is the fact that the main reason I avoided so long was fear of the actual training. Or more specifically of the presentation needed to pass the training.

Today was my presentation. Up first of all the facilitator pairs. Just my luck!

We had to present a 45 minute session to our group & trainers based on one of the sessions. The session was picked for us & we got a pretty easy one thankfully. The rest of the group got to act as prisoner participants… But they didn’t get too into character that early on.

Our session pretty much rocked! Catering for all the different adult learning styles, a hilarious energiser, practical activities relating to the content and a total ‘Dad-joke’ style closing activity with a blow up guitar & the question “What struck a cord with you today?”.

Feedback was all positive & apparently my inner torment & fear was completely disguised by a cool, calm and collected persona.

Training is for another 2 days but the feared part is over. Success achieved!

And yes, I realise it’s somewhat bizarre to have this fear of public speaking when I want to be a teacher. But kids aren’t scary. They are lovely!! (Usually)

I will be happy to end this week with a sense of accomplishment.

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When I Grow Up

In july I am headed back to university to embark on a new profession. I have had mixed reactions to this news, with good reason. Mostly because I already have a profession. One that I have had successes in and have enjoyed for the most part of 7 years.

Despite this, I decided it was time for a change, thus enrolling in a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Primary). Suddenly my passion for my current career was just not there like it had been a year ago… or even a few months ago. Not a good sign. Time for change!

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Teaching is something that never really crossed my mind when considering career paths. In fact I always said I never wanted to work with kids. Yet becoming a parent, somehow my entire perception of the world turned upside-down… and I like it better this way!

What appeals to me most about teaching is certainly not the wage (although I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone says). It’s the fact that I can bring my creativity into my career and I will be working with kids which is suddenly very exciting! Lots of fresh young minds, eager to learn!

And 10 weeks holidays a year is a bonus… even if that will include a bit of teaching prep work on my nights and days off. I’m okay with this!

But going right back, when I was a kid I wanted to be a writer… a children’s book author and illustrator when I was really young, but later on and into my teens, a novelist was the dream. I actually wrote 10,000 words on a manuscript once. A psychological thriller. I’m a tad biased, but it kinda rocked!

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For a few fleeting moments I thought being a police officer would be cool. Not anymore. Especially not having worked in the correctional system for most of my adult life. I’ve had enough of that field.

I dabbled as an artist. At times I could sketch pretty well… but couldn’t paint to save my life and overall, it was just more stressful than I needed it to be trying to create fine art. Short lived dream!

The idea that lingered the longest was becoming a zoologist. I invisioned myself somewhere in the African plains, binocculas to my eyes, notepad by my side and pen in hand, scribbling every little observation of the big cats in the wild. I imagined lots of khaki, sweat and dirt. But most of all, just that love of animals made it seem like the dream career.

So what happened… Chemistry happened. I hate it. I was hopeless at it. In fact I failed it… only just. Because somewhere along the way I decided it was stupid and too hard and gave up. Apparently it was a pre-requisite to becoming a zoologist so I had to abandon my dream for a more realistic one.

Thus came the decision to study psychology. Yep, I switched from studying animals, to people. In a way I told myself it was the same thing, just different creatures to observe. It’s not really very similar at all.

But don’t get me wrong. I have loved my profession for the most part. I have experienced some very unique cases, seen some complex trauma and psychiatric histories and hopefully have made a little bit of difference to some lives.

But it’s time for me to follow a new path now that will lead me in another direction, at least for a little while. I am not abandoning my professional skills completely. Guidance counselling may be a great combination of both teaching and psychology down the track.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did it happen?

Back to study

Recently I decided I was no longer feeling as challenged and inspired in my current career. As a psychologist working in a forensic setting, there were of course plenty of options within this diverse field to consider, but a bigger change was needed.

Since becoming a mummy, I now have this strong desire to work with children & funny enough, my new career goal came out of a dream. I have decided to go back to uni (online) and study teaching.

Lucky enough here in Australia this means only a graduate diploma in education if you have relevant tertiary qualifications already and is only 1-1.5 years full time. I got my uni acceptance via email today.

I’m taking it on part time while sticking it out in my current job for a couple more years. I am only part time at work so it should be manageable (despite my need to have a million hobbies at once).

I’m pretty excited. I love study and I can’t wait to try something new. I also love that this career will allow me a chance to use some of my creativity as compared to psychology.

Although the psych degree & experience isn’t a waste. After a few years teaching, I plan to work as a school guidance counsellor, so another chance for something new.

Cheers to me…. Psychologist, mum, small business owner, diy-er & now student 😉

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