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All right everybody. Welcome back to The Testing Psychologist podcast. Today, I’m talking all about how to hire and prepare for a postdoc. It is Postdoc season or it’s wrapping up postdoc season?
I don’t know about all of you, but I love December through [00:01:00] February each year. This is the time when we’re doing the vast majority of application reviews and selection for doctoral interns and postdocs. Totally an emotional rollercoaster and completely time intensive, but also highly rewarding.
I know a lot of you’re considering bringing on a postdoc. This comes up a lot in my consulting. So today I’m talking about how to prepare yourself and your practice to bring on a postdoc, including both the emotional and practical considerations.
If you’re a practice owner and you would like some group coaching, accountability, and support from your peers and from me, you can check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I run 2 to 3 cohorts of these groups each year. They happen at the beginner level, intermediate level, and advanced level. So wherever you’re at in your practice development, there is a group to support you. You can find out more and [00:02:00] schedule a pre-group call to check out the fit at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting.
All right, let’s talk about postdocs.
All right y’all, let’s dig into thoughts about hiring a postdoc. Many of you ask about hiring: who you should hire, how you hire, what it entails, and so forth. Everyone is trying to hire these days, but licensed psychologists are hard to come by.
Internship programs are difficult to start without significant time and logistical support and graduate students require a lot of training and support. So what is the happy medium? Post-docs. [00:03:00] They are more independent and skilled yet still give the opportunity to supervise and grow your practice in a meaningful way. But how do you know if you’re ready to hire a postdoc?
For me, there are two components. One of those is the emotional component, and then one of those is the practical component. I feel it gets always the emotional and the practical components. So that’s what we’re looking at. I’m going to go over each of those components here as we get into the episode.
Let’s start with the emotional components first. So this is huge. Many people bring on postdocs to grow and handle overflow cases without thinking about the emotional components. This is a big mistake. Postdoc is not just a warm body who could see your clients for a higher profit [00:04:00] margin. They need nurturing, training, and investment for their growth as much as your practices growth.
Questions to ask yourself if you have never had a postdoc. The first one I think is what is your why? And I’d like you to be honest about this. If it’s just money or convenience, then you should probably pass on this option. There should be a healthy component of wanting to supervise, teach, support early career folks, give back, and invest in their development. And if that is not you, that is totally okay, but a postdoc may not be the right choice.
The second question to ask is, do you have control issues? I’m going to go out on a limb and say, of course, I do. I’ve joked about that many times. So, totally okay if you have some control issues. We’ll call it quality [00:05:00] assurance guarantees, but it’s totally okay.
The question is, though, how are you going to manage that when you have a postdoc? Because even though postdocs are relatively independent, they are still going to need supervision and they are still going to make mistakes just like any normal human. So how do you handle that?
That’s related to my next question which is, how good of a communicator are you and can you handle conflict? This is a given whenever you are working with a postdoc or really any employee, if you’re going to be a business owner and you’re going to manage people, then we need to take a hard look at how you communicate and how you handle conflict. Are you willing to invest in doing it better?
So the moment that you bring someone on, whether it’s a postdoc or other [00:06:00] employee, you become a manager. And if they didn’t teach us how to be business owners in grad school, they definitely didn’t teach us how to manage people. So are you willing to invest the time and energy it might take to improve your communication style, improve your conflict navigation skills, and all those things?
Another question to ask is, do you have a specific supervision style? I can say this from interviewing probably close to 50 postdocs over the years. Do you know what your supervision style is? Because they will ask. We’re coming off another round of postdoc interviewing, and I would say 95% of the applicants asked about supervision style. So can you speak to your style?
There are theoretical orientations for supervision [00:07:00] and can you speak to those and describe those in a meaningful way? And if not, are you willing to do some continuing ed on supervising postdocs? If you would like a place to start, I did a great episode with Dr. Jordan Wright on supervising assessment that’ll link in the show notes, so you could certainly check that out. But there are many other CE opportunities for supervision as well.
So the last question that I might have you ask yourself is, do you have the time and energy to truly invest in someone else’s career? If not, don’t bring someone on. You’re just doing them a disservice at that point. You’re enrolling them in an experience that is going to be imbalanced and likely not meet their needs.
I’m speaking from experience here. There have been times, one time in particular, one [00:08:00] period I suppose, when I have been supervising and I just had too much going on with the business and many other things to truly be present and devote the time that I needed, and my supervisee called me on it and I am so appreciative of that. It was a real wake-up call. I think this is an important question to really ask yourself is, do you have the time and energy to put in the investment to develop another psychologist because it will take time and energy, which I will speak to a little more clearly in the practical considerations.
So those are just a few questions to think about on the emotional side to try and engage whether you are ready to take on a postdoc and be a good supervisor and a good manager.
Now, what about the practical side? Assuming that you’ve asked [00:09:00] yourself those questions and you’re ready, you want to do it. Let’s move to some of the more logistical components.
So the first one is think about your timeline. Most of the time postdocs don’t just appear throughout the year. You might get lucky and find someone who needs a last-minute position, but it’s not typical. Application and hiring season is generally from November, December to February, and March for positions starting in August or September.
So you need to prepare accordingly. This is good news. As of this podcast airing, you have several months to prepare for next year’s hiring, and if you need somebody immediately, I would consider a contractor or maybe an employee instead just because I think the hiring pool is a lot greater for postdocs in that November to March timeframe.
Let’s take a break to hear [00:10:00] from our featured partner.
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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.
So the second thing that you might want to do is outline the Postdoc position: What exactly do you want the postdoc to do? What do you want this to look like?
In the vast majority of cases, having just a loose idea or vague job description is going to fall very flat with applicants. They’re at a [00:11:00] stage in their careers where they’re looking to you for guidance and guardrails during their last formal year of training. So this is not the time to take a hands-off approach because it really communicates uncertainty and doesn’t provide that safety net and security that a postdoc is typically looking for for that last year of training. A little flexibility is good, but just be decisive about it.
What I mean by that is, for example, our postdocs can make their own schedule in terms of therapy versus assessment hours, but we let them know that it will be structured and we map out a couple of scenarios for different ratios. So we may say, okay, you can do the one eval a week and 15 therapy clients approach, or you can do the two evals a week with five therapy clients approach, for example. We also make sure to specify whether we’re looking for pediatric focus, adult focus, lifespan focus, [00:12:00] et cetera. So uncertainty is not good. Flexibility could be good, but providing clarity as you outline the position is going to be really helpful.
The third thing to think about is the didactic components. So if you’re on an informal postdoc, which I think most of us in private practice are, this may not apply to hospital settings or university settings, it’s still very important to think about the didactics.
This is the final year of training, right? How are you going to provide teaching to this postdoc? Is it all going to happen in supervision and that serves as the primary mode of learning? If so, that’s fine. Just communicate that clearly and make sure the postdoc knows it. Will you pay for continuing education? If so, how much will you pay and what counts? [00:13:00] What would you like to see the postdoc pursue continuing ed in? Can you hook up with a local hospital or university to supplement the experience?
These are all questions you want to ask in order to figure out the didactic components of the postdoc. I think many postdocs are still looking for relatively formal learning, so think about how you’re going to provide that. It may be just articles in supervision. It might be structured learning or observation. It could be any number of things, but you want to want to define that somehow.
Another thing to consider, of course, is determining compensation. Many postdocs run on a salary model, so this relates directly back to the position and whether it’s full-time or part-time ratio of testing to counseling. Postdoc salaries range from about $40,000 to $70,000 a year, give or take [00:14:00] depending on the location and the position. And for most private practices, this might equate to, again, roughly 30% to 40% of gross revenue collected if you are thinking more in a percentage model. But either way, you want to determine the compensation and again, be quite clear about that.
Another thing to consider is continuing ed for yourself. Unless you have a lot of experience with supervision, consider getting some continuing ed to bolster your skills. One, because literally, every postdoc candidate has inquired in some form or fashion about supervision and what it will look like. Even if they didn’t explicitly say what is your theoretical orientation, they still ask about the style and the approach. And then two, I think it’s just great because it will make you better at what you do, right? So seriously, [00:15:00] consider some continuing ed for yourself to get better at supervision if you’re going to take on a post-doc.
Let’s see. The next thing, we’re almost done, I promise, but the next thing is to of all times now is the time to document your standard operating procedures or SOPs. I think nothing is worse than having a new employee start especially a postdoc who is maybe looking to you even more than a typical licensed employee. So looking to you for guidance. So nothing is worse than having them start without you knowing how you want things done.
So just a few questions. This is just the tip of the iceberg is like, how do you want reports written? How does the testing process unfold? Are they responsible for scheduling or collecting payments? There are many processes to document. It’s not like you have to have everything on [00:16:00] paper before the postdoc starts, but you want to have a really good sample. You want to hit the high points for sure. It’s the 80/20 rule; try to get 80% of the processes down and that will cover a lot of bases.
I don’t know if that’s exactly the 80-20 rule. I just realized that may not be the case, but you get what I’m saying. Do your best. Try to get as much down as you can to cover the majority of the processes in your practice.
Revisit your schedule. So this is the last point I want to make and it’s important. I’m going to circle back to that emotional component of time and energy management and really ask whether you have those things. If so, you’ll need to basically clear your schedule for the first two to three weeks that the postdoc is working, [00:17:00] unless you have others to train them.
Training an individual takes a lot of time. So look ahead on your calendar. You have at this point, eight, well, no, you have almost a year. You have 10 months probably to block out the calendar and find the time that you need. I’m just looking at the calendar. You have more than 10 months. You have a lot longer than that because you’re going to wait till the following August till this person starts. So you have a year and a half.
So block out your calendar for 2 to 3 weeks when the postdoc first starts, and then of course you have to block out time for ongoing supervision. I would at least multiply the actual supervision time by three to allow for report review and other consultations throughout the week. So if you’re giving the postdoc an hour of formal supervision, I would make sure you have at least three hours open each [00:18:00] week for consultation, supervision, report review, that sort of thing. So scheduling is important.
Again, what you don’t want to do is get into a postdoc situation and not have the time to supervise them and provide them with the support that they need.
This may sound like a lot because it kind of is. A postdoc is not a situation to enter into haphazardly or just because you need someone to make some extra money in your practice. You’re shaping the development of another psychologist, and it can be very rewarding for both sides, but you just want to make sure that you’re ready.
All right, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes, so make sure to check those out.[00:19:00] If you like what you hear on the podcast, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcast.
And if you’re a practice owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have homework, we have accountability, we have support, and we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you.
Thanks so much.
The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.