Communication skills - something that is learned?

Discuss what to expect in job and course interviews, what topics might be covered, how to manage anxiety, and how to get the desired result!
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pakchoi
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Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2020 2:20 pm

Communication skills - something that is learned?

Post by pakchoi »

I recently had two interviews for Support Work and AP positions and it didn't go very well. My nerves took over completely to the point where I couldn't comprehend a simple question and didn't know how to construct my answer clearly and confidently. I suffer from social anxiety, but when I'm comfortable I am able to articulate myself very well and communicate complex ideas and thoughts. Writing has been my way of showing this, and it earned me the top mark in my course. However, I felt like a complete fraud and so small when I sat there in front of a panel and couldn't demonstrate my achievements or what I had expressed in my supporting statement. It made me go down a negative thought pattern where I re-evaluated whether I'm meant for this type of work. If I'm that intimidated by an interview, how can I be a psychologist where I need to be able to communicate in a clear and calm manner? Are these valid concerns I'm having or is this a relatively common experience at the start of your career in psychology? Are the communication skills of a psychologist something that is learned through practice or are you expected to already be at a good level before?
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ell
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Re: Communication skills - something that is learned?

Post by ell »

This sounds really tough, and I really felt for you in this description. I hope you're able to look after yourself and be kind to yourself. Interviews can be scary things at the best of times, let alone if you have some social anxiety. If it helps, if I interview someone whose application form read well but they struggled in interview I would attribute it to anxiety, rather than thinking them a fraud.

Communication skills are something that everyone develops to an extent as time goes on I think. The expectations will increase as you progress in the career path. So you don't need to have them fully developed from day one. You are right that you need to be able verbally communicate to a certain standard to be a psychologist. But I think the key in what you've said is that you struggle with social anxiety. Perhaps this is something you can get some help with? I know at least one qualified clinical psychologist who had social anxiety, so it's not something that precludes you from the profession at all, but I think it is something that can get in the way unfortunately so it's worth addressing.

Another thing that might be helpful is practice interviews, or recording yourself answering questions. You might discover that you are doing better than you think you are in the moment.

Good luck with it all.
pakchoi
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Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2020 2:20 pm

Re: Communication skills - something that is learned?

Post by pakchoi »

Thank you for your response and kind words. I know I did my best considering the social anxiety, so I try to not beat myself up over it too much. But knowing I have this problem made me question whether it will hinder me completely. It's reassuring to know there are qualified CPs who've dealt with the same.

I had CBT for social anxiety a few years ago and it is a lot better now than before, but I think I need a few more sessions to help me manage it more effectively. I have also considered the medication route, but I think it would work best in combination with therapy.

The recording myself is actually a great tip. I have another interview coming up next week so will definitely try that before.

Thank you!
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miriam
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Re: Communication skills - something that is learned?

Post by miriam »

There are quite a lot of things that you can do to try to tackle interview anxiety. See which work for you:
1) self-help CBT type strategies (eg Mind over Mind by Greenberger and Padesky)
2) getting some CBT or personal therapy in person or online (via IAPT or as a paid career development thing - I know that one of our mods has done some work like this before through online sessions, her website is Believe CBT)
3) focus on the content of the conversation, rather than allowing yourself to wander off into negative metacognitions
4) practice with peers, with videoing yourself, with a mock interview (even if you have to get someone who is a friend of your parents, or someone unfamiliar from your workplace to ask you questions and give you feedback) - as the participants in the professional development day yesterday will attest, your anxiety is rarely as visible to others as you think it is
5) bring strategies to ground yourself (something in your pocket from a loved one, a scent on your wrist that reminds you of something positive, a gesture linked to feeling calm and confident in visualisations or relaxation - such as pressing thumb to finger on both hands)
6) put yourself in a positive mental space immediately before entering the room (eg TED talk on power poses, positive self-talk about what you are good at)
7) thinking about what people who know you well would say about you (I find it much more comfortable to say "my supervisor would say..." or "feedback from a recent training session said..." than "I'm really good at...")
8) think of it like a blind date, not an appearance before a judge - it is about getting to know each other and working out whether you are a good match and want to be together at this moment, not gatekeeping whether you are "good enough"
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com
This forum is free to use. If you find the site useful, you are welcome to contribute the cost of a cup of coffee to our running costs.
pakchoi
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2020 2:20 pm

Re: Communication skills - something that is learned?

Post by pakchoi »

Wow! Thank you so much for those tips! I love the idea of finding something to ground myself in. I try to always remind myself of my positive attributes and why I am good for the job before the interview but when the anxiety takes over I forget all about it and go into panic mode. Holding an object could work as an anchor for presence.

On a positive note, the interviewer got back to me and told me although I did not get the position that they saw potential in me and gave me some really good advice for future applications. We spoke a bit about my nerves and she told me that it was completely fine and it showed how much I wanted the position. So perhaps some nerves are a good thing. I just need to be able to handle them better, and the tips here are amazing so thank you again.
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