Graduate students interview for a variety of opportunities, including practicum slots, postdoc positions, academic positions and other jobs. I know from personal experience, interviewing can be stressful. As I write this, I am completing my internship interviews. Numbing worries such as, "Will I make a favorable impression on the selection committee?" "Is this the right site for me?" and "How do I be myself and present the best self I can?" plagued me during the interview process. Add to that the worry of not matching for an internship, and it's clear how anxiety-provoking interviewing can be for students, their families and significant others.
So, how do you manage interview anxiety? For me, it requires support from my professional and personal networks, as well as the application of specific strategies.
Professional and personal networks
Being involved in the leadership of APAGS as well as my university and state psychological associations has given me the opportunity to build professional networks of peers and psychologists who have helped guide me through the interview process. Graduate students in my department meet regularly to discuss interview strategies with one another and practice our interviewing skills. We frequently e-mail one another with updates and encouragement. My dissertation adviser and training director also support me by listening to my concerns and offering tips on ways to improve my interviewing style.
While family and significant others can provide additional support and encouragement, they can also be a source of increased anxiety—especially if they are unfamiliar with the internship match process. I, for instance, had to explain to family members why one cannot "just apply to the site nearby."
Crafts and deep breathing
The more preparation that I received around the interview process, the more comfortable I became. For instance, I attended the APAGS Internship Workshop during APA's Annual Convention last year, read the APAGS Internship Workbook and participated in listservs for applicants. I also practiced interviewing with my peers and department faculty in person and with other mentors and peers over the phone. For many of these mock interviews, I recorded myself to identify my strengths and weaknesses.
I also use a variety of relaxation techniques before and during interviews. These included deep-breathing exercises, visualization and music (an MP3 player with my favorite songs was always by my side). While self-care may not always seem feasible in a busy graduate student's life, making time for the little things is important when you're balancing multiple interviews, traveling and managing stress. While doing my internship interviews, let's just say that several craft projects—including crocheted scarves and mittens—were completed!
I encourage everyone who is going through an interview process to consider some of the APAGS resources listed below. Many of these resources can be found on the APAGS Web site.
I wish everyone good luck on your journey.
By Konjit V. Page
Madson, M.B., Hasan, N.T., Williams-Nickleson, C., Kettman, J.J. & Van Sickle, K.S. (2007). The internship supply and demand issue: Graduate student's perspective. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(4), 249–257.
Williams-Nickelson, C., Prinstein, M.J. & Keilin, W.G. (2008). Internships in psychology: The APAGS workbook for writing successful applications and finding the right fit (2nd Ed.).
Williams, Carol (2001). Mentoring, balance and self-care—Especially for women: A Collection of articles and resources.