Real-World Advice from Successful Alumni
Whether you're new to the field of psychology or an experienced professional, finding trusted guides and mentors is essential to building or advancing your career. One ready resource is fellow Adelphi alumni. Adelphi's C.O.A.C.H. (Count On Alumni for Career Help) creates new ways for Adelphi alumni to network, often by bringing together alumni who are seasoned professionals with students and more recent graduates.
Last October, a cadre of seasoned Derner alumni volunteered for the C.O.A.C.H. speed-networking event focused on careers in psychology. Among the alumni C.O.A.C.H.es were: Derner Associate Professor Francine Conway, M.A. '96, Ph.D. '99; Susanna Feder, M.A. '93, Ph.D. '96; Eric Hieger '92; Allison Rothman, M.A. '06, Ph.D. '09; and Marie Oppedisano, M.A. '74, Ph.D. '76. In a program similar to speed dating, the volunteers addressed questions from students and recent alumni about their careers and the psychology field in general.
Here, we introduce you to some of the C.O.A.C.H.es and share their wisdom.
Read their answers to such questions as:
Meet the C.O.A.C.H.es:
Francine Conway, M.A. '96, Ph.D. '99, a clinical psychologist, is an associate professor at Adelphi and has a small private practice. She is chair of the Derner Institute's undergraduate psychology program. Her research centers on both older adults and children.
Dr. Conway said: "My experience as a C.O.A.C.H. has been very rewarding. Our alumni who participated in this event seemed really eager and excited to continue their careers in psychology. They were most curious about the concrete steps they would need to take toward achieving their goals. It felt great to be able to provide them with some answers to their questions."
Susanna Feder, M.A. '93, Ph.D. '96, is a supervising psychologist at North Central Bronx Hospital, which is part of both the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and the North Bronx Healthcare Network. She works in a busy, locked, adult inpatient psychiatric unit where she treats people with acute psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders using individual and group treatment modalities. She also teaches and trains psychology externs and interns as a part of a team of psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and activity therapists. "I love what I do," she said. "Every day is different. People are amazing and resilient. It's an honor to be trusted with being with someone through a piece of their journey."
"It was exciting and energizing to meet the students," Dr. Feder added. "I had a lot of fun. It was also nice to reconnect with former graduates and Derner professors."
Eric Hieger '92 is an organizational psychologist who applies his skills and experience to business settings. He leads professional services for American Management Association Enterprise, a specialized division dedicated to building corporate and government training and development solutions focused on talent transformation. AMA is the world's largest provider of global management and leadership development.
Dr. Hieger said, "I am passionate about coaching those with the belief, drive and desire to succeed; I meet them at C.O.A.C.H."
Marie Oppedisano, M.A. '74, Ph.D. '76, has been a licensed psychologist since 1977 and in full-time private practice since 1984. Her specialties include eating disorders, gerontological practice and adoption issues, as well as targeted treatment for anxiety and depression. She has completed several post-doctoral programs in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and gerontological practice. She previously worked for Long Island Jewish-Hillside Hospital, Nassau County Department of Senior Citizen Affairs, South Shore Center for Psychotherapy and Nassau Community College.
Asked about her C.O.A.C.H. experience, Dr. Oppedisano said: "I found speaking to the new graduates and students informative. Hearing their aspirations and ambitions reminded me of how challenging and exciting and sometimes daunting it is to begin a new profession."
Allison Rothman, M.A. '06, Ph.D., has a private clinical psychology practice. She works with the NYPD and is in a post-doctoral program in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. She said: "I especially love being in private practice. Working with others in this way is incredibly challenging and meaningful, and becoming an entrepreneur has been a powerful experience." For the NYPD, she conducts pre-employment psychological evaluations, fitness-for-duty evaluations and trauma debriefings. She's also occasionally called in as an expert witness.
Of her C.O.A.C.H. experience, she said: "I had a great time. It was wonderful to connect with eager and ambitious students and graduates. It was also a pleasure to spend time with professors and other alumni."
The C.O.A.C.H.es give career advice.
Q: What do I need to do for my job application to stand out?
A: For psychology, it really depends on the student's intended area of study. For example, a student interested in clinical psychology should make every effort to obtain as much clinical experience as possible. This is afforded through participation in programs, such as the Psychology Internship Program at the undergraduate level, and for postgraduates, seeking employment or volunteer experiences. Students interested in more research-oriented Ph.D. programs—such as those in developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, etc.— should participate in independent research activities with faculty. Most undergraduates take advantage of our Emerging Scholars Program, a mentored research program and mentoring program. Post bachelors students may want to seek employment or volunteer opportunities at research institutions.
— Dr. Francine Conway
Q: Do you have to have a special kind of personality to work with someone with severe character pathology?
A: You need: patience, belief that people can change, trust in patients' capacity to ultimately make healthier choices in their lives once they understand why they continue to behave in ways that turn out to cause them problems, and compassion and respect for their craziness.
— Dr. Susanna Feder
Q: How does a psychologist make the transition to business?
A: I have always created parallel experiences for myself in business and the clinical world. I have also worked intensely to diversify and deepen my experience and learning. I believe that anyone with the desire to learn what's necessary to bridge the language and disciplines of both worlds can cross what appears to be a daunting gap. Currently, students who are not in a designated I/O program will have to work harder to hold a second major in business or discover internships and seek work opportunities that will allow them to gain vital experience. It is through work that one can learn the language and culture of business, and what it means to be a psychologist in the business world.
— Dr. Eric Hieger
Q: How does one balance lifestyle issues with a profession in psychology?
A: It's been challenging, but being in private practice has given me the flexibility I wouldn't have had working for an agency or institution. Of course, I probably work harder and longer hours because it is my own business, but the choices are all mine and I like the freedom of that. I was able to raise my kids and work, since my office was at home.
— Dr. Marie Oppedisano
Q: Knowing what you know now about this profession, would you still be a psychologist?
A: Absolutely. It's a significant economic investment and time commitment, so I only recommend it to those who love the work. There's also no set path for psychologists, which is something I discovered was freeing but can easily feel overwhelming. If you love this type of work, and you're excited about creating your own career path, then go for it. The more you can dedicate to this profession, especially in terms of training, the more you'll get out of it. I've found this career well worth the effort.
— Dr. Allison Rothman
Q: Where can I get a job now?
A: It's got to be difficult for young professionals in this economy, but I do believe with a doctoral degree in psychology there are many different choices. One full-time job may be hard to find, but perhaps several part-time jobs can provide enough money as well as experience. At the beginning of my career, I worked at a hospital, had an adjunct teaching job and worked part time at a clinic. It was a lot, but it was varied and never dull. Entry-level jobs at group homes or agencies are also possibilities.
— Dr. Marie Oppedisano
Q: What are the most significant opportunities and risks associated with going into the field at this time?
A: Opportunities-to do work that nurtures your heart and soul by helping others. Risks-the cost (time and money) of education and training is extremely high, while the income potential is increasingly limited. The prominent exceptions include business/consulting, multi-practitioner, private management/ownership, forensics, testing/assessment, neuropsychology and highly specializing clinical areas.
— Dr. Eric Heiger
Q: Why did you become a psychologist and when did you decide?
A: I was an English major when I started college, but was inspired by my Intro to Psychology professor, who was also the department chair. He had such a great love for the field and made the course fascinating. I wasn't sure what aspect of psych I would specialize in, but I switched majors then and never looked back.
— Dr. Marie Oppedisano
The C.O.A.C.H.es' tips for aspiring psychologists:
"Get as much education and training as you possibly can." – Dr. Marie Oppedisano
"As trite as it may be…be authentic. Find your passion and stick with it where you find insatiable curiosity or great personal reward." — Dr. Eric Hieger
"If pursuing psychology is your passion, it is worth every minute on the road toward your goal. Be less invested in the outcome of an interaction than in the development of a strong, therapeutic relationship." — Dr. Susanna Feder
"Push yourself and those around you to help you begin your career as a psychologist. This might mean talking to a number of professors and other alumni, going to lectures and pursuing additional training. Early career psychologists often have to create their own opportunities. Many volunteer or take low paying entry level positions to get where they are today." — Dr. Allison Rothman
"Work options in the field of psychology are vast, especially with creativity. First, do not settle into the expected and normal path without serious consideration and deliberate intent. Second, dedicate yourself to creating opportunities to apply your learning and passion. Last, always remember that the power of curiosity and learning will allow you to serve genuinely. With these, you will change the world every day." — Dr. Eric Hieger
"Pursue volunteer, internship or experiential learning opportunities while you are a student. It helps build your resume, develop your professional identity and provide you with some knowledge of what jobs in psychology demand. Sometimes, these experiences can provide you with letters of recommendations for other jobs, experience what doctoral programs value, and at times, a foot in the door should employment opportunities become available." — Dr. Francine Conway
"Don't choose a career half-heartedly. Pick something you're passionate about and you'll be sure to find meaning and engagement in your work. Psychology is a difficult career to begin with, but if you're passionate about it then you'll find enjoyment in the journey." — Dr. Allison Rothman