Friday, August 26, 2005

Not the new person anymore

We have two new people starting this year, and this week I've seen both of them around the department, settling in and getting used to this place. It's really hard for me to believe that two short years ago, I was in the same position: excited, but at the same time panicked; trying to remember everyone's name and what they did; learning the lingo (heck, I'm still learning the lingo!); starting to figure out the politics (ditto). It's amazing that I can still dredge up those feelings, moreso even than the events. The hyper-nervousness of new faculty orientation and the first faculty meeting of the year. The sheer panic five minutes before my very first class. The sleepless nights before every major new event my first year. The tentativeness of approaching the giggling group of female faculty first-years that have since become my closest friends here (geez, that moment really felt like junior high all over again---I was convinced that I would be rejected by them! After all, why would they ever want to talk to me? They looked so cool and calm and I'm such a spaz and why would anyone want to be friends with me.....etc.). It's weird to think that these new people are having the same thoughts and feelings as I did.

One of the things I'm struggling with now is figuring out what kind of role I should play in their adjustment. Should I be proactive? Or should I just be friendly and let them open up to me? Should I come out and say directly that they should feel free to come to me with questions? Or should I just be friendly and listen, and let them make the decision to come to me? So far, I've done more of the latter---I've been friendly, I've chatted with both of them, but I've let them make the decision about how they want to approach me. And yesterday, one of them did, tentatively. So maybe that's the strategy that will work best.

Back in the spring, I did some behind-the-scenes work to raise the awareness of my senior colleagues as to what we could do to ease the transition of the two newbies---basically, just a list of things I wish I would have known when I started, or things I wish people had done for me or told me when I started. I have no idea if anyone's actually doing any of that stuff, nor if it would even be helpful to the newbies. But hopefully, at least some of it will make their lives easier.

I have a feeling that the next few weeks will be weird---as the school year starts, as I watch the new people adjust, and as I adjust to my new role as....Not So Junior Professor Anymore.


BrightStar said...

I've been wondering the same thing... I've been pretty upfront about approaching the NewColleage in my program, and I thought I was too forward in offerring help, but NewColleague told me, "You've been the only one who I've felt I can approach and ask questions," so maybe I'm not as over-bearing as I thought... It's hard to know how much is too much and how little is too little.

Mel said...

it is a tough balance, since you want to share what you've learned, but some things they will have to figure out for themselves...but it never hurts to just say, "feel free to ask me any questions" -- or to invite them to lunch in a week or two after they've settled in a bit.

Jane said...

Mel, I like the lunch idea! Will have to try that. Thanks!

b*, I did think about you as I was writing this post--I remembered that you are going through a similar transition. Glad to hear you've found an approach that works! (and hope you're feeling less weird about not being the new person!)