No matter where you end up going, whether it’s across the country, or in my case: across campus–you’ll have some loose ends that need to be tied up. In many cases it will be research and publications. In my case, I have articles to pump out, video that could be viewed forever, and some great relationships that I had worked hard to build professionally and personally. I have been fortunate to work with some great folks in grad school and these are relationships that I wish to continue on both levels.
Besides articles and presentations, I spent three years working on facial recognition and non verbal behavior analysis. Pretty neat stuff. If you can’t picture it, go on Hulu and look up an episode of “Lie to Me” and you’ll know what my skill set is. It’s pretty awesome to a nerd like me. Pretty freaking awesome. I hope to return to it someday. Fo’ realsies. With my work came relationships with other departments and people who have been and will continue to be great. Since I do have the luxury of being in the same area, I have since been asked to sit on committees for grad students, collaborate on some publications, work on expert panels for my work, and other things. I have also offered my time and services, not only because it’s the nice thing to do, but because I hope it takes me somewhere someday too.
I also left behind a new mentoring program. Mentoring is something that I feel very strongly about because it helps set up new graduate students for success by giving them a ‘go to’ person for all of those questions new students have. So far, it’s worked well. Since everyone is an adult, the project is being worked on by myself, a faculty back in the dept., and a graduate of the program is collecting the data. A dream project. Everybody wins.
How did it all work so smoothly for me? COMMUNICATION. I can’t say it enough. I made sure to ask those questions, communicate my desire to be included, communicate that I would make myself available, and have FOLLOWED THROUGH on those things. Sure, it would have been easy to drop the mentoring program. Even easier to cut ties with the other depts., but I don’t and I won’t. I have set dates in my calendar to remind me to send emails, check in, and follow up with these old responsibilities. So maybe the key is to first communicate and then follow through. Holding myself accountable has continued to pay off.
As you start a new position or get more responsibility added on, reflect on what’s important. What has to be kept? What might be let go? Now go back and look again. As an over achiever, I didn’t want to let anything go. No one does. We all like control. But, I had too. When I knew my time was coming to a close, I started to back off of some things. Being second author, changing contact information on my work, and deferring questions to other parties who could answer them and would remain in that dept. were all part of the transition phase for me. It didn’t mean I was ‘quitting’ on anyone or any project, it just meant that I wasn’t going to be in that space every day anymore.
In the age of technology we can still remain connected with old responsibilities and make decisions as they arise. If something life altering had happened in the last few months, I could trim some more off. Thankfully, life has been pretty consistent with no big surprises. As I reflect back on how I made my decisions on what to keep and what to dump, it was more like a mental list and next to the list was a mental ranking. The #1 slot was left to ‘good relationships with the people’ because even if I had to dump it, I wanted the folks I was working with to know and be clear of my intent. As a person who tries to live by the rules of karmic retribution, I try to do the right things and I’m sure you do too. Transitioning can be easy with minimal drama or it can be extremely difficult with hurt feelings and bad karma. In this environment, there’s no reason it can be easy with some open communication and follow through.
How do you decide what to keep and what to trim? Do you go with your gut and passion or do some things because they’re the ‘right things’ to do? As you begin your first faculty job, the feeling of being overwhelmed can swallow you if you let it so be deliberate in your intent, communicate that intent, and follow through!
Up next: bringing back the busy signal-managing the onslaught of being in academia.