Being a new faculty member is hard. It’s tiring. It wears you out and wears on you. I know. I’m there. I come home some days and don’t move from my couch except for food, the bathroom, or to move to my bed and that feels like work. I feel you.
I’d like to make a case for getting out and working after hours, weekends, or getting to know your fellow faculty at social functions that are outside of work hours. I know it’s hard. Many of you will have families and other commitments, but I’m going to encourage you to give it the “old college” try a few times. Hear me out.
I never like making a habit of working on the weekends. However, in this position, I find that if I give myself a few hours on Sunday’s to clear out my inbox, settle my calendar, and get myself organized, I have a much smoother Monday morning ready to jump into whatever I got myself into. Truth.
The awesome part about this is that many of my colleagues like working on the weekends as well. Sunday’s will find many of us in our offices working along quietly playing the never ending game of catch up. Before you get all “misery must love company” on me, the weekends are great for catching up with colleagues. There’s fewer students milling around, there’s no class to rush off too and generally there’s no formal meetings on weekends. Each Sunday I’ve logged has been useful to me in terms of productivity, but it’s also had the added benefit of getting time to converse with my colleagues. We don’t always discuss work, but we do talk. And, as the newest faculty member in the department, I think it’s important to have those conversations to set some context.
For me, it’s valuable time spent. As a self-identified introvert, I don’t do as well in large groups, faculty meetings are too busy with business for any chit chat, and walking into another faculty member’s office to strike up a conversation isn’t my forte. In fact, the last one makes me downright uncomfortable. The weekend is when the feeling is a little less formal, standing around for a few minutes chatting helps me get to know my peers and them get to know me. I’m “work new faculty” at work. I have things to do and tasks to check off. I’m guilty of not wanting to socialize much and I have a calendar full of things as well. Formal business hours are not the hours you want to get to know me in to get a good picture of who I am.
I’ve been told many times that I’m a hard person to know. I acknowledge that. I think many academics are. We choose academia for the solitude of research sometimes and it feeds our tendencies. Being aware that I’m not the most open, charming, naturally extroverted human helps me work within the boundaries that have been set by my personality.
Our faculty tries to go out to happy hour too. I don’t always want to hit the bar with my colleagues on Friday, but I’ve gone each time it was organized and I felt as though it was valuable time spent. I’ve been able to cultivate talking points as I get to know my colleagues. We rarely discuss work specifically, students and work do come up, but it’s more tangential in nature and non-specific. Again, my personality comes out in these settings since I can speak to people in a more social setting without the fear of students or other hindrances.
Can it be awkward? Of course. Entering an established group of peers is always a little unnerving, but maximizing your personality potential and being self-aware enough to understand how you’re situated in a group can be important. I don’t come out and say how much I love research, but the spouse of my colleague saw me design a course at faculty development this spring. He observed me working for days on it, had conversations with me about the topic, and learned how much I love research and undergraduate students. Because of that positive interaction, my name was brought up to plan a possible undergrad research certificate in our college. That’s pretty exciting to me. I learned this at the bar. I solidified my ability to do this during a hallway conversation on a Sunday. Over half of my interaction about this had nothing to do with M-F from 9-5.
Being the new kid on the block can be tough. It’s hard to know where you fit in the group. It’s kind of like being the last kid picked in gym class in middle school. It’s taken me nine months to order business cards. It’s also taken me nine months to get to know the people I call colleagues better too. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither have my relationships with my peers.