Category Archives: New Hires


When the Old Rules for Success No Longer Apply

A friend of mine who recently assumed her first senior-level position asked to schedule some talk time to discuss the topic of organizational politics. She has moved around and up through the years and has generally been regarded as a superstar wherever she’s been. But what worked in the past doesn’t seem to be working now, and she’s having trouble making sense of her new organization’s culture—and, more important, what it takes to succeed in her new role.

She began the conversation by admitting…


A Tough Time of Year for New Professors

The last week of October and the first weeks of November are what I call the “Uh-Oh Zone” for new faculty members. I first noted this when I supervised a cadre of graduate assistants who were teaching their first courses. A very large percentage of them filed into my office for a private chat and said the same thing: “I’m miserable and I think I should quit.”

When I talked to my very wise department chair, he said that this was common: They were snowed under with paper grading and with papers of…


Why So Soon?

There are few things more devastating that discovering your new dream job is more like a nightmare. At first you might second-guess your initial gut instincts: I’m new. I’m figuring things out. This is just all part of the transition process. My colleagues will warm to me soon. The person I report to is just under stress. I came at a tough time, but it will be better soon.

Over time you will come to understand that it’s not you, it’s them. That’s when the hard decision has to be made: Do you sti…


This Is Not What I Expected

A friend of mine spent the summer months gushing about the new job she was about to begin. She was ecstatic over having landed a strategic role free of the annoying day-to-day operational issues and money pressures she had dealt with in her last role. “I will get paid to think!” she exclaimed.

All did not go as she planned, however. Week 1 had her sounding tentative. In Week 2 she started sounding nervous. By Week 3 she looked drained as she laid out her situation to a group of us who met after …


Teaching the Program

A friend once told me about a sophomore in his 20th-century American-history course who couldn’t remember which side had won the Civil War. Like my friend, from time to time I am caught off guard by what students don’t know, and in response I usually find myself muttering something about what’s not being taught in high school, or in the university’s gen-ed requirements, or even in my own department’s intro courses. Meanwhile some member of the grad faculty is surely chiding the gaps in my former…


The Housing Conundrum

This summer, my sixth at my current institution, we have several new faculty and instructional-staff members coming aboard, as is common at this time of year. Also as is common, several of them are scrambling to find housing. Storm Lake, Iowa, is a modest town of about 12,000 people, hosts a large transient population, and has at best a mediocre and small stock of available rentals.

This year more than most, our new faculty and instructional-staff members are all young and moving to their first …


Exiting, With Bridges Intact

You have been offered your dream job. You have negotiated your new salary, start date, and relocation package, and are now ready to tell your current employer that you’ve decided to leave.

Then the unexpected happens. In the final reference-check process, you told your current manager about the opportunity and she or he was, in fact, called for a reference. Now she or he has offered to pay you a bonus, change your title, and make other arrangements to keep you on the campus.

The unexpected count…


The ‘Secret’ Members of Search and Tenure Committees

Anyone with common sense knows that on-campus candidates need to be on their best behavior while interviewing. Doing a great teaching demonstration and being able to talk about your research are important, but good manners are expected. The same applies to the tenure process; collegiality is often considered alongside scholarship and teaching.

All too often, however, people forget about the “secret” members of some search and tenure committees—the administrative support staff—or underestimat…


Beginners, Experts, and Everyone in Between

Last weekend I participated in a small conference of writers at a nearby university. My panel wasn’t scheduled until late in the afternoon, but I arrived early and sat in on a workshop led by a young poet who has recently published his first book. There were maybe 40 people attending the session, only a few of them academics. As everyone settled in, I introduced myself to the woman across the aisle and learned that she edits a popular book series. In the row in front of us I recognized the retir…


How Much Is Enough?

Over the years I’ve been asked to serve as a mentor or adviser to several new faculty members or to pre- or postdoctoral trainees who hope to embark on a faculty career. For those who are fortunate enough to obtain a full-time position, the immediate (and continuing) challenge is one of balance: making sure that everything gets done and that the right things get done in the right amounts.

It’s not easy. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, promotion-and-tenure criteria are often vague about how …