That’s how many schools I went to in my thirteen year K-12 period. Each transition was the start of a new adventure for me. My quickest transition was two days before school started and I was informed I would be starting seventh grade in a new place. The more I transferred institutions, the more I noticed a pattern of how to be successful within the first few months of being there. Whether you are fresh out of graduate school or changing jobs in your career, you are going through a big transition in your life. That being said, here are a couple of tips to get you started and stand out at your new place of employment.
1. Make Immediate Connections
This is easier said than done. It requires time and effort on the part of you getting to know another person. However, some opportunities for getting to know people will fall right in front of you. For example, while unpacking my stuff and walking into my new residence hall, the main day security officer for campus approached me and asked about my golf bag. I told him I played and he mentioned about a group of other guys that play as well. That was an instant opportunity for networking right there and the interactions themselves have led to connections. The connections have paid off through collaboration across departments like security, dining services, and the maintenance department all here on campus.
- Participate in staff activities when they are presented if you are able. For example, the campus pastor recently organized a trip to a local retreat center. Several areas were in dire need of a coat of paint. Even though I am not a fan of painting, I volunteered anyway because I knew of the opportunity it presented. I carpooled with the Athletic Director and socialized with two professors. That was just the first hour to the work site. Throughout the day, I met more faculty, staff, coaches, and other members of the campus community I might not have met if I had not taken a risk and gone on the trip.
- Be present in any events that you can attend. Whether you attend athletic events, social events, on campus, off campus, wherever, just be there. More people will notice than you think. You can also go with people to events. Find out what’s similar with those you work with. You might be surprised that the person who appears tough and emotionless is actually a big softie at heart. It takes time and effort but it is worth it.
2. Play the “New Girl/Guy” card while you can! But tread lightly.
You know those questions you have been kicking yourself for not asking in the interview. Here is your chance. Ask those questions of “Why is (insert procedure here) done this way?” and “What is expected from me?” The more you work in a certain position, the more people expect you to know your role. Get those questions answered sooner rather than later and make that great first impression.
This is great time to ask questions about campus culture, how students are and why they are, and meeting new people you have not met. Someone once told me, “There is a story behind every sign.” This is the best time to figure out why policies and procedures are in place and if there is any history between people you should be aware of. Be tactful in how you do it though. Ask someone who you know would not be offended whether it is a supervisor or other colleague not involved in the situation. If you accidentally strike a nerve, you can easily backtrack and apologize. Most of the time, people will understand and, let it go… *cue Frozen*
3. You will be defined/remembered by your first ______.
Finish the sentence. For me, it was a building crisis. For others in student affairs, it will be a program, student interaction, way you present yourself in a meeting, parent phone call (ugh…), class you instruct, meeting with your supervisor or something else. Just do your best! Remember that you are capable of the job you were hired for or else you would not be there in the first place. There is an ongoing pressure to perform well because people will be looking at your initial actions. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, reflect on how to avoid the mistake in the future and move on with your job. If you keep making the same mistake, that’s something you will be known for. Subsequent events will change and/or reinforce people’s perceptions of you.
Much of what I have written is common sense but I hope I have provided some points to ponder as several of my peers transition to their next institution. Make sure to take advantage of any and all opportunities you have. Presidents have a hundred days to make a good first impression. Here’s to you and your transition during your first hundred days when you take your new office.