Let us begin by saying congratulations! You got the job, and we are really happy for you! The first year at a new job can be difficult regardless of industry, but higher education can be tricky, because of hidden norms and high expectations. Regardless of whether you are coming straight from graduation or you have been applying for higher education jobs for several months or years or whether you found a job in town or made the decision to relocate to a new city or state, you have one goal – to succeed! So we’ve put together a list that will help you make the most of your first year!
Find a Mentor
Earlier this year, we wrote a blog about how important it is to have a mentor. In your first year of teaching, a mentor is your greatest asset! Choose someone from the institution that can help guide you through your first year by helping you understand where the institution has been and what the goals are for the future. The person you choose may be your department chair, a kind seasoned faculty member in the department, someone from another discipline, or a staff member.
Learn Your Job, Do Your Job
As you progressed through the hiring process; hopefully, a clear set of expectations were laid out for you. However, sometimes, additional expectations are communicated after the hiring process is complete. If you were not given a copy of the faculty handbook, this is a good time to locate one. Read through it. If you have questions, ask your mentor, talk to the department chair, the dean in your college, or someone in the Human Resources department for clarification. It is very important that you understand the expectations and that you meet them. Once you know what you need to do, DO IT! Prepare for classes you are assigned to teach. Attend meetings you are required to attend. Participate on committees you are assigned to participate on. If you are expected to research, write, and publish, then ensure you are doing what is necessary to publish the required number of articles each year. Once the expectations have been made clear, be sure to located necessary resources and manage your time appropriately so that you have time to meet them. If you have time and energy left, then you can take on extra projects, but this is something we recommend waiting to do until your second year. Use the first year to get grounded and learn the ropes.
Build a Support System
Everyone needs a tribe! So, spend your first year building yours. Look for opportunities to make connections with people at your college or university. Invite colleagues to lunch or to attend a sporting event or theater production on campus. This allows both of you to be part of the campus community as you get to know one another better. Go to happy hour or social gatherings. If you moved to a new city or state, it is also important to make some connections with others off campus too. Join a church or a gym. Sign up for a class. Consider things you like to do and seek them out. This provides a great opportunity to meet new people.
Find a System That Works and Commit to it!
Spend the first year establishing a routine. Preparing for classes, grading assignments, and researching and writing can all be time consuming tasks. In your first year of teaching, you may find that you are spending countless hours preparing for courses that you were assigned to teach. There is a lot that goes into preparing to teach a course for the first time. Writing a syllabus, selecting a textbook, and creating assignments is just the beginning. After the initial preparing is complete, you will need to find time to build interactive and dynamic lectures and grade assignments that students submit. If you joined an institution where publishing is a part of your job and you need to publish to make tenure, then find a spot where you can focus and write. If you cannot focus in your house, then find a place that will work for you. The campus library, your office, or a local coffee shop may be better places to buckle down and write.
My first year I worked like a dog! I established new student clubs, taught extra classes, redesigned the program of study in my department, and served on several committees. I rarely took breaks. I would skip meals. I worked long hours grading and preparing lectures. The work I did was rewarding, but it took a toll on my health and my relationships. While working hard and establishing your routine, ensure you are not neglecting self-care. Schedule time to eat, exercise, and spend time with your family and friends.
You are qualified and capable of doing the job. Believe in yourself. Locate resources and utilize them. Work smarter not harder. Establish a routine that works and stick to it. And have an amazing first year!