The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Posted by Seeking Solace |

It never fails. Whenever I start a new semester, I get this overwhelming feeling of anxiety over what I have to do. Add to the fact that I am also starting a new job, with a new title at a new place, and I am a basket case.

Please don't give me the "Oh Seeking, you're a good professor, you will be just fine" crapola. I know I am a good professor. I have no trouble with that. It's all the new stuff that I am not so sure.

Part of my new job is running the program. This means taking care of the day to day activities (whatever that means), managing the other instructors, and growing the program (um, OK.) Part of the issue is that that I am not sure how much,, if anything, the person who currently holds the position is going to help me. It's a very delicate situation regarding my hiring which is highly unbloggable. So when I start on Monday, I have no idea what is going to happen. On top of that, it is new student orientation, which means I have to be all smiles and welcoming, despite the fact that I don't know what the fuck I am doing. OK, I can tap-dance my way through that, after all, I was an attorney. You are taught how to dazzle with brilliance and baffle with bullshit in law school. It's later refined once one enters the field.

But seriously folks, I am nervous and worried. I am not sure what it exactly means to "run the program" or "grow the program". I've never really been in a management position, except for overseeing a couple of paralegals when I worked for a large firm and supervising a law clerk when I had my own practice. This is WAY bigger.

I think I have a good rapport with the Dean of Academics, who is my boss. We have exchanged some emails over the past couple of days, and he has been happy to answer all of my questions. So far, all of my questions have been the run of the mill academic ones. I haven't dived into the intense management and administrative ones yet. And, give the highly unbloggable situation, I don't want to bug him with too much detail.

I hate it when I get like this. It's this paralyzing fear that makes me questions every little decision I make. I worry that some thing that I would like to do will result in biting off more than I can chew. I don't wnat to over-extend myself to the point that the RA decides to flare and then I am in even bigger trouble. That's a whole new fear that is running through my mind.

I suppose there has to be a learning curve. I just hope that my new employer is easier on me that I am on myself.


rented life said...

Will the person you are replacing even be there at all--I mean was anything said along the lines of "X will help you though the first few days?" I won't say anything you don't already know, but maybe just an e-mail with two specific questions on administrative duties will get the ball rolling between you an your new boss?

One of these days I'm going to buy you tap shoes for how much you talk abotu tap dancing through things :)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

It might be a good idea to establish a regular set of meetings with your boss... maybe every other week or so for the first semester / quarter and then every month for the first year.

This will let you have a regular pattern of feedback, give you a chance to ask little questions and generally find out in advance if you aren't meeting their expectations.

The meetings don't have to be long, but 20 minutes used strategically can go a long way to making a strong program.

I'd also recommend a regular meeting with the folks you supervise -- maybe a few days after the meeting with your boss -- that way you can quickly handle problems, pass on new information and generally get to know folks. Again, it doesn't need to be long -- and you should bring treats -- but this will let them know that you're connected both to them AND to your new boss.

Seeking Solace said...

Thanks, RL and ITPF!! Husband gave me the same advice. You three must be working from the same brainwave!

Rebecca said...

I think you can put "grow the program" on the back burner just for first little bit. First you have to see what they've got and get your bearings.

And, seriously, once you're there in the middle of it, I have no doubt that you will be getting all kinds of ideas. When you see what they are already doing to enlarge the program, and how effective it is, your thoughts will naturally turn to how to do it better/more effectively. And there is research you can do, checking out other schools will give you all kinds of ideas right off the bat.

But first you have to get there and see what the status quo is.

Re management: Respect, honesty and tact go a very long way to getting your underlings to willingly co-operate with you. Asking questions, and for input, before making changes gives everyone a feeling of ownership. After that, since you're all in it together, it'll be easier for them to follow along as you develop your personal management style.

That's very simplistic, sure, but it's not a bad foundation to build from.

Of course you'll do great. You're cool like that. ;)

RageyOne said...

Personally, I think your fear is normal. I'm always fearful of failure when I begin a new job. In time, it dissipates which will probably be the case with you. Give yourself time to learn the position.

On growing the about contacting a similar type program at another school (in state or out of state) to begin to network and form a dialogue with colleagues in similar positions. Check out whether there are regional or national orgs focused on paralegal studies programs. Maybe there are resources through those that will help with your new position.

Seeking Solace said...

Rebecca and Ragey: Thanks for the suggestions! They really help!!!

Brigindo said...

I think starting a new job is always stressful because of the fear of the unknown. So I agree, what you're going through is perfectly normal. I like Inside the Philosophy Factory's idea about regular meetings with your boss. This person may or may not turn out to be a good mentor for academic administration. If he doesn't fill the role as mentor (or at least doesn't work for you) I would actively seek one out. As far as I can tell one of the bigger problems with academia is filling administrative positions with people who have no experience at them. I don't think that is the case with you, given your experience in law, but it sounds like you don't have any experience in academic administration--which I think is a different kettle of fish. Look for someone who is successfully doing the tasks you are supposed to do and see what you can learn from them.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas so far - I don't really have anything new to add. I agree it's normal to experience anxiety -- I've been known to have a full blown panic attack before the first day of a new school :-) It'll get better as you get more comfortable with the ways things are and get to know more coworkers.