This past week saw our dining room transformed into a cluttered staging area for half-packed boxes and disassembled furniture. My family is gearing up for another cross-country move and at this point (after two similar relocations in the last three years) we are perfecting the process. What’s actually helped the most this time around is the support we have received from our destination. Representatives of the program I’ll be working in have offered assistance with everything from ordering textbooks to scouting prospective homes. We already have help lined up to unpack the moving van. Faced with all this generosity, I’ve begun thinking not only about the logistics of the move, but, more generally, how new hires can best greet (and thank) the departments and programs they enter.
In all things social I take notes from my wife, a woman whose hospitality and gregarious friendliness are legendary. Within a matter of days after our arrival she will have charmed the neighbors and coordinated a playgroup for our son. She’s already tentatively invited one faculty couple over for dinner so we can thank them properly. This sort of thing comes naturally to her, but that doesn’t mean her sweetness isn’t deliberate. For instance, I have noticed that she keeps a running list of people she owes thank-you notes.
I’m starting to make my own list now, one that will include not just my thank yous, but also all the other things I need to do to get off on the right foot at this new university. While the faculty orientation process will answer most of my practical questions and introduce me to the campus at large, my primary interest is in plugging in to my own department/program.
What items should all new hires have on their to-do list? What strategies have you found effective for introducing and acclimating oneself to a new department? On the other hand, what faux pas should new hires avoid as they get to know the staff, faculty, and administration on this far side of the interview process.