New Job, New Institutional Culture

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One of the more exciting parts of getting a job is getting to work without needing a GPS. In Boston.

In all seriousness, I am very, very excited about my new position at Brandeis. My background as an English major is coming in handy! I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to work with researchers in my liaison departments.

A big part of having a new job is figuring out a new institutional culture. Everything from the dress code to the way that people decorate their desks (or don’t) to the way that people say hello changes institution to institution. As I settle in here at Brandeis, I am working on making sure that I learn everything I can about the way the institution feels and works. Reaching out to departments is a great way of doing this–especially if you’re a liaison!–and talking with people in the break room.

The most useful place I’ve found to figure out the institutional culture, though, is on a quiet reference desk shift. There’s not much to do, there’s time to talk, and time to shadow lots of different people. It’s a good time to ask questions, get the dirt on past projects and problems, and figure out where you fit in. Plus when a question pops up (electronically or in-person) you get a chance to flex your new research fingers and poke into all the different databases through a new system.

And that break room? Turns out it’s a great place to take a quiet break, because most people like to have a quiet lunch. On that note, I have just finished (over the past week during my lunches) a great book that I highly recommend: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. It’s an epistolary novel (sort of) written in memos and letters of recommendation, all from a surly middle-aged English professor in an ailing department at the (fictional) Payne University. The book was funny, sarcastic, relatable (who hasn’t had budget woes in higher ed?) and the ending was poignant without diving headlong into soppy. Go read this book. You’ll like it.

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