Monday, August 25, 2008

Second week

Here I am beginning my second week of being on campus. Last week it felt like I never had enough sleep, I had no idea where to go or what to do from meeting to meeting, and like the chaos would never end. I'm ALREADY feeling a lot better since the only thing on this week's calendar is the course I am participating in Mon/Wed/Fri. I only have to teach two chapters, and not until later in the month of September. So I have time to learn the ropes and see how the primary teacher does things. He's an awesome teacher, and it will be such a good opportunity to learn this stuff from him. That's why I volunteered to teach this fall (which normally doesn't happen to new people in my department--usually you get until the spring before they throw you in).

But, I made it through that first week, and it's been pretty exciting. In this time I've already:

1. interviewed four potential rotation students

2. interviewed and hired two undergrads who will be working in the lab

3. Gotten my instruments 70% of the way towards functional

4. Received 85% of the lab supplies/consumables/equipment needed to get going in the lab

5. Gotten a number of very interesting applicants for my technician posting

So that's a start. Some things I already noticed about myself, though: I can already feel myself having trouble with saying no. I have a really hard time not just being as helpful as I possibly can about everything that gets put in front of me or that I even come across randomly. This is gonna kill me if I don't figure out how to manage it gracefully. You don't want to be a jerk, but I simply will not have the mental and physical wherewithall to make it if I don't figure out how to be careful about stretching myself too thin. So that's my warning to myself for the day: FIGURE OUT HOW TO SAY NO in a way that doesn't make you feel guilty.


Nat Blair said...

How about working on saying, "Yes, but..." That way you can be helpful, but you do it on your terms.

Sounds like things are rolling though, which is good.

Arlenna said...

I think I'm still too weak for "Yes but..." I'll have to do some "Yes but..." exercises to get better at that.

I've practiced some a little already with the promising undergrads who applied for my workstudy position after I already filled it. I told them they should contact me later in the year when I might have more room for undergrads to come do research in the lab. For now, two is enough, but later we will have more bandwidth.

PhysioProf said...

FIGURE OUT HOW TO SAY NO in a way that doesn't make you feel guilty.

If you are talking about being asked to do shit by "higher-ups", this is what I have done: "I am really eager to do that, but taking on that responsibility now would not be a good idea given that my first responsibility has to be to get my research program going and fulfill my assigned teaching duties."

okham said...

I am in awe, speechless... the formula proposed by PP is the closest thing to perfection that I have seen in decades... :-)

drdrA said...

I have a colleague who never says no- he just always has a price. The price is adjustable to the task. i.e. 'I'd love to chair that committee of completely useless tasks if I had a secretary to attend the meetings and take notes and do all other menial duties associated with this job'. Totally fictitious example- but you get my drift.- I've never tried this myself- I always do exactly what PP said- almost to the word.

And a primer about hiring undergraduates-

1. Give them a MATH TEST. (you know, practical lab math).

2. no older than a sophomore- you don't want to train them just to have them ready when they graduate.
I've had some very very good freshmen that stayed with me as long as possible.

3. 3.5 GPA

4. Reliability is key- they must know up front that they are committing to 12-15 hours per week in the lab (this is what I REQUIRE)- and that these hours can't all be on two days- then they don't show up the rest of the week.

They have to know up front that you will fire their ass if they don't show up!!

5. I'm sure there is something that I'm forgetting.

drdrA said...

Also- if someone corners me with a task and I am caught off guard- I always say I would like to think about it (or I'd like to talk to my Chairperson)- without committing. That way I have TIME to write a script in my head (or consult my chair and say that I've been approached about xyz task- but I think it is a good idea to not take on any additional duties until after I have my program well underway and I have $$) to deal with the issue gracefully. Then sometimes, I deal with these requests by sending the 'I decline' response by EMAIL. That way I don't have to answer a billion questions or justify further why I am not going to take on that task.

Arlenna said...

At our orientation somebody said you always say "I'll get back to you on that..." for those kinds of situations. :)