Balancing demands as a new faculty member

Dear Labby,

I am just completing my first semester as an assistant professor. After five years as an international postdoc I thought that this time would never happen. We now live in a relatively rural part of the United States, in contrast to our former city life. My lab space renovation is almost complete, and I am also negotiating the renovation of our newly purchased home. Because my lab was not move-in ready, I have been asked to take on some administrative duties and additional teaching. I am reluctant to accept either because I must finish up a manuscript that will set me up for my first proposal, I have to prepare that proposal, and I have to prepare course materials for a graduate seminar
In addition, my family members are having some difficulties adjusting to this new place. My family has been welcomed to the department through dinners and play dates for our children, but we have not been able to invite folks to the construction zone that is currently our house (after six months we are still living out of boxes). I don’t want to seem unappreciative by not reciprocating this generosity, but I am having trouble managing my roles. Thank you for any advice you can offer.


Dear Newbie,

Congratulations on your position! Getting settled does take time. Right now focus on getting your laboratory set up and your first proposal submitted. An important thing to learn as a new faculty member is to say, “Thank you for this opportunity; I know that this is important work, but for now I have to launch my laboratory and prepare a proposal. I will be happy to help with these efforts in the future.” Does your department have a new faculty mentoring program? If so then take advantage of it. If not then perhaps your university has such a program. Or seek mentorship from your colleagues or your chair (unless he or she is doing the asking) to help you determine how much “extra work” you should take on.
While you are still living out of boxes, you might want to invite colleagues out for coffee on or off campus. Once your house has evolved from a construction zone to a home, you could invite your colleagues over for barbeque or dessert. Everyone who has moved with family to a new place has faced similar problems, and it takes time to get everything and everybody sorted out. You do have tough balancing act right now. Now is the time to use your organizational skills to set up a schedule with realistic timelines so that you can accomplish what you need and want to accomplish while you have all of this “free” time.
Labby is confident that you will soon be able to sort things out and begin to really enjoy your new position and your new home!


About the Author:

Recommended Articles