Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Through the Looking Glass - Starting a new job

I’m now just over a month into my new role. I’ve survived the early stage of learning the procedures, people’s names, where the toilets are and other pieces of vital information. From there I’ve moved on to starting to get the hang of my new responsibilities. Hopefully I’ve made a reasonably good first impression.

Regular readers will know that I have a slight tendency to go on about how important reflection is and how I find that writing helps me to think about things. Now that initial new job rush has passed this seems like a good moment to put that into practice.

Starting a new job is always an odd experience. It shakes us out of our routine and forces us to learn a lot of new things all at once. A new person has to take on board a huge range of new information: new ways of doing things, new procedures, who people are and what they do, where things are, the history of a place, a whole new culture.

Strangely I think that can be particularly disconcerting when you move to a workplace that is similar to your old workplace. I’ve moved from one FE college library service to another. In some ways I felt right at home straight away. (It helped that everyone was friendly and welcoming). That very familiarity can sometimes give a through the looking glass feel to your first week or two in a new role. It’s a world you know well but everything is slightly different.

Maybe that’s not very like Through the Looking Glass at all. The familiar is more fundamentally twisted in Wonderland. It’s more Sliders or some other story where parallel universes are very familiar but other enough to get the plot moving.

Some of the induction training covered systems and resources that I was already experienced with but of course there were enough small differences to make complacency potentially risky. (Not all that dangerous but definitely a source of potential hiccups when I was trying to make that good first impression. Thankfully I think I managed to stay on top of this.)

Beyond those small differences there are some more fundamental differences between my new role and my old one.

The college itself is bigger than my last place. As a result our service is spread across three different sites and we have four different centres. The main site has the main learning resources centre and a specialist higher education centre.

A higher proportion of HE students and thus the need to provide that kind of tailored facility is another key difference.

In terms of my personal role here the big change is that I am now line managing other members of staff. This is a new challenge for me and it’s one of the aspects of this job that I was looking forward to before I started. Professionally it’s a very important area for me to develop and I’ve always been interested in helping other people to develop. I know I’m bound to say this but having met everyone they are a great team.

Another important difference is that my last role was term time only and I am now full time. Again this is a very positive step in terms of professional development. It’s also a positive step for practical reasons. However there is another layer of culture shock involved in getting used to working in a college library outside of term time. That will get worse after Friday when my teacher wife will start her long summer holiday but never mind. She does completely deserve it and we are going away for a couple of weeks later in the summer.

Don't worry I am keeping busy during this relatively quiet period of the year. Jiscmail List users might have seen my request for help with researching a new code of conduct for example.

When the new term starts I will be responsible for timetabling everyone. As far as I can tell that’s a task that is reasonably easy as long as nothing comes up but something always does.

Inductions will also take up a lot of my time in that first half term. I will be explaining our service to new students who are going through their own through the looking glass moments. Perhaps the analogy works better here. A student who is used to a school might find this new place of learning familiar in some ways but radically different and strange in others. When working with brand new students I always try my best to remember what it’s like to adjust to a new environment and new people while trying to take on board a huge amount of information. It shouldn’t be too hard for me this year.

My overall area of responsibility is Customer Experience. I am responsible for making sure that we are meeting our students’ needs and providing high standards of customer service. It is part of my job to make sure that those new students find our LRCs friendly and welcoming. Given the warm welcome I’ve received in the last month or so I have no worries about that aspect of my new role.

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