Lunch buddies and mentorship

I really lucked out here with my colleagues. Of course there are all of the usual idiosyncrasies and personality quirks, and lots of overdone discussion of various kinda pointless issues, but everyone is very tongue-in-cheek about it--even the quirkiest, most persistent folks tease themselves a little about it and take the teasing from the rest very graciously.

There are also some strong friendships and good-natured alliances between faculty here. There's a group of people (a core of about six with about another six who rotate in and out) who go out to lunch every Friday. They're really consistent, and only miss it for very important meetings or being out of town. My first week on campus they invited me and the other new professor out with them, included us in the mass carpool and started checking with us every week to see if we wanted to go. Even though they are all close friends, they opened up the circle to us newbies and brought us right into the conversations. They always check up on us to see how we are doing and try to help us navigate the unwritten aspects of the department so we don't get ourselves in trouble, and so we can function optimally with some of the red tape. They've been very welcoming, friendly and inclusive. They're all 40's-ish white men, besides the other junior faculty who rotate in and out, and I am the only woman. It's not like it is some big shock that white male scientists could ever be friendly and inclusive--it happens every day all over the place--I'm just telling the story of my own personal allies.

This group of lunch buddies has become a really important mentor group for me. They do a lot of alliance-building on departmental issues during these lunches, and because I have been brought into the conversation, I see their strategies, know their motives and desired outcomes are for the good of the whole, and feel comfortable with their collective attitudes because I have a part in them. This kind of interaction seems like it is really, really important to growing into a connection with a faculty group during the tenure track, and from what I read around the blogs and hear from friends at other institutions, the inclusion of junior faculty in this kind of thing is pretty rare. I feel really fortunate to have found a department with this level of openness and collective feeling of responsibility towards helping the noobs.

So if you're a senior faculty member of any gender, trying to figure out how to help give a leg up to your junior colleagues, consider taking time once a week to go to lunch. And if you're a junior faculty member feeling lost and isolated in your department, find out if others are too and see if you can get together with friendly senior faculty on a regular basis like this. Sure, everybody is busy--life is hard uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes on--but for us, it could be a matter of the life or death of our career. The earlier you start including us, the better, and we are very, very appreciative of your support!

4 thoughts on “Lunch buddies and mentorship

  1. I feel bad reading how crappy your colleague situation is. πŸ™ Maybe those nicer clinical folks can become a better support network--or maybe there will be some other faculty around in nearby departments who are more aware and interested in their responsibilities to their younger colleagues. It's good you have your dean and dept. head on your side at least.

  2. Your experience reminds me of three great departmental mentors I attracted after my shitty half-time-to-tenure review. We ended up calling it the Four Generation Club as it was comprised just four of us, each hired in either the 60s, 70s, or 80s, and me as the rep of the 90s. The 60s hire was our former dept chair and dean who took a very fatherly approach to me. As you might suspect given the timing, it was all men, and the gatherings were beer and dinner instead of lunch. They gave me great advice and a frank talking-to when I needed it. I got tenure.This reminds me to be sure that I am part of this for all of my fellow faculty, and especially the women.Thanks for evoking great memories for me of camaraderie and getting a good kick in the ass from people who cared about me.

  3. Our newly-permanent dept chair is relocating to our campus in the summer so it'll be great to have her down the hall. The 15mins I spent talking to her yesterday was great, even it was her telling me that I needed to be concentrating on this or that - some feedback that doesn't simply serve someone else's interests is a very good thing at this stage. In all honesty, I'd be well and truly screwed right now if it hadn't been for the support and advice of my bloggy buddies πŸ™‚

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