I was a mid-year hire. It was painful. Not the hiring itself. I was excited about the job; I was looking forward to working at this particular institution, a university rife with history and tradition. I was most excited. I knew a couple of people who worked there already; it was near my hometown. The setting was ideal.
But what I didn’t anticipate was what most would experience as a mid-year hire. I had never been hired during the middle of an academic year before. I had always been hired during the spring or summer months before a fall semester. In my mind I knew it would be different, “but how different can it be?” I pondered. The answer: much more so than I would have anticipated.
I had a couple of things working against me almost immediately. First, the person I was replacing had been in the position for almost 7 years. He had it down cold. Those he supervised and others in the office liked him very much. I was told on my second day that this person was “beloved” and that some staff were very upset that he had left. I thought, “Gee, thanks. Don’t I feel warm and fuzzy all over now?”
As you know, you can never truly replace the person who has left. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes it’s not. I knew soon enough that my situation was going to be challenging.
Second, there had been a lot of change in the department during the first semester. I recall hearing about at least 1 person leaving during this time, and two more leaving at the end of the semester. This amount of change is considerable, and for me it was unprecedented. I was not accustomed to so many people coming and going during the year. And then within a week of being in my new position I was informed that yet another person would be leaving, and that I would be taking over many of those responsibilities. Yikes!!!
So here I was a new employee; granted with some professional experience, but expected to learn and do two jobs at a place I had never worked with people I had never worked for or with. So what did I do? I panicked. “How am I going to do this? What’s this going to do to my family?” I openly wondered. I was hired to do a particular job I felt I could do well, but two jobs? I started to seriously wonder if I had made a mistake in accepting this position, and secretly hoped that I still had a copy of my resume on disk.
I would assume that some of my experience is unique. I would not expect most mid-year hires to be thrust into all the change that I witnessed.
Still, being a mid-year hire in the profession does present some unique challenges for the employee and the employer because let’s face it, hiring someone or being hired mid-year is not an ideal situation in a college setting. Ideally both parties would prefer to be around for training, opening and so on. This timing allows for more communication, understanding and cohesion among staff members. A professional hired for second semester doesn’t get the same kind of training, is usually expected to do and learn more in a shorter period of time and is thrust into office politics and personalities that are already well established. Again, by no means an easy place to find yourself. On top of all this, the employer is trying to incorporate you into the flow of the program while simultaneously doing what they must do. They don’t have the luxury at this time of year to spend days getting the staff ready for the months ahead.
Recommendations for Mid-Year Hires
As a new employee, first and foremost be patient with yourself and others. A big mistake I made was coming into the position trying to acclimate myself too quickly. I grew impatient and wanted to make my imprint right away. This upset some people who were still getting over the loss of their previous supervisor. Take your time. There truly is no rush. You need time to adjust, and so do the people you’re working with.
Secondly, ask a lot of questions and expect answers. One thing I thought I did well was ask many questions about my responsibilities. What I didn’t always do well was follow-up with my supervisor in getting answers. Remember that your supervisor is adjusting to you too. Remind them that you might need much of their time early on, or at least more of their time than they had been accustomed to giving. If someone wants you to succeed, they’ll make the time for you.
Thirdly, remember to make an effort to spend time with your staff. Too often when we’re busy we become so task-oriented that we forget about our professional relationships with others in the office. As crazy as it will be for you during this time it will be important to give your staff what they need from you, even if that means putting something away and simply talking to them for a few minutes.
The final piece of advice I would offer to you, the new employee, is this: try not to take matters too personally. I know- this is easier said than done. You’ll want to pull your hair out every time someone says, “But so-and-so did this” or “We were never expected to do that” or something else that refers to how things used to be. Just understand that it wouldn’t matter if the new person were you, me, Mother Theresa or anyone else, they’d still be saying it, so try not to let it bother you too much.
Recommendations for the Supervisor of a Mid-Year Hire
As an employer, you now have this person you have to train AND you have your work to get done. But allow me to make these recommendations: First, truly take a vested interest in this new person you have hired. Schedule weekly meetings with them to help them get adjusted and ultimately be successful. Give them the time they need with you, even if that means putting some of your other responsibilities on the back burner. You owe it to them and to you. The more time you spend with them early on will pay dividends later.
Second, it might be worthwhile before this new person arrives to remind your staff that your new hire is a different person than the one who just left. Give the remaining staff time to discuss their feelings about the person who is leaving, especially if this person was well liked, but reiterate to them that comparing/contrasting others is unfair and not good for those involved, nor is it productive for the department.
Third- related to step one, develop a training schedule with your new professional. The mid-year hire has missed out on the fall training. Plan a few days immediately with them to get them through some of the nuts and bolts of the position. Again, the time spent early on will be invaluable.
Hiring or being hired mid-year can in some ways be far from the ideal situation. As either a mid year hire or the supervisor of one, acknowledge the unique challenges that will be faced that relate to training and relationship building. By focusing on communication, education, and the development of interpersonal and professional relationships, mid-year transitions can be made more manageable for both supervisors and mid-year hires.
Submitted by Shawn McGuirk, Assistant Director for Judicial Affairs, Boston College