by Dr Catherine Armstrong
This article is about what happens when you get the phone call telling you that you have been given that dream job. So the difficult part is over, you've applied, been summoned for an interview, gone through that gruelling process and been offered the job! But what do you have to do next?
Tell your current employer
Depending on your circumstances your current employer (if you have one) may not know that you were looking for work elsewhere, so the task of telling them you will be leaving can sometimes be a challenging one. If you have kept your job search hidden make sure you read your current contract and find out how much notice you are bound to give. This will often be one month, but if you are already a lecturer and are moving to another university, then they will require you to finish that term. It's also important to have a clear idea of how to make this notice period as painless as possible. Even if you loathe your current job, try not to make this too obvious! Explain to your employers more positive reasons for leaving (such as moving up the career ladder, work-life balance issues etc.) so that you don't leave on a sour note. There is no need to ‘burn your bridges' unnecessarily.
How much time do I have?
What you do next depends on how much time you have before the start of your contract. Most academic contracts start either in September or January, although there are some exceptions to this. If you have several weeks or even a few months before starting your new job then you have plenty of time to prepare for it. You will need to find out what your new department requires of you in terms of teaching commitments.
It's also good to work out early on what the requirements are in terms of research and administration. You should have the opportunity to meet with your new head of department informally before the start of your contract to discuss what the job will actually involve. Bear in mind that like you, he or she will have given their best impression during the interview, so you may be surprised by some of the tasks you are asked to do! You should be given the name of someone within the department who will act as a mentor and guide you through all the initial stages of your employment.
In starting any new job there are many official tasks to be completed either before the start of your contract or as it starts. This will mostly be done in liaison with the Human Resources department. You will need to tell them your address, contact details, bank information and give them proof of identification and nationality such as a photocopy of a passport. If you are from overseas, this process could take some time. You will also be given an ID card which may allow access to libraries, and photocopying facilities among other things, and you will need to visit the IT department to set up an email account and to gain access to other online resources.
Preparing to teach
What will you be asked to teach? Is it a new course that you must design yourself, or will you simply pick up someone else's course? If the former, you will have to work very quickly as course design is time consuming. Perhaps you already have possible courses in mind, even ones that you discussed during the interview process. However, some institutions will not expect lecturers to design their own courses in the first semester or year in order to ease them into the post. However, even if you will be teaching someone else's existing course, you must familiarise yourself with what will be required of you including classroom hours, size and number of groups taught, marking regimes and subjects covered. Because the course will have been tailored to someone else, you must be prepared to do a considerable amount of research in order to teach the course.
Settling in to your new office or department
You will be assigned a new office, either a personal space or one shared with others. Unless you are sharing a desk with someone else (hot-desking as it's known) then you will have some degree of autonomy when deciding how to lay out and decorate your workspace. You should be allocated storage areas (shelves, filing cabinets) and computer equipment. If you are unhappy with any of these it may be possible to negotiate with your head of department for alternatives, but bear in mind that departmental budgets for that sort of thing are increasingly tight. You'll have to decide whether to move your books, folders, teaching notes, equipment into your office or to keep them at home. Many people divide their materials between their work and home offices. But if you do have large amounts of material to move into your office you may well need the assistance of the Estates team to borrow a trolley and even to arrange temporary car parking near your building. These practical challenges can be difficult for someone new and totally unfamiliar with the working environment so make sure you ask your mentor for help. If you will be hot-desking then you definitely have to negotiate with your colleagues on the set up of your office; you don't want differences of opinion to sour working relationships before they've even begun.