Every time you start a new job they have some kind of new employee orientation. I remember very clearly the year I started working at my college tutoring center and had to attend a two day orientation and training. This professional feeling workshop was starkly contrasted with the video tape in the backroom orientation I had to attend when I started working at a movie theater the same summer.
Today I had the orientation for new employees-in English. The best thing about orientation is the free stuff! Plus you learn a lot about the history and policies of your organization. Once, a previous boss complemented me on always knowing the rules about employee tasks. I was shocked. They covered all of this in orientation. I mean I didn’t remember what the rule was but I did remember that they had talked about it so I went and looked it up in my notes. Apparently this in not the norm.
Today’s orientation was great. The free loot consisted of a 2G USB stick with the university logo, a cloth bag with the logo, some handbooks for organizations, a spiral notebook with university logo, a pen with university logo, and a good lunch. They covered topics ranging from the history of the university presidents, a very cool modern art museum that is part of the campus system, to inventions that have come from research at the university. I was inspired and took a lot of notes, and am planning some upcoming posts based on the day. However, today I just wanted to say, you should go to your new employee orientation. Not only will you learn about what benefits your company offers but you will get free stuff and hear about all the cool things that you might not know about the other parts of the company.
The first work meeting in a new place is always a crap shoot. You don’t really know what to expect and what is expected of you.
In Academia, and by that I mean science academia, the group meeting is sacred. Basically every group has one no matter how big or how small. The two groups I belonged to in graduate school had over 30 people but very different styles of group meeting.
One had main group meetings one evening a week where general topics were discussed, one quarter it was overviews of the group’s work for new students, then practice talks for the research proposal we did in the 4th year, then practice talks for qualifying exams done in the 2nd year, and then special topic talks in the summer. Then we also had subgroup meetings where in my super-subgroup we met during lunch one day a week and someone gave a PowerPoint presentation about what they were currently working on.
In the other group we basically had the same kind of group meeting as the subgroup meeting in the first group, once a week in the middle of the afternoon.
The longer I was in graduate school the less often some of these group meetings were useful and the more inconvenient some of the times became. Since both of my bosses traveled often and we had group meetings even when they didn’t attend there was often a huge descrepency between attitudes at different group meetings. I began to think about what kind of group meetings would be useful for me, what if I was the boss what would I want then?
My new group is only 4 people including me and my professor. This morning we had our first group meeting since I arrived in Sweden. We had a discussion about people’s upcoming travel schedules for the holidays, upcoming seminars that would be useful, allocation of group resources, when we should meet next, an new open position in the group, and then one of the graduate student’s summarized his 4 projects on the board. We discussed what the overarching goals were, what he was seeing so far, and where he was struggling. This group meeting was much more useful for me….now I wonder how you could implement something similar for a larger group of people.
I think one way would be to have one kind of group meeting where people give prepared talks on a single story in their research (like with PowerPoint) to practice this skill and then other meetings that are more about problem solving and group dynamics/scheduling. What kind of meetings are most useful to your personal work? and if you are a manager what kind are most useful to the running of the group?