6 CHAPTER 1. THE MEANING OF LIFE
the book develops. Certainly attending seminars, going to teas, attending
social events, and cultivating mathematical conversations are obvious ways
to start. Some departments or organizations will actually assign you a senior
mentor the day that you walk in the door. In my own department we found
that this didn’t work very well because it was a bit artificial. Most times you
will have to identify and develop a relationship with such a person yourself.
1.2 Getting to Know You
I have already said that you must get to know people. If you land at your
new job and just hide in your office, then your future will not be bright. You
may be chuckling in your beard, but in fact it’s all too easy in an academic
job to just teach your calculus classes and then go home. That is a sure
recipe for failure.
You really want to become a fixture around the department. You want
the staff to like you and to think of you as someone that they can depend on.
You want the senior faculty to look forward to seeing you each day, to look
forward to hearing about your (mathematical) results. When a senior faculty
member goes to another school to give a colloquium, or goes to a conference,
he/she should be saying to his/her friends, “We’ve got this terrific new young
guy/gal in our department. He/she is a real plus to our program, and a gifted
young mathematician. We were lucky to hire him/her.”
If you are at an institution where teaching is the major emphasis, then
perhaps you will establish your bona fides in the department in a slightly
different fashion. Become a knockout calculus teacher. Come up with inno-
vative ways to get your students involved in the subject matter. Hold special
problem sessions. Create special software for your course. The main point
is to find a way to make your presence known. You want everyone to know
who you are and what you have to contribute.
I don’t mean to downplay your potential relationship with other junior
faculty or junior staff. These are really your comrades-in-arms, and you want
to get to know them too. Certainly don’t think of yourselves as competitors
for some mutually exclusive holy grail. It’s not as though if Bob gets tenure
then the slot is gone so you will be denied tenure. Usually tenure is a zero-one
game that you play against yourself. That is, if you make the grade, you get
tenure, and if you don’t make the grade, you don’t. It happens only very
occasionally (contrary to what you may see in a Hollywood movie) that a
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