This guest post comes to you all from Sue Caulfield, Assistant Director of Student Affairs for the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. I’ve been writing for a while about tips and tricks to get introverts through their day to day duties in this work, so I truly appreciate Sue documenting her “survival tactics” for getting through one of her toughest times of year.
Oh, Orientation Week. You are one of my favorite times of the year and yet…well, I feel ashamed admitting this. But, I dread you sometimes. It’s not like I would ever want to break up with you – we’ve had so many great years together! It’s just that you EXHAUST me. You drain my energy like no other. You’re countless hours, necessary high spirited, ongoing energy, endless group activities…
You drain me. But each year, I prevail.
In my seven straight years of orientation, this one has been the most successful for myself as an introvert. I’m not sure if it’s from being a bit more self aware, or because this topic has been one that’s stuck in the forefront of my mind for the last year or two. Either way, I’d like to share a few ways that my ‘I’ was protected during medical school orientation this year.
Embrace the prep.
This is one of the few times where I did VERY little the weekend before orientation. By very I mean, I worked on some Suedles, saw some friends and family, and embraced equal parts of lounges and naps. When I started to feel guilty about saying no to a few things, I stopped myself. This was my time to build up some reserves before a long week. I knew I would rely on these for the next few days. Taking the time to reserve energy insured I was starting off on the right foot.
Your I is showing.
It’s no secret in my office that I’m an introvert. I have been known to hug my door. The framed cover of “The I’s Have It” is proudly displayed on my desk. This openness has allowed for some conversation with co-workers about introverted preferences. Alongside this, it also offers a venue for a discussion about some fears. While risky in some environments, I enjoy explaining to colleagues why I’m fearing a few 14 hour workdays and what that can mean for my temperament. Not only does it hold me accountable to be better at preserving, it invites others to check in with me too.
Use your strengths.
Sessions of hundreds of students. Small talk during meals. Rounds at receptions. These are all common occurrences during an orientation week. It’s an exciting time of the year! We need to be exciting! Woo!…zzZZzz. Yes, all of these are important. But, you may have other strengths as an introverted staff member that are NOT be utilized during orientation.
Offer to run a small group session. Those maps of your school/campus? Hand them out and highlight some “recharge” areas. Then go hang out in one. Your poised introduction to the new group? Tell them you’re an introvert and like to write/read in your spare time. Offer to head up the week’s hashtag and monitor the backchannel. Volunteer to touch base with students who are missing items and use the opportunity to get to know them one-on-one. All of these items are suggestions that I made sure to include in our program this year.
Be creative about recharging.
During orientation week, there are few opportunities (if any) to close my door. Formal breaks are not an option most days. Staff members are expected to be around for an ungodly amount of hours. We signed up for this, but not necessarily something that we are comfortable with.
I began examining our orientation schedule early this year, being very cognizant of the timing of the days. As we planned, I encouraged shorter scheduled days, where we had the luxury to offer them. I volunteered to be a part of the scavenger hunt in another building. This put me away from “home base” and gave me the opportunity to interact with the new class in smaller groups. I came in early enough to be able to have some quiet working time in my office in the morning. I offered to run errands when needed to recharge in my car. And I was open with my employer about how assigning me to these tasks would ultimately help our team succeed.
Sometimes, there’s no I in orientation.
This last tip is a play off of the old saying; sometimes you can’t find time to recharge. You don’t have the luxury of changing a schedule. You have a small staff and can’t take time away. There is no room to introvert. And that’s okay. You can still prep for the week by making sure you get plenty of rest beforehand and have healthy snacks on hand. You can plan, run and have a successful orientation. Sometimes, we just have to power through the discomfort and learn from it. More often than not, this can teach us something AND make us appreciate that end-of-the-week pedicure just a little bit more. 🙂
For more information on introversion in student affairs, check out my book The I’s Have It: Reflections on Introversion in Student Affairs (illustrated by Sue!)
And if you’re interested in owning a Suedle of your own, check out Sue’s Etsy shop!