At the beginning of 2019, Education Commons developed five core values:
Why are these values important? By living these core values daily, the Education Commons team can ensure our work is centred on our mission to support the OISE community.
Previously, we examined how the team embodies the value of “Collaborate” in our day-to-day work and community engagement. Now, we turn to the value of “Learn” – leading from within and seeking partnerships founded on respect, integrity, and commitment.
Today, one of our newest team members – Nathan Christie, who has joined us as our new Communications Coordinator – shares with the OISE community on how he embraced the value of “Learn” during his first month.
As a writer, I have an undue love for corny metaphors. One I’ve found myself particularly attached to is comparing my work experiences like installments in a long-running series of novels. Yes...starting a new job...it’s a little like opening a new book, isn’t it? You've picked up the book yourself, you’ve done your research on it, and you’ve been swayed by the cover. That aphorism aside about not judging based on covers, you should have a pretty fair idea of what you're about to delve into!
While some of my work experiences – my stories – were certainly more enjoyable than others, each narrative had been fulfilling in their own way; at each place, I learned something new about myself that I would bring forward to my next work experience. However, there was always one part of each experience that I’d always dreaded. No, I’m not talking about performance evaluations! I’m thinking of that first month – when you’re completely fresh into a new story.
At some point after starting a new role, I fully “settle in”, where I feel totally comfortable and confident in what I’m doing. My familiarity, relationships, and institutional knowledge all reach that level where almost nothing is going to be surprising. I know who to talk to for what, which procedures work well (and which do not), what all the many initialisms and acronyms stand for. It’s quite an affirming feeling! And of course, exactly when this feeling starts will vary from person to person, role to role.
For me, while I always did get to this point, it always felt like it took too long to get there. Sometimes, it was due to the organization I was with, not offering much in the way of support, but in all cases it was due to my own hesitancies, especially during that formative first month. So, as I started at OISE Education Commons, I resolved myself to take a different approach. This time, my first month would be different!
With one month having passed, I’m happy to say that I feel confident and comfortable in my role here.
All throughout March, as I learned more about the OISE community, the work the Education Commons does to support the community, and how the team responds to challenges and crises, my team members have been here to support me and give me chances to contribute. While I still have much to learn and understand here, I feel assured I can get there – with the support of my team!
How did this happen? Following the value of “Learn” certainly helped! Here are five “learnings” that I’ve affirmed in my first month working as part of the Education Commons team.
L - Listening is the easiest thing you can do with the most benefit
It seems obvious to say – you should always be listening! But it’s especially crucial in that first month, when you’re learning about your teammates and beginning to form those vital partnerships that will inform what your work experience will be like going forward.
Especially when challenges arise, and those partnerships are put to the test. When something happens that requires quick and decisive actions, an effective and responsive team must identify the issues at hand, gather as many opinions as possible from the experts they have, create an informed plan, and then deploy it confidently, knowing that each person is doing their part.
When a surprise outage knocked out the OISE building’s power earlier this month, I was struck by how the team responded, acting quickly to address the many issues that had resulted. The key factor that made this possible was how we listened to each other, bringing up what the problems were, what the solutions would be and what approach to take.
A crisis can be stressful and nerve-wracking, especially for new employees. But, seeing Education Commons work together to fix the issues created by the power outage – especially in how they listened to each other – gave me the assurance that we had a handle on this, as well as the confidence to contribute in my own way. And on that topic of contributing...
E – Experience begets expertise
I’d just left a position where I had become one of the more experienced voices in the organization. When people had questions, they could come to me, and I could provide answers. Naturally, it felt a bit tough to give up that kind of role, knowing I would be starting at OISE fresh, effectively “reset”. What could I contribute right away?
But here’s the thing – that’s not true. I wasn’t coming into my role as Communications Coordinator as a blank slate. I had my own expertise to draw upon from my past work experiences. Education Commons picked me as their new Communications Coordinator for a reason!
In my first month, I found many opportunities to contribute, sharing what I know. Whether it was communicating Education Commons’ response to the power outage or providing day-to-day tasks, it was clear I had many ways to contribute from day one, and – most importantly – my team looked to me as such. Feeling valued is essential for any new employee! And as I continue my journey at OISE, that expertise will only expand.
A – Always be asking questions
Always! In previous roles and organizations, I did not want to appear being a burden by asking questions constantly. Too often, to try to fit in quickly, one feels like they should appear to know everything and anything!
Yet, as I would always eventually find out, this wasn’t a successful approach and rather does the opposite. You will find there are many things you don’t know the answers to, and it’s better to ask than to assume!
There is much learn at OISE, and for a newcomer it can feel overwhelming. But don’t let ego and self-consciousness be roadblocks to becoming a better teammate. The Education Commons team, as well as other community members here, have been so helpful in making me feel oriented and safe to ask questions at any point and time.
R - Realizing you have new opportunities
Coming into OISE, I was bringing just over a decade’s experience of work as a writer, editor, and communicator. While I’ve come to realize and affirm these skills as my strengths, through my career journey I’ve naturally found myself picking up different skills, too, to create my own, unique toolset.
This toolset always becomes more apparent when starting somewhere new. Some of those skills applied in the previous position suddenly aren’t as obviously relevant or requested as they once were. Sometimes, when I started new roles, I’d even face a bit of the dreaded “imposter syndrome” – do I really have what it takes?
But instead of thinking about where I'm lacking, I rephrase it in my head: Now that I’m here, how can I grow? With new team members, I have new avenues to learn from! New opportunities to expand my skillset. For example, after one month at OISE Education Commons, I can say that I know a lot more about IT infrastructure, new and old, than I did before. (It helps that I’ve been listening and asking questions!)
And just because some of those previous skills don’t seem to be needed right away, doesn’t mean they won’t come back to help you. As a new member of the team, you have an opportunity to redefine the parameters of your role and bring in new ways to help your team. Take a chance and show what’s helped you before to your colleagues that can better their work experiences too!
N – Never stop learning
I must confess to a terrible habit of mine. Whenever I start a new book, I have a tendency to skip to the last pages to see what happens. I know! It’s definitely cheating yourself of so many rewarding experiences.
Going back to the metaphor – as much as I’ve wished in the past, I can’t simply skip ahead to know what will happen in my story. To truly learn and develop, there must be some mystery that’s up to me to uncover and unravel!
And this is where that metaphor kind of falls flat, to be honest. Reading a book is an experience you can share only with yourself, should you want to. But when I work, I interact with others. Me and my teammates are all sharing the same story – and we’re all learning from each other! What I’ve learned, and will learn, is not dependent on me simply moving forward, turning page after page; it’s from working with others that new understanding and growth are possible.
That’s why it makes sense to me why Education Commons stresses “Learn” as one of our core values. It’s demonstratable in the work the team performs, and it’s enabled me to pick up so many things in my first month and hit the ground running right away.