I woke up today and a strange feeling came over me. It was something unlike anything I have ever felt before. At first, I didn’t even realize what it was, and was mostly confused. I started to explore internally, and realized what it was; Today, I feel like a Professional.
I have mentioned on here before that I am a first year hall director, fresh out of grad school, and will celebrate my 7 month anniversary here at A&M next week. For nearly 7 months, I have had the title of a professional, been treated like a professional by my peers and supervisors, and been seen as a professional to my students. However, I didn’t believe it myself, I hadn’t internalized it. Sure, I enjoyed the bigger paycheck, and this strange thing called health insurance, but a student affairs professional is not made by their paycheck (thankfully).
I think back to where I was a year ago, and was nervous about making the transition from student to professional. I remember asking in my Capstone course how to make that transition easier. We read books, talked about the transition, looked at our own development and needs to try and make that transition easier. I had great faculty for that class and really set me up to be able to handle the transition (Thank you Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Ward-Roof), but able to handle, and making the transition are two very different things. I look back, and learned more about my values, the type of environment I would work better in, and big mistakes not to make right away, and all of those things made this morning possible.
Little did I know that a year later, I would be sitting at my desk, drinking coffee and completing my weekly key report when a switch would click and I would consider myself a professional. However, now that I have had time to reflect back on it (a few hours at least), it was a gradual process. It could also be that a task that scared the living daylights out of me back in August (key reports), seemed routine and normal this morning. I guess that is what they call on the job training and learning.
If you happen to be a graduate student reading this with the same anxiety I had last year, how am I going to be a professional, don’t worry, some day you will have the same feeling. Take the time to set yourself up and provide the skills to ease the transition, but be ok knowing you may feel like a full time graduate assistant in the beginning of your job; I know I did. Start dressing as you will need to dress as a professional a few days a week. Attempt to start your office hours at 8 or 9 AM. Observe the professionals in your office to see how they carry themselves.
If you supervise a graduate student who is graduating in May, start to give them ideas of what professional life looks like. Invite them to division meetings. Talk to them about budget issues. Recall the beginning of your professional journey and try to answer the questions you had. Your grad will thank you for it in the long run.
At some point, everyone has the same moment of clarity, and the more you prepare, the less you will notice it when it comes. One day you will realize that what you have been doing since grad school is the very thing that defines you as a professional. You never know, it may be over coffee and keys for you as well.
Grads, what are you doing to prepare yourself for professional life?
Professionals, when did you have your moment of clarity, and what helped you get there?