From SA grad to SA pro: The Transition, The Joys, The Pains, and Reality of it All

Around this time last year, I was graduating with my masters from Indiana State University, job searching, traveling, and honestly in a transition period. Currently, finishing up my first year as a new professional, moved seventeen hours away from everything I knew including family, and basically started from scratch. If I had to do it all over what I? Absolutely. Writing and reflecting is a great way for me to process and see growth.  

The Last Semester

It was a lot, no sugar coating it. I started job searching in December before we came back to finish up and graduate, I also registered for job placement exchanges such as The Southern Placement Exchange and NASPA’s Exchange (The Placement Exchange). The goal for me was to go far. I was at my home institution Indiana State University for my entire college experience (undergraduate from masters) I got my B.S. in Information Technology and I was receiving my master’s in Student Affairs and Higher Education. The goal was to go south. I knew that was going to take time, patience, effort, and money. While working my graduate assistantship at Wabash Valley Ivy Tech Community College in Terre Haute I also was a Barista at Starbucks. A transition like this I knew would require savings. The best advice I got was to save as much money as you can before you accept a job, move, and start your journey as a new professional. So that is honestly exactly what I did. If any advice I could give anyone going through their last semester is the quote that is constantly used “Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.” The final home stretch is draining mentally, physical, emotionally, and also financially. Do the best you can. I know my concern was also making sure my capstone was done. We all go through that. You’re expected to get everything done and get that job. In reality, the process may take longer than you expect. So don’t be surprised it doesn’t happen exactly how you though it would. I’m a planner, trust me. It did not go as exactly how I thought it would, but in the end I was where I needed to be.

How Did I Know I was making the Right Decision?

The last semester I did a lot of traveling for on campuses. I tried my best to keep in contact with my professors to let them know what was going on while on placement exchanges and interviews. I knew that this would be my first full time position after being in school full time for so long so I looked at a lot of different aspects. I looked at the quality of life (outside work), cost of living (we all know we make the big bucks coming out of graduate school), location (the south), and being realistic about my situation. I knew it was just going to be me, I have done summer internships at different locations, but completely moving my entire life was something I knew would be difficult. After the job search, interviewing process, and on campuses I had some decisions to make. I knew I wanted to be in three functional areas. It was either going to be residential life, student life, or multicultural affairs. 

  • Residential Life: I knew that I was going to be fine with doing this coming out of graduate school. I really appreciated my ACUHO-I experience as an Assistant Resident Director at University of California, Berkeley. It is a great way to get a variety of experiences. You get so much opportunity to grow. You hit on all aspects of student affairs which I love (conduct, programming, advising, having a staff, one-on-one, and the list goes on). I also knew that I wanted to be able to have some kind of disconnect once I left work, so working where I lived for two to three years was consideration I definitely knew would make or break a deciding factor if I wanted to take this route after graduate school.
  • Student Life: This was my top choice. I knew that student life positions can be hard to attain at times when they are far from few. My graduate assistantship was in student life at a community college, it was one of the best experiences I have had and was an amazing opportunity while being in graduate school. I decided to accept my first full time job and opportunity out of graduate school with the student life and services office at the University of Houston-Victoria in Victoria, Texas. Moving from Texas from Indiana was a lifestyle change.
  • Multicultural Affairs: Diversity and Inclusion is something that I have always been passionate about. I knew I wanted to look into offices that focus on these areas along with social justice. I also knew that there are a limited of type of positions like these as well. I know at some point in my student affairs career I would like to be in multicultural affairs office. 
Take A Break before It All Happens

I was lucky enough to get some down time before I walked off that stage and started my job the following month. Throughout this process, I did not say too much about where I was looking, and I didn’t announce that I took my job in Texas until the first day I started. I’m not saying you have to go that route but it really relieved a lot of stress. Before starting back working full time, I traveled, caught up with friends, slept in for the days and nights I couldn’t trying to get my masters, and had fun. It was honestly needed. Now that I am almost done finishing up my first year as a full time professional I will leave you with these things to think about.

  • Save, save, and save. Adult-ing gets real.
  • I wouldn’t necessarily say trust the process, I would say see what happens and do what’s best for you during this next stage of your life.
  • Take time out for yourself (family, friends, alone time).
  • Embrace the uncertainty. Getting out my comfort zone of the Midwest was the best thing to happen for me professionally and personally.

By no means I’m an expert at this stuff, but I hope my perspective on the job search, transition process, and how making a huge change can happen. 

“Look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”

-Steve Maraboli