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Being a New Professional is Hard - Tips for Success

Region IV-W Region IV-W
July 24, 2017 Shannon Schwaebler Northeastern State University

One of my favorite things about the month of August is the potential it brings for new opportunities. For many people on campus it is a time of transition and change- new students on campus, easing our way into a new job, or even becoming students ourselves again. With this transition and change comes the discomfort of the unknown. However, there is always a renewed vibrancy on campus when everyone comes to start the semester fresh and that excitement is contagious across campus. As August nears, I am entering into my third year at Washburn and have learned a couple lessons within these first two years that I feel have shaped my experience as a new professional:

1.       Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Everywhere institution I have been at people have said I am the first to ask “why.” Now, whether I am aware I’m doing this or it is subconsciously, I believe moving forward with purpose has allowed me to grow not only myself as a professional but the programs we are using to serve students on campus.

2.          If at first you don’t succeed, try again: Surprisingly, I was not the new girl at Washburn for long. Our campuses are ever evolving- students, faculty, and staff are changing yearly. So if you have received a no in the past in regards to trying something new and exciting or creating a new partnership on campus that doesn’t mean the answer is still no. Don’t be afraid to ask the question again. Ask the new faces to the table. We all bring different perspectives and experiences however, if your purpose is right you’re all working towards the same goal.

3.       Don’t be afraid to jump feet first: As a new professional I am the first to acknowledge when I don’t have the answers. However, some of the best learning experiences I have had while at Washburn have come from when I was completely out of my comfort zone learning as I was working on a project.

4.       Take on new opportunities: Similarly to lesson three- take on opportunities that might be out of your wheelhouse. Here at Washburn we rely heavily on one another’s support across campus.  Within my first three years I have had the opportunity to teach, work in career development, a facilitate Ally trainings- all of which fall within the “other duties as assigned” category we all have in our job descriptions. I cannot tell you how frequently these opportunities have supported me in conversations with students going through a crisis, needing support, etc. The opportunities have also open doors for me when I decide to take my next step within the profession.

5.       Don’t be afraid to say no: Now, to completely contradict my lesson four. Don’t take on excess opportunities just for the heck of it. Remember to be conscious and ask yourself why. What is your purpose for taking this opportunity on? Recognize when you have a legitimate purpose and when it doesn’t align with your strengths and passions. Through the past two years I have had moments where I am completely in my groove and others where I am completely burnt out. However, acknowledging those moments and speaking up for your own wellbeing is essential in staying sane in this world we call student affairs. I firmly believe you cannot run on an empty cup. Regardless of how vulnerable it might be to speak up and say no, it will only help everyone involved in the long run.

Whatever transition might be headed your way, I wish you good luck! Regardless how your summer has gone enter the year with a new perspective. Use the fresh start as an opportunity to rejuvenate ourselves, the programs we’re working on, and even our institutions.