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Beyond the First Year

May 31, 2016 Asha Nettles

You did it! The first year of full-time professional work is done. So now what? That question came to the surface right after finishing my graduate work in 2014 and then again at the end of the following year. The first year was filled with its own unique challenges. There were weekly calls to mentors. I lost a file or two. I hope my students heard more than half of what I’ve said. At that end of the rough days, I questioned it all. But I keep going for the moment that just one student gets it. But still… So now what?

I can only speak from my own experience in balancing the newness of being a new professional and the self prescribed expectation of “This is year two. Am I technically new?” According to NASPA’s NPGS guidelines, yes I am. But there’s the weight of the thought that this still isn’t the first year. Should my program be better? Will my students ‘get it’ quicker? And for the love of everything… Can I just stop locking myself out of my office? We tend to forget to give ourselves the grace we give our students. Just like they are figuring it all out, we are still in that process as well.

Here are some things to remember beyond the first year…

  1. Be okay with more mistakes happening. I remember hitting day 365 and thought “Well I only broke that once or twice” “I only stuck my foot in my mouth like 18 times” and etc. Well year 2 or 3 or even 8 will hand you a new level of challenge. While we were handling the small fires in year 1, and let’s be honest, everything seems like a forest fire in year one, in the upcoming years more fires will happen. Shit will break. Capes will go on and yes I imagine some of my days conquering the world in a cape and blazer. But it will be ok. New lessons will be learned.
  2. Enjoy the non-busy times. I’m still working on this one but I’m slowly learning how to enjoy my down time and continue my learning, post-graduate program. And guess what? Not all of the reading has to do with our students or higher education. **Gasp!  There’s a balance between it all and while that balance may not happen in the same week or month, I encourage you to enjoy it.
  3. Make your mark. Some of the best advice I’ve been given is to make myself invaluable where I work. You can only do your job with your specific style and grace. Embrace that.
  4. Say YES to yourself first. Even if you have to scream it out to yourself and say it. YAAASSSS! Say it. It is one of the most liberating things you can do. While there is a certain amount of validation that comes from hearing someone else’s confidence in you and the product of your hard work, that confidence in yourself sets the tone for it all. In Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, she talks about the logic in telling herself yes. “I am not enthusiastic. But I am determined. My logic is wildly simple. It goes like this: Saying no has gotten me here. Here sucks. Saying yes might be my way to someplace better. If not a way to someplace better, at least to someplace different.” That place isn’t necessarily a new job. But it can be a place of happiness, a place of peace, a place of calmness. The idea of telling yourself yes might seem crazy but so is the thought of waiting for someone else to do it for you.

Asha Nettles is the Student Government Coordinator for Associated Students at Sonoma State University. She also serves at the Region VI Representative for the Spirituality and Religion Knowledge Community and chaired NASPA’s New Professionals and Graduate Student (NPGS) Conference Consortium at NASPA’s 2015 National Conference. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology (2011) and Masters of Science in Counseling with a specialization in Student Development in Higher Education (SDHE) (2014) from California State University, Long Beach.