Your Professional Career is Knocking At Your Door

Alyssa Wendel, NASPA IV-W Kansas Membership Representative

November 22, 2017

As we approach the New Year, I will have been in a professional role for two years. I cannot believe it! I swear grad school was just yesterday. Throughout my time in graduate school, I had mentors and supervisors who pushed me to be my best. They pushed all of us to be active participants on-campus, start volunteering at conferences, submit poster proposals, submit educational session proposals, and get involved in any way possible. At the time, it sometimes seemed overwhelming. However, I almost always had at least one presentation at a conference, whether it was a poster presentation, a short SA Talk, or an educational session. I did this because my mentors believed in me and every single one of us in my cohort. As mid-level and senior level professionals, they knew what was going to benefit us in the long run. They were there to be our support system when no one else knew what you were talking about when you said you’re getting your master’s degree in higher education. As pictured above, my classmates, mentors, and supervisors were able to reunite at our regional conference in Lincoln.

During my first interview for a professional position, I can clearly remember the Associate Dean of Students say, “You have done a lot of conference presentations.” At the time, it did not mean what it means to me today. During graduate school, it was the norm for us to present, volunteer, and be as active as possible on campus and through professional organizations. Now, almost two years later, I look back and see how active I was on-campus and with professional organizations with great pride. Constantly looking to be more active on my own campus and professional associations became routine for me. I’m not telling you this to brag about my graduate program or myself. I am sharing this with you because I know how important those things are to you in the long run. Had I not been an active participant in professional organizations during graduate school, I would not know the importance of getting involved in my professional career.  

As a new professional, you will struggle to find what is right for you. You’re going from approximately 19 hour work weeks to 40 plus hours, so use this time to explore how you can become active on your campus or in a professional association. I’ve recently been talking to colleagues about shoulder tapping our students to encourage them to be more active on campus, specifically in leadership roles. What about those who are shoulder tapping you right now in graduate school? When professionals are strategically shoulder tapping you, there is a reason for it. Growing up I played sports and you always thought the coach “hated” you if they were always yelling and telling you to do things. It took time to learn those coaches who were hounding me really had my best interest in mind and wanted me to be the best player I could be. It’s the same scenario here; your mentors and supervisors are helping you become the student affairs professional you dream to be. Take advantage of them pushing you to be your best. As you become a student affairs professional, remember those who were shoulder tapping you along the way and as you become a supervisor or mentor, you can be the one shoulder tapping them and helping others grow into strong student affairs professionals.

As you start your professional career, ask questions and make yourself available. If you wait to be asked to join a committee, you’re too late.  I’d like to share a few things with you that I believe will help you now as a graduate student and into your professional position. Utilize your professors, mentors, and supervisors; they are the ones who can share their experiences with you and lend a hand along the way. Your supervisors, mentors, and professors are there to help you be successful; take advantage of that! Your classmates are going through the same experiences you are and can help you in a time of need; they will become some of your closest friends. They will also become a network group for you as you become a professional; when you have an incident happen on your campus, they will be the ones you turn to later. Do as much as you possibly can, which may mean stepping out of your comfort zone; whether that is attending as many conferences as you can or presenting as many times as possible, do it! If you stay in your comfort zone, you cannot grow. We want you to grow into the student affairs professional YOU want to be. My last suggestion is to take in as much as you possibly can. In a blink of an eye, those two years of graduate school will be over and you will be looking for a full-time position. 

What’s Happening in Region IV-West

As one of your Region IV-West Membership Coordinators, I hope we were able to connect at the regional conference last month, but if we didn’t, I would encourage you to reach out to your state membership coordinator. We work as a link between you and NASPA to create meaningful involvement opportunities for members like you. Last month, we enjoyed the beautiful state of Nebraska for our regional conference where we had the opportunity to learn from others and continue to build relationships with colleagues across the region. We hope you can continue to network with those colleagues throughout the year.

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