Learn Fast or Be Left Behind

New role, new university, new community, same attitude – learn fast or be left behind. From undergrad to grad that was my attitude and it certainly has been for the transition from grad to my first professional role. Supervisors don’t expect new employees to know exactly how things work upon first hire, but I do believe they expect you to transition fast. The summer off between graduating from my undergrad institution and starting graduate school, I took the whole summer to prepare for a move from Alabama to Indiana. The time period from finishing graduate school and starting my first professional job, I had roughly two and half weeks to take care of business. I’ll be sure to tell the story on here in a future blog, it’s worth reading.

Whether a move is an hour down the road or half a country, there is a transition piece that must be taken into account. Just when I felt comfortable with a new university in graduate school I blinked and it was time to start applying for jobs.

New University, New Role

When I walked into my role as program coordinator in student activities, there was no choice but to learn fast if I was going to be successful. It’s not something you can do in a few days preparation and there were mistakes made. I admit that in graduate school when I felt most comfortable with my role was after having experienced the fall semester.

My experiences at two state universities are different than the experience of those who went to a private college or university. Working for a private religious institution has brought a new perspective on higher education. From traditions to the character of students and to the shared values, it’s a much different feel. This has to be accounted for when looking at one’s professional emersion to an unfamiliar college or university. For me to see all of the components that added to the big picture, it took time. Learn fast!

New Community/ New Friends

As no city or town is the same, I’ve known SA professionals who have turned down job opportunities because of where a town may be located. "It’s too far north," or "I prefer to be on the east coast or west coast" are things I heard during job search. Not that I didn’t say some of those things myself. New communities can add to your happiness! The transition is still a transition. Without prior knowledge, you are not likely to know where to shop, find a dentist or doctor, etc. I have an SA friend who has to drive 30 minutes to get to the grocery store! Don’t tell me that a new community isn’t an adjustment.

I chose to move to a city where I didn’t know one person before the move. I’ve done this now twice in my life. Though, not a huge problem, I did it once in graduate school, surely, I said to myself I could do it again. I didn’t consider with the move into a professional role the difference between starting a graduate program and starting a professional role. In graduate school I walked into a program with 30 plus other graduate students who were of similar age as I and with similar dreams. Depending on your situation, you may not have any connections in your new community. If you like me have implanted in a new community away from family and friends, there are things we as SA professionals can do to solve this problem. Reaching out to new professionals with your college or university, joining and becoming involved in local student affairs networks (associations, conferences) and involvement in local community organizations for young professionals are just a few options that have helped me with the transition.

Same ole attitude and I’m proud to say that I survived crazy transition round number two. Would I go back and do it again – of course. That’s what we do in student affairs until it’s on to the next adventure.

Joshua Wilson

Student Affairs - the First Years

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