It feels as if the past year has been nothing but transitioning. Moving across the country. Starting an assistantship position. Getting back into the swing of school. Building a new (albeit temporary) life. And that was all in the span of one month! Since starting my graduate program at UConn, I’ve since transitioned into one assistantship, two practicums, twelve classes, one ACUHO-I internshipp, and countless other opportunities along the way.
I’ve learned a few things that are guiding my thoughts for the eventual transition that’s heading my way in oh, 237 days or so. Not that I’m counting, of course!
Lesson #1: You bring value to the table because of your unique experiences and knowledge.
I entered my assistantship in alumni relations last fall as the only staff member with a student affairs focus. My main responsibility was advising a student board created, among other purposes, to serve as an engaged young alumni pipeline. I may not have known alumni relations, but I knew students. In meetings about development initiatives, I realized my past experiences brought a new perspective to the team. I was told within my first month they valued my student affairs lens and that my input was important.
Know that as you transition into new environments doing work that you may have never done before (shout out to all the new #SAGrad students in different functional areas as a GA), your experiences and knowledge are valuable additions and fresh perspective that your team can appreciate.
Lesson #2: Sometimes, you don’t have to know what you’re there to learn.
My summer ACUHO-I internship at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH started with a one-on-one with my supervisor asking “So, what do you want to learn?” As someone who had never worked in residence life, I stammered a rambling answer basically amounting to “I have no idea.” As I had more conversations with staff members, recalled residential life experiences of my colleagues, and got a better sense of my internship, I began to formulate learning outcomes with my supervisor’s help. The internship ended two months later having achieved those learning outcomes and even more that I hadn’t expected.
As you transition into different opportunities and positions, you won’t always know from the beginning what you’ll end up learning. Any experience in this field, whether it’s amazing throughout or you realize that you’ve learned some important lessons through the struggle, can result in learning that you don’t have to have perfectly planned out beforehand.
Lesson #3: There are so many people to help you along the way.
Throughout the past year, I’ve learned that there are people who want to help you make moves within the field. When transitioning out of my last role at The Ohio State University, my supervisor was instrumental and selfless in helping me pursue graduate school. Between the logistics of applying, critically reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses that I was looking to improve, and celebrating my successes in admissions offers, she was there the entire journey. A former director of the office where I worked as an undergrad talked with me for hours at ACPA this past year when I was struggling to process my place in this field after a tough and soul-searching semester. My practicum coach at UConn who still meets me for coffee is one of the sole reasons that I felt I had someone who cared about me as a graduate student and a person in that first semester.
The people that you meet in this field will help you make those important transitions in your career, in your continuous process of education, and in your life. Lean on your people when you need it. Lift them up yourself when they need it. Know that each transition gives you the amazing opportunity to add to the people who are in your corner. For me, this lesson becomes clearer each day.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following four awesome people: Michelle, Sara, Thalia, and Holly. Join us as they blog monthly about a year in their journey as a new SA Pro or SA grad. We are proud to help them share their stories.