The result of this project has been a long-awaited one, and I apologize for those who expected it sooner!
In truth, expectations play a big role in the results of the project. In talking to more than 20 professionals, I realized that one of the biggest factors leading to success in a new role is the level of comfort one feels going into a job, comfort with one’s new lifestyle and the expectations from those around him or her.
To start, I’ll include a few statements that were given as responses to questions I posed.
What did your graduate program do to prepare you for your step into graduate life?
Interview preparation, higher ed law, meeting and event planning, group dynamics (important for working with others)
We had internships, assistantships, and great advisors/mentors in the field that were the biggest help in preparing me for professional life.
Not much. While I had one professor who helped immensely with advice whenever needed, our program left it up to our Graduate Student Association to educate soon to be professionals on the dos and don’t s of post-masters work. (I know of several programs that use this approach- has it been effective? Would it be more responsible for faculty and professional mentors to take on this particular responsibility? Why or why not?)
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your first year on the job?
I’ve learned that no one will truly know what you think or feel unless you speak up.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it takes time to affect change, and sometimes you have to be patient.
Being “perfect” in grad school does NOT mean you will be perfect on the job. There are real life politics one will encounter and will have to learn to navigate.
To find a community outside of work to connect with. While I enjoy the people that I work with, I need to find an outlet outside of work.
What do you wish you had learned before leaving graduate school?
Not so much. I think someone I’ve seen other new professionals struggle with is the idea that when you move to a new institution/department/position, the first item on your to-do list can’t be “change everything about this job”
|Life as a new pro is a tough balancing act sometimes.|
I wish I had done a bit more research on the city I was moving to, and on the staff I was becoming a part of. If I had had a bit more time, I think I would have been able to create a more accurate picture of what I was becoming a part of.
I wish additional faculty members discussed the concept of ambiguity. One faculty member discussed it constantly…
As I went through these responses, and reflected on my own pair of first year experiences (my first prior to grad school, and my first after), I realized that these responses, and ones like them, are rooted in expectation. When we go to graduate school, we expect a lot when we leave. We expect to love our first position. We expect to be heard and to be able to effect change right away. We expect the opportunity to have fulfilling personal and professional lives right off the bat. But when these expectations are met differently from how we originally imagined, there can be frustration and discord.
I did a presentation with Kelley McCarthy at the NASPA-FL drive in about advice from new professionals and mid-level managers to graduating master’s students. The main takeaway from that presentation was management of expectations. Like one respondent said earlier, speak up! If you expect something, or something is different from how you thought it would be, say something. You might not be able to change anything, but at least the expectation is addressed. Similarly, be thoughtful as you interview at an institution. You may not (and likely will not) get a fully accurate picture of your office, department, or division of student affairs during your time on the phone or on campus. But if you have non-negotiable expectations (e.g. a personal life outside of work, a environment amenable to change), you have to let them know what you need. Otherwise, neither side will get what they want from the relationship.
And if you’re already in a position, heading into your second year (or third, or any other year!), use the beginning of the year as a natural opportunity to reassess and voice your expectations. With a supervisor, coworker, partner, whoever needs to know! Maybe it won’t serve as a solution for any angst that may have built up during year one, but it has the potential to be a start. Sometimes that’s all you need!