Finding Your Professional Identity – in the Place You Were a Student

As a fairly recent college grad, I am navigating the waters of my first full time, professional job like a lot of my fellow Class of 2017 (and now 2018!) graduates. I have just passed the one year mark in my position as the Center for Career Development and Educational Resource Center’s Student Outreach Coordinator, and I am incredibly lucky to love my job, and to have the opportunity to help fellow terriers every day. My experience in the “real world”, however, has been slightly different from a lot of my friends, since the “real world” for a lot of friends, in Boston or otherwise, doesn’t involve seeing (and being on!) their alma mater’s campus everyday.

Being a student (and student employee) at Boston University, or any college, is a lot different than working full-time at one. I love working in higher education, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a year of great experiences as a BU employee, but it’s normal to feel a little lost (and to have a weird sense of deja vu) at first! Here are my recommendations of how to form your professional identity in the same space where you formed your academic identity- and how they may differ.

Take Advantage of Professional Development Opportunities

Working in a place of education has incredible perks, especially a large institution like BU! Take advantage of seminars, conferences, listening sessions, and more – they are held all around campus, year round. In the past year I’ve attended meetings and discussions about meditation and wellness, supporting students with disabilities, supporting international students, advising techniques, and more. I’ve met professors and staff at these presentations from around the university, and even been in lecture halls and buildings that I never entered as a student.

By being open to new opportunities and learning beyond the classroom at BU, I’ve been able to learn so much from those around me. I am then able to use these skills in my own job, and connect to my coworkers and student workers in new ways. (Plus, how cool is it that on year six of me being at BU, I can still find places and resources that are new to me?)

Get to Know Your Coworkers 

This may seem obvious, but really getting to know the people I work with has been one of the best things I’ve done at BU. I am incredibly lucky to have known some of my coworkers when I was a student employee in the CCD and ERC, but I’ve been amazed how much better I’ve gotten to know them over the past year. I’ve been able to connect with those I barely knew, and have connected with new arrivals to BU, too!

Everyone around you has all different types of backgrounds, past work experiences, and specialties, and I am always asking those who work around me for advice, professional and personal. They are a great resource for tips about being a student supervisor, possibly pursing another degree, and just giving a fresh perspective and opening my eyes to a part of BU I didn’t know before. Through telling me their stories, they’ve inspired me to brainstorm about my own – and ways I can improve and things I want to pursue in the future.

Live Outside of the “Bubble”

As an undergrad, I lived on campus all four years, and loved it. I would visit friends in off-campus apartments in Allston occasionally, too. When it came time for to find a place to live after graduation, I specifically chose to live farther out from BU’s campus, (aka outside of the “BU Bubble”) in a new neighborhood, and this decision was a great one for me, to separate the BU college version of myself from the BU staff version. My commute is a little longer, but I get to read or listen to music in the mornings, and the distance from my alma mater makes it feel like I really have graduated from my on-campus life.

Plus, I’ve been able to explore new neighborhoods in Boston, find new favorite restaurants and libraries, and see a whole new side of BU-life. Living outside the “Bubble” has allowed me to separate my professional life from my personal, and as a result, has made me prioritize my work-life balance and realize that that is such an important part of any employee’s professional identity.

Do Your Own Research!

As obvious as it sounds, a great resource when I first arrived was stack of articles my supervisor printed out for me, all about transitioning from college to a full-time job, supervising students, prioritizing work-life balance, and growing your skills and forming your professional identity. Your first job is an exciting time, and it’s the perfect time to think explore! Spend some time reflecting on your past work experiences, and what you liked or didn’t like about them. Brainstorm ways you want your first full-time potion to differ from those past internships or jobs, and do some digging to find out ways you can achieve this. Your professional identity is something that grows with you, as you move forward on your journey. Much like your resume (and LinkedIn profile!) you will keep updating it and shaping it in the way that serves you best, throughout your career.

And having chosen Boston University once already (for undergrad), you already know first hand what a great place it is to support you and send you on your journey of exploration.

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