13 Tips for New Professionals

For more than 13 years, I have supervised new professionals and experienced some similar behaviors, both positives and negatives. For those new professionals entering their first position in the coming months, I’m hopeful these 13 tips will help you develop effective and productive work habits right from the start. 

  1. Trust the process! As a new professional and new to the student union, take time to learn, understand, and follow existing systems. Once you have done that, you might have suggestions on how things could be done differently and want to speak up. You need to do it in an appropriate manner and at the right time. Folks have created systems and processes in a way that is working for the organization. Ask yourself some questions before sharing critiques with your boss: Is it the right time to bring it up? Is the department ready to make changes? Will it make a small or big difference? Is your dislike for current systems personal? So, take a deep breath and trust the process! There are reasons for it. 


  2. Be a role model to your student assistants. Especially in student activities, you will need to help with setup and breakdown of events, assist student assistants in running the event, or run errands for a program. Students will respect and learn from you as you show them how to handle tasks. This will help develop your students to do their tasks effectively. You are building a team, and need their trust if you want to instill great work habits.   


  3. Step outside of your comfort zone. It will help you expand your horizons, discover new perspectives, ideas, and knowledge. One way to do so is to join a committee in an area you like even if you have little experience with it, you will learn more as you work within the committee. You may also participate in retreats, conferences and/or seminars focused on a topic that interest you outside of your job duties.  


  4. Be organized, take notes. Be ready with a notepad or iPad for any meetings you will attend. There is no way you will retain everything your supervisor tells you during a regular meeting unless you write things down (deadlines, projects, comments, expectations or goals to reach). You won’t use all the notes immediately, but few months down the road, you might work on a project and remember something your supervisor said to you. You’ll be surprised how you might use that information to complete an assignment.


  5. Ask questions. It is fine to ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand something. There are no stupid questions, and it’s better to ask than assume something and then make mistakes or forget important details. 


  6. It’s not about you; it’s about the student (the end customer). You are providing a service or planning a program for all students on your campus. Keep this in mind especially when you have a bad day. When the delivery is successful or you met your desired outcomes, you will have made a difference in students’ college experience. Pat yourself in the back and keep moving.


  7. You cannot be the boss (at least right away!). This is your first professional job, so you will have a supervisor. Know it, accept it, and respect it! Your boss will give you directives and goals to accomplish. It is your responsibility to achieve them however you can. If your supervisor is a micromanager, they will want to know everything you do. Share your process for how you will get to the desired outcome. You want to build trust in your ability to get your assignments done. 


  8. If you must complain about something or disagree with a directive, be ready to explain why and have a suggestion. No boss will hear your complaint if you don’t explain how you’ll do things differently.


  9. Start building your professional library. When you attend a workshop or a conference, keep samples of materials and presentations and organize them by topics. You never know when you need something to prepare your own presentation, do a project, or solve a problem.


  10. Join a professional association and be active. The benefits are endless, you’ll built a network of colleagues, keep up to date with best practices in the field, and gain skills outside of your area (by volunteering). Volunteer if you can; it will make a difference in your career, professionally and personally.


  11. Take care of yourself, find a work/life balance that works for you, so that you can be productive at work and have a great quality of life. Learn your strengths and focus on them rather than your weaknesses.


  12. Recognize that your supervisor has also a boss. When your supervisor asks you for something with a strict deadline, make it a priority and get it done accurately. Don't huff and puff! Your boss might need that information to complete a task for their boss and will appreciate your quick response.


  13. Dress for the job you want and not the job you have! You want to dress professionally to build your image. Folks will remember you and treat you differently if you have a business attire versus dressing casual. Depending on your job duties, you may not be able to do so every day, so make an effort to do it at least two or three times a week especially if you attend meetings where administrators will be there.

Your experience as a new professional should be the greatest as it is the beginning of your journey through the student union/activities field. You want to gain the most out of your first job. Good luck, and I hope to meet you at an ACUI conference in the future! 

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