I Look Like a Student But I Teach The Class: Being a Young, Fresh, N’ New Professional

Play this song in the back while you read this post: Young, Fresh, N’ New by Kelis ♫


Not sure the significance yet but I’m going to try to make the connections somewhere in this post. 

So since my last post (which has been quite a while), I have started my first full-time position as a student affairs professional, which is quite exciting! I’m in a new area in a school I am very interested in, working in an area that I am quite passionate about: leadership development. This position truly excites me because unlike a lot of other leadership development offices across higher education, my office is kind of like the bridge between academic affairs and student affairs. In addition to being an administrative staff person, I also will be teaching students. For my future career aspirations, this is actually an amazing first step (that’s for another post for another day). For my now, this has been somewhat of an internal and external social struggle.

*sigh* “To be young…”

A major theme that my transition into my new role has highlighted for me has definitely been about being young and being in my position where I will be the facilitator and the teacher. In particular, I have been thinking about it in comparison to the rest of my staff only because of the different points of life each of us are in. Also I am beginning to think about how I will show up in a classroom and trying to navigate and overcome the fears that I fall out of balance in between trying too hard to demonstrate authority and being someone who wants to help my students make an impact. In addition to all of those apprehensions, I also consider my physical appearance. I look young (SN: Black don’t crack). While I will not get into specific details out of respect for my colleagues and my work, I will say that those feelings of imposter syndrome come up time and time again. However, my staff have been pretty helpful during my transition and have reminded me that I need to do what brings me comfort and credibility as a young professional.

“Freaky freaky fresh!”

Another part of my transition has allowed me to think about what kind of energy and expertise am I bringing to my office and will bring into the classroom. I do not take for granted how as a young professional with multiple identities , I had to navigate my own experiences in developing as a student leader and as a professional. I think that I can provide context from sharing my personal experiences and doing additional research to begin to answer the developing questions about leadership. My transition has also challenged me to begin to think about the STEM student culture, at least for my institution. Working at a technological research institution where most of the students are future engineers is an adjustment, especially for me coming from a liberal arts undergraduate education. I have to develop skills in communicating with my students with more logical and technical language (which as a “touchy-feely” person will be an uphill battle) and at the same time, teach and help my students develop emotional intelligence. The great part about all of this is that I have some things to learn from them and vice versa.

“Who’s that girl? Who’s that girl? It’s [Karyn]!”  (Use the New Girl jingle.)

Surprisingly, being a new professional has actually been the least of my worries during my transition. I come at my institution at a time of new ideas, new visions, and new comers. It would have been strange to be one of the few new staff members to join a student affairs division, but that’s not the case. Even before I started working, I was already making connections and joining communities at my institution. Moving to a new area where I do not know many people, I was very adamant on developing connections at work first (especially because I will spend most of my time at work). Although I still have more people to meet and more bridges to build, I am relieved that I do not have to wear that invisible “I’m new, please be my friend” badge on my forehead.

Honestly, my transitional period is still in effect. But I could not go another month without acknowledging that it’s off to a good start.