The Reality of the Transition from Student to New Professional

New public relations professional, Mike DeFilippis (far right), poses with (left to right) Robert Schneider, Aarthi Gunasekaran and Robert A. Brown at a Boston University open house event in April. Photo courtesy of Mike Defilippis.

New public relations professional, Mike DeFilippis (far right), poses with (left to right) Robert Schneider, Aarthi Gunasekaran and Boston University President Robert A. Brown at a BU open house event in April. Photo courtesy of DeFilippis.

This post is part of a series of “Lives of New Professionals” guest posts for Progressions.

Many things change when you transition from a student to a professional. You now earn a salary, but that new job comes with a whole host of new responsibilities, not to mention the physiological changes that come with changing from a frenetic college schedule to working set hours five days a week. Say hello to bedtime at 9 p.m. — seriously.

You also likely joined the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). If you haven’t yet, you can get a discounted PRSA associate membership as a former PRSSA member. By joining you’re likely looking for the same involvement in PRSA as a new professional that you had as a student in PRSSA. But take it from this new professional, only one year out, that there are a few things you should be weary of as you dive into the “real world.”

Be prepared for the bottom of the totem pole

We know this happens at every stage of life. As soon as you get to the top, you’re going to get knocked down. While you may have been on your PRSSA Chapter executive board, your position in PRSA (or for that matter, your job) will certainly be lower. I was Chapter president in my last year of PRSSA. I currently serve as the mentorship co-chair on the PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee. This is certainly not the top, but it has been a great place to start.

Your schedule is totally different

As mentioned above, new professionals now work set hours five days a week. And for me, pouring everything into my job is always my first priority. Then, and only then, when I have finished everything with respect to work — at least for the time being — am I able to divert energy into PRSA projects. As you evaluate your own priorities, this may mean sacrificing other things in life for the sake of time (e.g. Netflix, happy hour, etc.).

Set your initial goals low

This may seem a bit depressing, but it goes hand in hand with your different schedule. You may want to volunteer for everything, but just be careful that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. It will make a bad impression on others when you start missing deliverables to which you committed.

Transitioning from a student to a new professional and from PRSSA to PRSA is — and should be — exciting. Just make sure to not overwhelm yourself.

What are you most worried and/or excited about during your transition?

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Mike DeFilippis is an assistant project manager at Direct Impact, a wholly owned subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller and a member of the WPP family that specializes in grassroots mobilization and outreach. He is also the mentorship co-chair on the PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee. You can find him with a cup of coffee (or espresso) in hand while listening to country music. Follow him on Twitter @mgflip.

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12 Responses to The Reality of the Transition from Student to New Professional

  1. Erica Brown July 14, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    Great piece, Mike! I just started the transition… so far it’s more so obtaining that full-time job instead of a paid internship but hey, it’s better than nothing! Also trying to start a Sacramento NP Chapter here is my other goal!

    [Reply]

    Mike DeFilippis Reply:

    Thanks, Erica! Funny enough, I actually applied to be an intern first and then got the opportunity to interview for the full-time job without knowing. Sometimes folks take unpaid (!) internships after graduation so even getting paid is fantastic.

    It would be wonderful to have a New Pros Chapter out west as well, as I’m sure the rest of executive committee would be forever grateful.

    Cheers,
    Mike

    [Reply]

  2. Heather July 14, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    A 40-hour summer internship has given me a taste of that schedule adjustment. It really is a major change from the college schedule!

    My biggest worry of becoming a young pro is maintaining a social life. I don’t want work to get in the way of friendships, etc.

    [Reply]

    Mike DeFilippis Reply:

    Thanks, Heather! My social life definitely (probably too often) takes a back seat to work life. There is a balance, but it’s difficult to find.

    [Reply]

  3. Mike DeFilippis July 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    Thanks, Erica! Funny enough, I actually applied to be an intern first and then got the opportunity to interview for the full-time job without knowing. Sometimes folks take unpaid (!) internships after graduation so even getting paid is fantastic.

    It would be wonderful to have a New Pros Chapter out west as well, as I’m sure the rest of executive committee would be forever grateful.

    Cheers,
    Mike

    [Reply]

  4. Maggie July 15, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    Nice post. I graduated about a year and a half ago, did an internship right after graduation and now I am working full-time for that company. I would definitely say the schedule has been the biggest adjustment for me. During college, I waited tables, so the earliest I ever had to be at work was 10:30 a.m. and I was often there until 10 p.m. if I worked at night…I was a total night owl, and I definitely can’t do that anymore. It’s a lot easier to drag yourself to class after a late night than a job where you actually have to use your brain for eight hours straight!

    [Reply]

    Mike DeFilippis Reply:

    Thanks for the kind words, Maggie. Totally agree that the schedule is a difficult adjustment. I actually enjoy being a morning person, but that’s just me!

    [Reply]

  5. Neda B July 15, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    Really great insight and advice, always welcome. Currently, I am transitioning from a college student into a full-time employee as well. My previous internships and experiences have taught me how to time manage well and prioritize! I am not as worried as I would have been had I not immersed myself into work. You can always find time for a social life, but it is important in these early stages of your career that you showcase your skills and work ethic. There will be time for play!

    [Reply]

    Mike DeFilippis Reply:

    Thanks, Neda! Glad you found the post insightful.

    I wish my past internships had taught me more about prioritizing in additions to skills, but at least now I know what I have to focus on more.

    Agree that work ethic (in my mind at least) comes before socializing.

    [Reply]

  6. Mike DeFilippis July 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Thanks, Heather! My social life definitely (probably too often) takes a back seat to work life. There is a balance, but it’s difficult to find.

    [Reply]

  7. Lexie Digby July 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Loved this post! The transition from student to pro is something that has me a bit anxious as well. I am graduating in May 2015 but am staying for one year of grad school to get my master’s, so it leaves me with an awkward “I have a degree and I want to use it but I’m still going to be a full time student” situation.

    Any advice as to how I should approach that fifth year when it comes to applying for jobs or internships?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Mike DeFilippis Reply:

    Thanks, Lexie! Perhaps you could apply to internships and/or jobs with the intention of a flexible arrangement. If you still can provide value to the company or organization then I don’t think part-time will be an issue.

    [Reply]

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