From Student to Professional: A Reflection by a New Professional in Aging

I could not wait to get out of school! I love to learn and I enjoy meeting new people, but I was burnt out on the numerous papers and projects and deadlines. I was desperate for a break. A BREAK!? What was I thinking? Since when is work considered a break? I would always hear people say, “Just wait, soon you will wish you could be a student again.” With my framed diploma on my office wall, I now miss being a student, but really enjoy what I do and the field I have chosen. Twenty months ago I received my Masters in Social Work from Loyola University. I am very grateful for the internship opportunities that accompanied the Hartford Fellowship program and School of Social Work at Loyola. Those experiences assisted my transition from the ‘student study world’ to the ‘professional working world.’ There definitely are certain aspects of becoming a professional that I feel are specific to the culture of Chicago and the field of aging.

Getting to know Who is Who in Chicago’s Field of Aging

The network in Chicago’s field of aging is tight. People name drop all the time, and as a new professional it can be hard to know who is who. I found it really important to get out there! From the beginning, I have tried to get involved in as many meetings of professionals in the field as possible. This helped as I learned which agencies did what for whom, and who ran such programs. As active as I am, I’m still trying to learn just exactly who is who and what is what in this field after two years. I believe there is an emerging professional learning curve, and so far I have definitely enjoyed the ride!

I am Important to Know in the Aging Field too!

As a new professional in the field, it can be a challenge to think of yourself as one of the gang. For so long I have been the observer, the student and the learner. Now I see myself “emerging” as an expert, as someone to know…once a lowly student, now a professional still willing to learn and grow, but also ready to serve and teach. I read a very comprehensive personal experience from a fellow social worker that I resonate with. Check out the article, From Student to Professional: Making the Transition. Jennifer, the author, reflects on the differences between being a student intern and transitioning to a full time professional. Although written over ten years ago, I can see similarities in my own personal experience. In my reflection, I find it important to examine the issues of “breaking into the field.” It’s almost like a clique, a tight group of persons who are interested in the same field in a similar area, and together their collective knowledge makes up the field. I wonder, is there an initiation process to being a part of this clique, or is it self-selected?

The Chicago Bridge is my transition assistance

I am very thankful to the Chicago Bridge group for assisting in my transition. Although the intention of this post was not to advertise for the Bridge, after writing these words I find that where I am on my ride along the professional learning curve has a lot to do with the support and camaraderie the group and its members has supplied that was, and still is very important. This group gave me easy access to a network of people in very similar career transitional stages as I am. We can share our stories, and grow together. This has been monumental. If you are a student or emerging professional in the field of aging the Chicago Bridge is a group for you! To join just fill out a new member form at http://www.thechicagobridge.org/bridge-membership/ . It is really easy to join and opens so many opportunities for you as a new professional in this field. Please check out a recent article about the 2010 plan for the Chicago Bridge. This post was edited by Abby Smith Picture provided courtesy of: CarbonNYC on Flickr.