First Jobs: Graduate Student to Young Professional

By Greg Rosenberg, Leigh Eskin, & Rebecca Hale

Your resume captured your experience, you dressed your professional best, and you handled your interview like a champ. You’ve been HIRED! Now what? Transitioning into your first job from graduate school is exciting and challenging. Three 2013 graduates from the Florida State University’s Master of Science and Specialist in Education Career Counseling program recount their transitions and share best practices.


Rebecca’s Experience


Upon leaving FSU in May 2013, I accepted a position at my undergraduate institution, The University of Virginia, as a Health and Law Professions Advisor/Counselor in University Career Services. Yes, it was nice to start my first professional job working in a familiar environment; but now I was an employee and not a student which brought new challenges and a new identity. The university culture was familiar; but my job was brand new. Here are a few strategies that eased my transition:


Understanding Services and Resources

To effectively assist students in my new role I needed to familiarize myself with all the services and resources available to U.Va. students. In the beginning, it was overwhelming to learn all the specific details necessary to advise and counsel students interested in the health and law professions (prerequisites, application cycles, clinical/internship opportunities, exceptions, etc.). When learning new resources, I found it most useful to review the resources on my own, observe a veteran staff member using the resource, and then use it myself with a student. During my first several weeks I spent most of my time shadowing veteran staff members.


Being Adaptable

My graduate program introduced me to flexibility and adaptability; but my new position took these skills to a new level. Meetings, appointments, presentations, and the occasional tour(s) of U.Va’s grounds were all aspects I faced in my daily schedule. Within two weeks of being hired, I flew to Philadelphia for a conference. Even though it was hectic to plan out my trip details before officially starting my job, I was fortunate to have this professional development opportunity so early in my new position.


Leigh’s Experience


When I graduated from FSU in May 2013, I could not believe how much I had accomplished and grown. I felt ready to tackle the world with my new degree, and was eager to begin my first full-time job. It took a good few months to land and secure my position as an Academic Advisor in the Psychology Department at The Ohio State University (my Alma Mater University). I have been in this position for two months and have outlined some strategies below:


Returning to Study Mode

When you graduate with your degree, you are absolutely not done learning or studying! I was amazed at how much I needed to know (e.g. petitions, course numbers, “exceptions” to the rules.) My training sessions would last hours, and I found that using a tablet was great for keeping notes and organizing them. I still reference these notes now; and am glad I stayed organized in the beginning because it is truly paying off.


Incorporating Your Specialties

Academic Advising is one of my main duties, but I am so happy that I have been able to implement my career counseling skills. In addition to delivering career presentations and teaching the Careers in Psychology course, I use targeted career questions with almost every one of my students. On almost a daily basis, students tell me that they feel very lucky to have me as their advisor. They appreciate that I focus on their career pursuits, rather than just their academics.


Greg’s Experience:


Upon graduating from Florida State University, I had absolutely no idea where I would end up. I had been living in Tallahassee, FL for the past 7 years and was very involved in the community, but felt that the opportunity to try something new was one that I could not let slip through my fingers. After weighing the options that were presented to me, I made the decision to become a Career Counselor at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (SUNY) and I could not be happier with my decision. Moving across the country was a daunting feat, but here are a couple strategies that I incorporated in order to make the transition from graduate school to the “real world” a little more manageable:


Embracing the Environment

At the workplace, I have made it my goal to learn at least one new thing about a co-worker, the university, or the Career Services office every day. Although, at first, there was quite a bit more than one thing learned each day, the opportunities for these learning moments have become more and more intentional. I have found that the more I learn about my environment, the more I have a sense of belonging and “ownership” at the workplace. This principle applies to leisure activities as well. Embracing the history and activities in my community has allowed me to get to know some great people and get involved with the revitalization of the city of Buffalo.


Taking Time for Reflection

What a “counselor” thing to say… Some of the most impactful moments in my career thus far have occurred during a lunch or 5 o’clock hour in which I have taken a couple moments to reflect on what I am doing well, the tasks I am involved with (priority setting), and the ways I can improve. Bringing these topics up with my supervisor is also helpful as they produce discussions that lead to continued improvement at work and less stress outside of it.




Learning, adapting, and reflecting are important to do as you transition from student to young professional. Building a solid foundation of skills in graduate school will ease your transition into the workforce; but maintaining balance in your professional role requires organization and flexibility. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes (because you will) and always take the opportunity to learn from them. Seek guidance from veteran staff members. Remember to set aside time for yourself and reflect on your experiences. Most importantly, be confident in your abilities and keep moving forward!




Rebecca HaleRebecca Hale, Ed.S., NCC, is a Health and Law Professions Advisor/Counselor in University Career Services at The University of Virginia. She is a graduate of The University of Virginia with a B.A. in Psychology, and of The Florida State University with a M.S./Ed.S. in Counseling and Human Systems with a concentration in Career Counseling. Currently, Rebecca advises and counsels students interested in pursuing careers in the health and law professions. Rebecca can be reached at: rrhale@virginia.edu




Leigh EskinLeigh Eskin, Ed.S., NCC is an Academic Advisor in the Psychology Department at The Ohio State University. She graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A. in Psychology, and then continued to Florida State University to complete an M.S./Ed.S. with a specialization in Career Counseling. She serves as the career counseling strategist for the department in addition to advising students towards their academic and career goals. Leigh can be reached at: eskin.21@osu.edu.




Greg RosenbergGreg Rosenberg, Ed.S, NCC is a Career Counselor at the University at Buffalo where he primarily provides counseling and programming services to First Year students on campus. He graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Social Work and Counseling and Human Systems with a concentration in Career Counseling. Outside of career development, you can find Greg watching Florida State football and writing/talking in the third person. Greg can be reached at: gregrose@buffalo.edu

1 Comment

Elizabeth Craig on Saturday 11/02/2013 at 12:28AM wrote:

Thank you Greg, Leigh & Rebecca for sharing your best practices for student transitions to professional positions. You each focused on important points making the article very interesting to read. I look forward to seeing more articles by each of you.

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