The transition from student to worker is one that many people struggle with. The transition from new professional to full-fledged member of a profession can be just as challenging at times. New professional groups and grants specifically geared to new professionals can help ease the transition into professional life. But, what defines a new professional? Years in the field? Years since graduation? Type of position?
The National Council on Public History (NCPH) defines new professionals as”individuals, such as recent graduates of public history programs, who have been working within the public history profession for less than three years.” Conversely, the advocacy of the Society of American Archivists roundtable, Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) focuses on “students, interns, new professionals, early-career project archivists, and archivists who are still looking for their first professional jobs.”
Most professional associations have variations on these definitions of new professionals. Personally I prefer the SNAP definition of new professional as it does not assign an arbitrary timeline to the new professional transition period. Depending on circumstances becoming fulling emerged in a profession can take as little as a year or as long as several years. Circumstances which can impact this development might include: type of employment, opportunities for professional development, and opportunities for interaction with others in the field.
I don’t think there is a magic cut off point where you stop being a new professional. But, I think over time as your experiences continue to grow, you begin to realize that you have knowledge which others in the field could benefit from. Perhaps, the biggest part of this transition is gaining confidence in your skills and place inside the profession. Even the newest professionals have perspectives that are worth sharing — it sometimes just takes awhile for them to gain the courage to share it.
Personally, I had an ‘okay, so maybe I’m further along than I thought I was’ moment when speaking with undergrad and graduate students who are looking at their career and education prospects. I’m at the point where, I can begin to provide some anecdotal examples of job successes and failures, job milestones, and valuable skill building. I’ve held a number of volunteer and paid positions which emphasize different aspects of public history and I’ve come to realize what type or work I enjoy and what type bores me to tears. I think this realization is partially what made more confident in my place within the public history profession.
Mentor programs, professional development courses, and ongoing education have also helped me gain my footing in a new professional world. Some programs have definitely been more worthwhile than others, but I think talking to other people and continuing to learn new skills are something which all new professionals can engaging in to make their transition easier.
How do you define the term ‘new professional’? What programs helped you as a new professional?