While it’s hard for me to believe that almost a decade has passed since I moved into my freshman-year dorm room in Speare Hall, these past ten years have flown by because they have been full. I’m not sure whether my eighteen-year-old self would have believed me if I told her that she would be an attorney in just ten short years, but I am sure that my five-year journey as a Husky laid the foundation for my current career path. I have had the pleasure, and the pain, of five years of personal and professional growth since graduating from Northeastern, during which several lessons have come into focus. They have helped me navigate the often-tricky and ever-changing process of becoming a professional, and I share them here with the hope that they help you, the newly graduated or soon-to-be graduated Husky.
Be patient with yourself. It’s ok to not have everything precisely figured out on graduation day (or five years later, for that matter). Active investigation into and investment in figuring out your professional persona may take trial and error, it may take more time than you thought, and it may take you down an unanticipated path, but it will make your professional life more rewarding. While my classroom and co-op experiences directed me toward the law, I took time after graduation to work in the field. That time proved to be invaluable because it gave me the space to gain perspective on my prospective career path, to synthesize the lessons I learned in my undergraduate courses with my new life beyond college, and to contextualize the lessons I was about to learn during law school. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time you need to examine and vet your proposed next steps after graduation.
Setbacks and discomfort are ok; in fact, if you’re growing, they’re inevitable. These past five years have taught me a lot about how I deal with my imperfections, with negative feedback, and with situations where I felt uncomfortable and inadequate. Setbacks and uncomfortable situations highlight our insecurities, are often unexpected, and are almost always painful; however, they also go hand-in-hand with change, growth, and self-awareness. Setbacks have stretched me to become a better practitioner, professional, and person because they highlighted the skills I needed to gain and hone, and they gave me insight into how my profession functions. Likewise, throwing myself into situations where I had no idea what I was doing revealed that I am capable of more than I expect and showed me that measured risk-taking reduces regret, regardless of the outcome, and paves the way for future successes.
Maintain relationships with your mentors. I have had the great fortune of having several mentors who have generously given their advice and invested their time for the benefit of my career. They have met me for coffee, have written letters of recommendation on my behalf, and have believed in my abilities. These relationships have not only helped me get that first job, but they have helped me get subsequent—and unexpected—jobs down the road. Find someone who does what you want to do, does something that interests you, or is willing to help you assess your professional skills and goals. Then, maintain that relationship. Mentor relationships can help bridge the gap between your undergraduate life and your professional life, and it’s a great feeling to have someone in your corner.
Congratulations on reaching this milestone, and good luck with the many milestones to come!
Liz Tashash graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2010 and graduated from Suffolk University Law School with a Juris Doctor in 2014. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar and is currently working as a judicial law clerk for the Connecticut Superior Court. Prior to beginning her clerkship, she taught for a semester as an adjunct professor in the Communication Studies Department with the help of her mentor, Dr. Greg Goodale, Associate Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs and Associate Professor. She thanks Greg for his long-standing mentorship. Liz can be reached at email@example.com.