Dec 21, 2017
Darren Verasammy
Darren Verasammy, SNC-Lavalin

Transitioning from student to Emerging Professional can be compared to a metamorphosis of sorts. During our post-secondary education, we are like a caterpillar entering a chrysalis, where we will gain the knowledge and skills necessary for survival in a fiercely competitive business world. However, emerging as a professional butterfly is a more remarkable change. To transform into a professional that not only survives but thrives, with the freedom to carve his or her own path, we need additional exposure to the world outside of the student’s insulated cocoon. This article offers insights into how to leverage your time as an EP to develop and sharpen some of the most important transition skills, with the goal of shortening your time in the developmental cocoon and finding success in your professional career.

Some of the most important transition skills are the ability to communicate with others at a high level; properly network; build upon relationships; seek out new opportunities; leave your comfort zone; set priorities; analyze risk and take calculated risks; and create a career for yourself as opposed to a string of jobs.

As we begin to take flight, we need to further develop and gain a deeper understanding of additional skills needed to navigate the complex business landscape. We must be able to speak and write well; solve problems; understand and practice traits such as empathy; and operate with a high level of integrity. We must also be able to work collaboratively within a team environment, while remaining resourceful enough to work independently. Lastly, we must maintain a thirst for knowledge and be eager and willing to constantly reinvent ourselves.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. There are many other factors at play, but to realistically develop these skills to a level that can make a difference, they need to be learned—and learning requires time. There are many ways to put yourself into places and positions where you can get the time needed to hone these skills.

Whether you’re still in school or already part of the workforce, the following are four simple ways to develop each of the aforementioned traits. Each can start out as a small endeavor, but provides the opportunity to contribute more of your time and energy if you so choose. These actions can be taken in any order you want:

  1. Attend IES Section meetings. If you don’t know when and where the meetings take place, go to your Section’s website. This will help you get a handle on what is going on, and will give you an opportunity to hear from all committees and their chairs, so you can get involved with the committee that interests you most.
  2. Volunteer to help out at an IES event in any way, shape or form. You will, at a minimum, get to know the members of your Section.
  3. Organize an IES event yourself, or work together with other members of your Section to further the activities of the Section and/or connect with the lighting community in your area. It usually takes a lot of work, but it will be a great way to test out your new skills and give you immense satisfaction if you’re able to pull off a successful event.
  4. Become a chair of a committee and join the Board of your local Section.

Are you beginning to see how leveraging the existing activities of the IES and its Sections can help you shorten the time needed in the developmental cocoon and break out in a powerful way? By leaving your comfort zone and putting yourself in new situations, you are not waiting—you are taking action. The more time and effort you direct at these four activities, or some combination of these activities, the more experience you will gain, and the faster you will be able to develop and sharpen essential skills. You can even put your newly acquired skills on your résumé and market yourself using the experiences you have now gained.

There will be hard lessons learned along the way that you will never forget—you might even discover a hidden talent, or something about yourself that you didn’t know before—but you will definitely have fun and meet new and interesting people on the journey. So, how long do you want to spend in your cocoon?