By Maria Claudia Reed, Brown and Caldwell

As expected, transitioning from college to the working world can be challenging. Coming from long library sessions, papers, exams and even a more relaxed social life to a full-time job can be somewhat overwhelming. It is certainly a new environment and it is not unusual to feel unprepared.

According to a Forbes Magazine article published in December of 2016, millennials are still having a hard time finding reasonable jobs, despite being an up-and-coming, in-demand generation. The millennial unemployment rate stands at an unfortunate 12.8 percent, compared to the national average of 4.9 percent.

Undoubtedly, there are many ways we can go through this transition successfully and beat numbers like Forbes’s. Unfortunately, I cannot answer that complex process, nevertheless, I will share my personal experience and what I have learned so far on this ceaselessly growing path.

I vividly remember my first day of class in my last semester of college. It was my CASPTONE lecture, Water Resources and Treatment offered by the College of Engineering. The course is intended to give students practice in solving real world problems that increases their learning experience. An added benefit to this class was the opportunity for students to undertake projects and two of them are selected to compete at the Florida Water Resources Conference (FWRC). It was obvious to me that it would not be an easy commitment, but being aware of these great intangible benefits made me feel compelled to take it. Consequently, participating in this competition introduced me to my first professional association directly related to the water industry, the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA). Personally, public speaking was the biggest challenge of all. Talking to other professionals seemed to be frightening, and at times it was, however, I was not alone. The more I got myself involved, the easier it became. The help and camaraderie of other young professionals within FWEA got me through it, and still does.

Every career development event underlines how important networking is. But “networking is so much more than exchanging business cards over hors d’oeuvres. Networking entails being active in professional organizations, or meeting one-on-one with a new colleague. A basic sociology principle will tell us that we develop real relationships with people only when personal interactions are made. It creates solid and durable connections, allowing us to openi doors and to reach out for information and guidance.

Logically, that same principle holds true in workplace. Stepping out of my comfort zone has allowed me to learn and participate on projects where my technical skills have been challenged. It has been a somewhat painful process, but has brought much improvement of my skills. As a new young professional, it is vital to recognize individual talents and identify how to mount them for an industry application.

I invite everyone to get out there and get active in a professional association. Go network, shake hands and pick the brains of the professionals. Your interest and vigor will not go unnoticed. These tactics have certainly made my first year as professional exciting and fulfilling. Exitos!

Maria Claudia Reed, Wastewater Engineer

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YP Connections offers information on career development; provides tools, tips, and resources; and includes news from WEF and MA young professionals committees.

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