Transitions are rarely easy, but they should always be for the best…

In just a few weeks, over eight thousand NSHMBA members will be gathering around McCormick Place in Chicago, for the 2010 Conference and Career Expo. Are you ready for it? This might be one of your best opportunities to transition from student to professional. It certainly has been for a few thousands of NSHMBA members in the past twenty-some years or so!

If you don't feel you are ready, most likely you are not alone. That feeling of being unprepared can be typical of finishing many educational programs, even when objectively we are truly prepared. Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety are sometimes exacerbated by the large amount of assignments or by the lack of structure that many graduate-level problems have. Hey, if the problem was easy to structure, it probably would not be appropriate for grad school! You might have also experienced this "Transition Anxiety" whenever you started your MBA program, or when you had your first job after college, or when you went to college. And you not only survived, but now you're getting ready to transition to an even higher stage, aren't you?

Just so you don't feel too lonely, let me tell you that, at the beginning of the Fall semester, several of my well-experienced colleagues who happen to also be facebook friends posted status updates that may be symptomatic of this. To illustrate, Feeling frantic, and the semester hasn't even started yet! or I actually only have to do one syllabus for tomorrow but I haven't started it yet either. Forget "just in time", I go with "just before emergency!" as a response to 1 syllabus done, 1 more to go....

Quite frankly, I didn't post something like that simply because I was busy finalizing the syllabi and websites for the three courses I will be teaching this semester! But the feelings were there, somewhat yearning that the summer break had not finished so fast, but also glad to meet new students, to get back more intently to my research and to continue making my university a better place for those around me.

Then I thought I'd ask my wife, who happens to be one of my favorite educators –you could say that she takes primary responsibility for the day-to-day education of our children- whether she was also feeling this "Transition Anxiety" that my colleagues –and to some extent myself- were reporting. Her answer? She couldn't wait for the school year to begin! Her planning was developing just as she and our friends could possibly want it and the kids were also ready to start working on their new challenges! What a difference in outlook -all discrepancies considered!

What to do?

To me, it makes a difference when we consciously look at the bright side of these transitions. I know it was a major challenge to my wife -and even to my then even younger children- every time we have moved from one city to another, from being a dual-career couple to a doctoral student family, then back to two incomes in a different city, and finally back to a "professorial family." The money was a major consideration, but of course not the only one. We took into account our extended families, our support networks, the potential for our professional advancement, and our children's developmental opportunities -among other things. Yet, we have lived in three cities, transitioning in four occasions and found a mostly positive balance on each. It might not have been easy, but I know that I would not have the fulfilling career I now have if we had not been willing to give it a try.

Nerves and butterflies are fine - they're a physical sign that you're mentally ready and eager.  You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that's the trick.  ~Steve Bull

I strongly encourage you to do the same. Every now and then I learn of former students who don't seem to find a suitable opportunity to work according to their potential or their education. It breaks my heart because I see most others making quick progress, especially when they are willing to take chances, move geographically, keep on learning and continue to grow in as balanced and integrated way as possible (with this I mean keeping work and family, body and mind, finance and spirit, etc. without neglecting any of these crucial areas). I do hope they see how sometimes the limits are in our minds much more than outside of us, and make the necessary adjustments.

Lastly, take stock of what you do have! As I said above, quite often we are readier than we feel we are; did you ever experience that transitioning from a school level to another? If you are (as most NSHMBA members are) in an accredited, well-recognized program, you must have received the quality education that many others did before you in your institution. Learn about them, study their career paths and make your own future through your own career decisions, keeping in mind that your story will be unique and different.

Also, if you happen to see Steve Ramos or Manny Gonzalez, wish them your best!  Steve is transitioning after working tirelessly as NSHMBA's Interim CEO and Manny is the newly hired CEO starting this month!!  Congratulations to both!!

What do you think? Are you experiencing "Transition Anxiety"? I would love to read your ideas about how you cope with it. Please send me your comments via email to drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com or by posting a comment on my facebook profile. I look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

¡Hasta la próxima!