Transitioning from a “Graduate” to a Professional.

Learning is continuous, you may graduate today but you’ll be back in the classroom of life tomorrow

For many of my peers it wasn’t that long ago that we dreamt of completing our university education. I still remember my graduation, the anticipation of waiting for my name to be called out to collect my certificate. The shared happiness with my peers, as we celebrated the end of a chapter not knowing that what was next would be far more challenging.

If you are anything like me the novelty of being a fresh graduate wears off quickly and you begin to think of how you can establish yourself in your chosen career. You soon discover that although university provides you with a good foundation there is a lot more to learn before you become a respected professional in your field. Truly, no one can prepare you for the challenges of building a career however I believe that getting some words of advice from those who have done it before can be helpful.

As promised in my previous post “Taking back control from your 9-5, I reached out to a trusted friend and mentor to give us advice on transitioning from a graduate to a trusted professional.

Dr Isaac Pirisola as over the years been my go to person to ask for professional advice. Although we work in different industries, he always provides valuable advice on professional development. Since graduating with a PHD in Design and Process Engineering in 2014, Issac has navigated his career quite well. Upon making the decision to focus on getting industrial experience he has since worked for various companies (i.e Unilever, Pfaudler, Erasteel to name a few) and has established himself as a Project Management Professional.

Please see below the key points shared by Issac on transiting from a Graduate to a professional.

Managers Matter

Your manager is instrumental to your professional development as you are likely to model their approach at the early stages of your career. If you find that your manager is not contributing much to your learning, you should start considering looking for alternative leaders within your organisation that you can learn from or alternatively look for new opportunities that will provide a better learning environment.

Job vs Passion

As controversial as this may sound your job isn’t to find your passion at work. It is to invest, demonstrate grit, provide new ways of thinking that adds value to your company.

Passion is fleeting, do not follow it !

An issue with following your passion in regards to work is that when it gets hard as it does for everybody you may begin to think “maybe I’m not going to be successful here, I should move on.” This is not necessarily the right approach, when you met a challenge, it is an opportunity to learn and become great at it. If you chose to quit every job because you’ve hit a stage where you are no longer passionate about it, you will continue to move from job to job which may have a negative impact on your career.

Whilst there might be a few examples of success stories of individuals who quit their 9-5 to follow their passion and are now billionaires, it is best to err on the side of logic. As strange as it may sound assume you are not a superstar, that like most 99 percent of people, you’re going to have to find something you’re good at, invest a ton of time and become great at it. This process will most likely lead you to the success you believe is in following your passion.


If you get a chance to contribute to a start-up do it ! This could be as small as volunteering a few hours to support a business in areas they needs assistance. Get involved in initiatives that improve lives.

In doing things that are different from your day job you can pick up transferable skills that will differentiate you from your colleagues. Putting yourself in unique spaces also give you the opportunity to network with professions in different sectors from you.


Indulge in your curiosity! by this I mean, if there is something that you are unsure about, find a way to get clarity on the matter. This might mean spending some personal time doing extensive research or simply picking up the phone to call a colleague. Be inquisitive, read, learn and put your learning into practise. It helps if you are doing something you are naturally curious about but if not you have to get curious about it regardless. Think about it this way, you can only know what you choose to learn hence your growth depends on your level of curiosity.

“There’s only one success and that’s to be able to live your life your own way.

Christopher Morley

Define what success looks life for you

It is important to figure out what you’re good at and what’s good for you and stick to it. Don’t assume that every day is going to be FUN. Millennials are used to constant stimulus and frequent rewards, and if they don’t get them, they move on; you need to practice being committed to something, getting good at it and rising to the top. In the process of doing this, share your perspective with others , this helps with establishing yourself as contributor to knowledge and build your personal brand.


You’ve got to be open-minded enough to take on opportunities when they come because opportunities don’t fall in your lap very often. The most successful people are those who capitalise on their opportunities and grow beyond that.


The reality is that careers take a long time to build and your firm/yourself are investing in your career in a variety of ways, shapes or form. You may not see the return in your investments immediately however you will be rewarded over time. Continue to be intentional in the decisions you make regarding your future, work hard and it will eventually pay off.

One thought on “Transitioning from a “Graduate” to a Professional.

  1. A great and timely read; it leaves you reflecting on your current career approach, especially recent graduates. I really believe in a pragmatic approach to career development – this was well expounded in this write-up. Thank you, Tilly.

    Liked by 1 person

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