Diving into the deep end

Written by Adam Szentes, 2017 PRINZ Student Ambassador, AUT University

The transition from full-time student to (hopefully) full-time practitioner is certainly a hot topic on the minds of many of my peers, nearing the end of our undergraduate study. Donald Schön describes this journey, as a dive from the “hard, high ground” of academic institutions into the “swampy lowlands” of professional practice. This is absolutely not to say that professional practice is dirty and unpleasant, rather that it is an adventurous and uncertain terrain where we will encounter new types of hands-on experiences, challenges and successes.

From my own experience, I’ve found that this transition doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have a field of practice grounded in innovative and informed ways of thinking, and scholarship that embraces practical issues.

There are many opportunities to build connections with, and learn from industry experience before we graduate.

Make those connections early

Networking and relationship building are important; I have already learnt so much from the connections I’ve made. You never know who you may meet at that next PRINZ event, or who you may end up talking to during that day of work experience…and who they may end up talking to.

Embrace as many opportunities as you can

Open yourself to as many paths as you can and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You may end up discovering a new passion, or growing in a field you were already interested in. If anything, you will gain more valuable experience and knowledge.

Take up an internship

Internships are one of the most common ways to get work experience before you graduate and can be extremely enriching, both work-wise and study-wise. They can expose you to a variety of work and may help you start to hone your professional interests. Many courses, like some I am currently taking, encompass ‘real life’ projects too.

Building networks and experience early means we don’t have to dive straight into the deep end upon graduating. You could do this by attending PRINZ events, talking with your lecturers, and being on the lookout for internships and work.

I know that the connections I am making and the experiences I’m having will help me navigate the so-called “swampy lowlands” when I soon graduate, and further into the future.