“Hanging” Up the Mantle: Leadership Transitioning

By: David

With graduation around the corner, it’s crazy to see so many years go by with a blink of an eye and detach myself from the college environment. It’s a scary, yet exciting thought, and deep down, I know I’ll truly miss college and the opportunities that come with it. One aspect I know I will for sure miss once I leave the college bubble is campus involvement and holding leadership roles. Before giving a preview on today’s post, I just wanted to put this out there that the title is intentional. Since we’re all so familiar with the “taking up the mantle” idiom, I figured I would throw in a twist by titling this post, “hanging up the mantle” which essentially is supposed to represent stepping down as a leader. (Clever, I know!) With that being said, in today’s post, I will be focusing on my experiences of stepping down from leadership roles and what are ways and questions a student can ease the transition of going from super-duper involved on-campus to the “boring, dull” lifestyle in the real-world. Well then, let’s dive in!

Stepping Down from Leadership Positions
From personal experience, I think one of the most difficult aspects of being a leader is not the stress that comes with leading nor is it the backlash and criticism you get from people, but rather the moment when you realize it’s time to step down. The moment when you realize that your dreams, goals, and vision as a leader will diminish is unsettling. (Okay, it’s not that extreme, there are successors for a reason!) On the contrary, I think some individuals may feel differently and fathom the relief that comes with stepping down more than anything, which is understandable too.

From my own experience, this was especially relevant in my active membership with Asian Pacific American Association (APAA). I’m sure by now, you perhaps are aware of APAA from my previous blog posts. As an active member and previous board member, I recall there being moments where I wasn’t ready to let go and still wanted to be involved and contribute to the organization as best I could. Eventually, I realized the importance of letting go and restraining myself and ultimately how important it was to simply believe in the new generation of leaders with their ideas and beliefs in regards to taking care the organization. Granted, I was still involved with the organization, it’s just that getting involved looked a lot different. For any leader, really, it’s difficult when you’ve invested so much time and effort into an organization and literally have attached yourself to it whether it be mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. An important part of stepping down for me, I’ve realized, is that being a leader doesn’t always have to mean that you’re in the front line leading the charge. It can also mean staying behind and helping others rise to positions of leadership. As part of leaving the college bubble and launching into the real world, I know the best thing I can do as a leader with previous experience is to give back to the next generation of leaders. As my time of leading has come to an end, I’ve realized that part of stepping down is inspiring and guiding others to step up.

The Actual Transition
I think any student who is or has been involved on campus and served in a leadership role knows that time flies by all too fast when having to balance, school, work, and extracurricular activities such as leadership positions. Especially for graduating seniors, this creates more issues as finding a job only creates more chaos. But what happens when a person goes from planning, studying, working, organizing, eating, sleeping, job-hunting, and exercising, to simply just working? I think this is a reality that many students face as the fluid nature of college switches to the routine-based lifestyle of working after graduation.

Honestly, I, myself, have not gotten the chance to let the idea of graduation settle in due to the busy nature of college itself. With having conversations with career counselors and peers, I’ve only had the chance to ponder on it slightly, but the thought of going from busy to boring is quite depressing honestly. As I navigate these last few weeks of college before graduation, it’ll be smart for me to prepare the transition from college to the working world. Granted, I’ll still be doing summer research in the Twin Ports area, but I think preparing mentally and emotionally to slowly transition out of college will be a real challenge. Of course, I don’t have all the answers to ease the transition as I am still in the process of doing so, but I think it’s important for any college student to just be aware and mentally/emotionally prepared to leave college.

But hey, there’s hope! Just because college is ending doesn’t necessarily mean that getting involved has to end as well. As young professionals stepping into the real world, the chance to get involved in the community is endless and the opportunity to network is even greater than what the college level has to offer. For instance, there are a number of organizations dedicated to serve and connect young professionals. On a local level, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce offers a number of opportunities for professionals both young and old. Additionally, if you have certain special interests and causes that you would like to advocate for, there are even more opportunities. Personally, I’ve been looking forward to getting involved with two different organizations after I graduate: Coalition of Asian American Leaders & National Association of Asian American Professionals. Ultimately, I see college as a unique stepping stone for students to get active in their communities. If student leaders are able to translate the work that they’ve put it in at the university level into their communities afterward, just imagine the positive impact and change that can occur in the world.

Conclusion
So where do we go from here with zero motivation to study, “senior slide” kicking in if it hasn’t already, and the struggles of going from college-life to the real world? Well, if I told you I have all the right answers, I would be lying. I think the important piece is to simply reflect on the time in college and enjoy the last few moments before it all ends. Furthermore, ask questions and have conversations with professionals and staff who work with students who go through this transition such as career counselors, advisors, etc. I know for myself, my supervisor, Ellen, has pushed me to seek out opportunities past the college bubble and to consider ways of still getting involved in the working world. For many, a lot of individuals are ready and can’t wait to fly off into the real world, and for the very few like myself, it’ll be a bittersweet ending leaving the college life and the opportunities and activities that came with it. Like I said before, if student leaders were able to make a great impact at the college level, imagine the potential for growth and positive change in the future once this effort is transferred to our communities whether that be on a local, regional, national, or international level. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and change the world (for the better, of course) graduates!

Read David’s other posts

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