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Transitioning From Student to Professional



January 14, 2023 - Popularly known as “adulting,” a professional life necessitates different responsibilities, implies greater accountabilities, and overall may seem like a more challenging, if not perplexing chapter of life compared to the rather straightforward responsibilities of being a student. Study. Sleep. Eat cheese fries.

Often the advice given to new graduates includes steps like: be prepared with research about the market you wish to enter, focus on the now, don’t stress about the end goal, make shorter measurable goals that lead you to the big goals, connect with people in similar circumstances for mutual support, and finally, to reach out for help as needed.

For those of you who engaged with SME as a student member, you probably already know the value of belonging to a group of like-minded, career focused individuals. All of the advice above can be achieved by becoming an SME professional member, and even better, SME offers you a transitional and simple path to professional membership.

Rich Wagner, an SME member since 2001 is currently serving as an SME Board Intern and even though he claims it has been 20 years since he graduated, he agreed to talk with SME about transitioning from student member to professional member.

When asked if he had a funny story as a student member of SME, he quipped, “The only one that comes to mind probably isn't appropriate to share in Mining Engineering.” So without giving too much away, I’ll just say that his story involved a trip to the annual conference, a lively networking session, merriment and cheese fries. If you see Wagner this year at the 2023 MINEXCHANGE, you will have to ask him for additional details.

According to Wagner, no one is totally prepared for life outside of graduation. However, he believes that becoming an SME member eased that transition from student to professional. He said, “There were benefits from being an SME member. It provided me at the very least with a solid network both in major and with other disciplines.”

He advises student members nearing their graduation to, “Never be afraid to ask questions and volunteer to help, not only with other projects/duties at work, but in your community. The impact will be measurable. I guess the only other thing I'd say to those transitioning to the workforce is to not be afraid to step outside their comfort zone. In challenging oneself, there is tremendous growth opportunity professionaly as well as personally.”

Have you heard of SME’s Associate Membership? Did you graduate within the last year? If so, and if you were an SME student member at the time of your graduation, you may be eligible for an Associate Membership. SME will gift you a free year of Associate Membership for your first year after graduation, and after that, you are eligible to pay the Associate dues rate, which is half the Professional dues rate until you reach they age of 30. If you meet these criteria, please contact for assistance.