The 18-year-old Easter Road prospect was sent to Berwick Rangers for the final two months of last season, where he was introduced to the more physical elements of life in the Irn Bru Third Division.
However, despite his slight frame and tender years, the teen forward thrived among the grown-ups in Scotland's bottom tier, bagging seven goals in as many games for the Wee Rangers.
He returned to Edinburgh in the summer to be told by boss Pat Fenlon that he would finally get his chance with the Clydesdale Bank Premier League side's top team, although his development would be carefully checked.
In practice that meant a run of bit-part roles as he was handed 10 run outs as substitute.
However, having netted his first goal for the club in a four-goal romp against Motherwell back in October, his patience his paid off and the Haddington lad was given his first start in the midweek defeat to Ross County in Dingwall.
It was a confident display and, on reflection, one Handling believes has its foundations laid during that loan spell in Berwick.
He said: "Going to Berwick helped me adapt to first-team football and it's physical side a lot quicker. The players in the lower-leagues are giants - big, massive men.
"The tackles come flying in and it took me the first three games to adapt to it. After that I was getting used to the standard. But the step-up to the SPL is massive.
"I thought about going back out on loan last month and I did speak to the gaffer about it but nothing came up, so I'm happy to stay here.
"But I'd definitely encourage the other young boys here to go out on loan if they get the chance. I've spoken to a few of the boys and told them to grasp the chance if they get it."
Handling is now pinning his hopes on retaining the spot just behind Hibs two main strikers that he filled in that game against County when Hibs host Aberdeen in Sunday's William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round clash.
He admits dislodging frontmen Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Doyle - the scorers of 23 goals combined this term - is not a realistic feat, but believes with the help of his team-mates that support role could be his.
"Sparkey and Doyler have been on fire this season and have got a lot of goals between them," said Handling.
"Hopefully I can get a run in the team but to get in ahead of them will be difficult. I've been a striker all my life but I prefer playing just behind the strikers actually. If I can play just in behind those two, that's a good opportunity for me.
"The other senior lads have been brilliant with me. The skipper James McPake and Eoin were great with me before the game on Wednesday and gave me a few words of advice to help me through the game.
"And of course, there's not many better players to learn from than Leigh. He's been on fire this season. He's an inspirational figure and has done everything right on the pitch, he can score from anywhere.
"He may not look like he's doing much but one bit of magic can win you the three points."