Graduation season is upon us. Whether you’re donning a cap and gown in the coming days or were handed your diploma years ago, there’s something about a graduation that forces reflection and philosophical thinking.
I didn’t know what to expect after I graduated college. Up to that point, my life was planned out; I just followed the scheduled syllabus someone else gave me.
Years of hard work, determination and perseverance got me to a single point — standing in my living room with my college diploma in my hands and thinking: I graduated. Now what do I do?
The good thing was I didn’t have people telling me what to do next and how I had to get it done. The bad thing was I didn’t have people telling me what to do next and how I had to get it done.
For me, the freedom to choose my next steps after graduation wasn’t invigorating. It was petrifying. Without the constant guidance I was used to, I felt more vulnerable and prone to making bad decisions with my future.
After graduating, I couldn’t wait to put my part-time job behind me, show interviewers how qualified I was for the job, and start my professional career. I worked construction while I applied. I imagined it’d be a short-term gig. Over a year later I finally got my foot in a proverbial door and started my career.
That was a tough year. I wondered if I’d ever use my degree and get into the field I wanted, but I quickly discovered that employers were looking for experience more than a college degree. It was hard to gain that experience on my resume without a stepping stone to get there.
As I waited on call-backs, I applied myself to things that would benefit me professionally. I started a blog and wrote regularly, thus improving my writing and marketing chops. I got more involved at my church by serving as a deacon. It was a great way to develop my communication, budgeting and management skills.
Whatever field you’re hoping to get into, don’t wait for someone to give you that first opportunity. Create your own. Put your degree to work immediately. Experience is experience whether or not you get paid for it. Volunteer, intern, freelance, learn from a willing mentor, be a hobbyist or an entrepreneur.
Never stop learning
I’m a bookworm. The most exciting part of graduating college for me wasn’t the endless career possibilities; it was the fact I could read whatever I wanted and learn anything I wanted regardless of credit hours and tuition.
I enjoy learning. I read nonfiction books, watch YouTube tutorials, sign up for free online courses, and look for professional mentors all the time.
As a young professional, I’ve noticed one thing that’s always helpful for career development: curiosity. When interviewing for past jobs, I never had every skill listed on the job description, but I reassured every potential employer that I could learn them. Your college days may be behind you, but your learning days are just starting. Stay curious, keep studying the world around you, and don’t shy away from learning new things. Whether it’s continued education in school or on your own, never stop learning.
Perfectly equipped for the job
Fresh out of college, I felt like I was starting chapter one of adulthood; the previous years were just the introduction. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I learned a lot about myself as a person during college: what I wanted for myself, what I wanted for others in my life, how I wanted to pursue my life’s goals, and the things I wanted to avoid along the way.
By the time I graduated, God hadn’t just equipped me with the blueprints for what my life could look like; He’d laid the foundation, poured the concrete, framed the walls, and put a solid roof on it all. He’d also equipped me with my purpose — to be His and enjoy Him forever. No matter where I ended up next, I’d have the same overarching mission — to honor and glorify God in my work.
After graduation, it took time and hard work to find a job where I could use my degree. I got disheartened because it felt like I was barking up the wrong tree. But God knew how long I’d have to wait to start my career. He knew the mistakes I’d make and the failures I’d experience along the way. He knew the successes, too.
It was easy to feel like God’s plan and my plan were different. But by staying vigilant to do the things within my control and praying about the things outside of my control, God led me straight to where He wanted me. Turns out, He used my college education to equip me for the work He’s called me to.
I’d venture to say He’s done the same for you.
Copyright 2019 Matt Stickel. All rights reserved.