Hey y’all! Today I want to share a little bit of my heart, in hopes of encouraging y’all who are graduating from college this spring. I’m not going to say exactly when I graduated from college, but let’s just say it’s been more than a few years. However, I still vividly remember the roller coaster of emotions that I experienced in the days leading up to graduation. The ups and downs of post-grad life and “adulting” have provided me with some perspective. I’m praying that God will somehow use my words and insights to encourage y’all. So without further ado, here’s my advice for college graduates of the Class of 2018!
1. College Is Not Necessarily the Best Four Years of Your Life
I remember how sad I was to leave college. In fact, I spent the last several weeks of senior year wishing I could press the pause button. Pretty much all of my closest friends were a year younger than me. So the fact that I was leaving while they all got to stay for one more year didn’t help matters! I remember procrastinating packing up my apartment, and then turning in my keys at literally the last minute the day after graduation. Then I proceeded to bawl my eyes out as I drove past the fountain and out the front gate one last time. I had become so comfortable and cozy within the walls of the small liberal arts school I attended. I really didn’t want to leave.
Now if someone had told me back then all the amazing opportunities and experiences I would have during my post-grad years, I couldn’t have gotten out of there fast enough. I can say with 110% confidence that college was NOT the best four years of my life. During my post-grad years I have grown so much in my faith and become so much more confident of who I am in Christ. Most of my closest friends today are friends that I met post-college. I have also gone on some amazing trips and made some of my most precious memories during my post-grad life. Don’t get me wrong-there have been some really hard times. But when I reflect on my post-grad years, the Lord’s faithfulness is apparent on every corner.
2. It’s Okay If You Have No Idea What You Want To Do with Your Life
I promise, it really is. Very few people stay in their first job for their entire career. Many people may switch career fields entirely. Focus on finding a job right out of college that you feel is a good fit for your skills and passions. Don’t stress about finding the perfect job that you will be at forever. Find a position that provides opportunities for personal growth and development, and pray that the Lord will reveal His will to you regarding future opportunities and the direction He wants you to take down the road.
3. The People Who Seem To Have Their Whole Lives Figured Out Actually Don’t
Honestly, this is probably my favorite piece of advice to share with y’all. Because years ago, I was one of “those people” who appeared to have it all figured out. I graduated from college knowing that I would start a master’s program at my top-choice graduate school in the fall. After completing my master’s, I would go on to get a Ph.D. Then I would become a college professor at my alma mater. Clearly that didn’t happen, and it’s honestly quite laughable to think about now! Let’s just say it took me less than half my first semester of my master’s program to figure out that there would be no Ph.D in my future. And it’s only by the grace of God that I even made it through my master’s program.
Still, even after I decided that I wasn’t going to take the Ph.D/college professor route, I still thought I would spend my life working in a field related to my degrees. Shortly after finishing my master’s program, I received an offer for what was my dream job at the time. So I accepted the offer and worked in that job until God had other plans. For the past four years, I have worked at a job that is in a completely different field than what I went to school for, but it’s been a great opportunity and I have the best coworkers.
So you may have classmates who have gotten into their dream grad school or landed their dream job prior to graduation. Meanwhile, you stand completely clueless. I am living proof that even those people who have the next 5-10 years of their life meticulously planned out actually don’t have their act as together as it seems. A lot can change down the road, because God sure does have a sense of humor!
4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Up until this point, your life course has followed a similar trajectory to your peers for the most part. You went to elementary school, middle school, high school, then college. After college graduation, that all changes. Some of your classmates may go to graduate school, while others go straight into the workforce, and even others take a gap year to travel or do some soul-searching. Also, some of your classmates will get married within a couple months of graduation, while others will remain single for years after graduation. People will also progress in their respective careers at different rates, as well as start families at different times.
With all these variations in life phases that happen once everyone scatters after graduation, the temptation to compare yourself to others is HUGE. Especially down the road if you find that you aren’t where you thought you would be at a particular point in your life. Start right now with embracing the truth that God is writing a unique story for YOUR life. It is like no one else’s story. You are uniquely created in His image and have a specific purpose to fulfill on this earth. And in the process, you reflect His glory in a way that NO ONE else in this world can. Also, God’s timing is so perfect! (For more on this, check out my earlier post.) This is something I constantly have to preach to myself when I struggle with comparison.
5. Be Intentional With Friendships
Once you get out into the “real world,” you don’t live in such close proximity to your friends. Actually going out and making friends as a post-college young adult requires intentionality in itself. You aren’t constantly bumping into different groups of people in your classes. There aren’t convenient activities fairs where you can join tons of groups and clubs that are all under the larger umbrella of your school. Overall, it definitely takes more effort to seek out groups/activities you are interested in, and then show up! For me, church has been the biggest way for me to meet close friends during my post-grad years. But I have to do more than simply attend services. I’m involved in a small group, and serve on the greeter team, as well as attend other miscellaneous gatherings outside of worship.
My advice is determine your interests and values, and then figure out where you are most likely to meet like-minded people. Since my faith is the most important thing in my life and shapes everything else, church has been the obvious place for me to start. Other ways to meet people include volunteering, or getting involved in a group or organization related to a hobby. For instance, I have some friends who are really into CrossFit, and have met people through their gym. One of the sweetest things about making friends post-college is that they are almost all based on shared interests and values, rather than mere convenience. In my experience, this has fostered deeper and more intimate friendships.
6. Friendships May Change
Throughout my post-grad years, some friendships from college have changed. I’ve grown apart from some people due to geographical distance and different life stages. It’s hard, but it has made the college friends I have stayed close with extra special. And I’ve had multiple seasons of change in my post-grad friendships too, since I’ve lived in different places. But, for every friendship that’s drifted apart, the Lord has provided me with numerous new friends. It’s hard, and it’s okay to mourn changes in friendships that were once close. But I promise you the Lord is so faithful and will provide exactly who you need when you need it. And for the friends who remain a constant across multiple seasons of life-hold them extra tight!
I am praying that God uses this advice for college graduates to encourage at least one person out there who is experiencing anxiety about graduating college and entering the unknown. It’s definitely a whirlwind of emotions, and you’re probably not ready to leave the place you’ve called home the past four years, and all the familiar faces who have given you a multitude of memories. I promise you thought that there is so much excitement and goodness waiting for you out there in the real world, that you can’t even imagine:
“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”
Habakkuk 1:5 (NIV)
In conclusion, I want to leave you with this quote from Stephanie May Wilson. You can check out her full blog post here. The following quote beautifully sums up my sentiments as I reflect upon my post-college years:
“How are you supposed to know what you’re good at if you don’t try? How are you supposed to know what you’re not good at it if you don’t fail? Majors and jobs and careers sound great in theory, but until you’re at the desk, or in the field, you won’t know if it truly is a good fit. Each attempt, each move, each step forward, and then to the side, and then a few steps back gets you closer to where you want to be. It’s like a dance more than a sprint forward. But the detours end up being the most powerful parts of the journey.” (Stephanie May Wilson)
To the Class of 2018-congrats! You did it! I’m cheering for y’all every step of the way!