1. You don’t have to know right now
I’m serious! It feels like the entire world is dying to know what’s next for you! “What jobs do you have lined up?” “What grad schools did you apply to?” “What are your plans?” Ugh! It can be so nerve-racking! They want something that you can’t give them right now. I want you to know that you don’t HAVE to have all of the answers! They don’t. They may have an idea but the truth is, no one knows what God has planned. Yet we spend so much time trying to live in the future that we can’t even be proud of today. Relax! It’s okay not to know. We’re all stumbling around trying to figure it out.
2. Rejection is a redirection
So, you’ve applied for quite a few positions that you thought you really wanted? Maybe you applied to a few back ups just in case your initial plan fell through. However, it didn’t make much of a difference because they all said “No.” Ouch! You know you’re more than qualified! Maybe you were an honor student. Maybe you’ve accumulated an excessive amount of internship hours. Maybe you’ve got connections in every zip code. For God’s sake, the job posting only called for a high school diploma to begin with! So why did you receive that “Thanks for applying but we regret to inform you…” email? I’ll tell you: Yes, your degree has value. Yes, networking can be quite useful. Yes, having field experience is a plus! It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough or that you didn’t do enough. It doesn’t mean that you chose the wrong major. Here’s what I found out the hard way: Sometimes it’s not about what you know or who you know; it’s about what God has for you. The worst thing that God can do is give you what you desperately think you want. The rejections could be pouring in right now, but pick yourself up, brush yourself off and know that it’s all apart of a bigger plan. Be patient.
3. Don’t force it
Don’t try to talk yourself into something that you aren’t passionate about. I know it’s scary not knowing what’s next and I’ve heard the saying “If the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door” but you don’t have to take any and every opportunity presented to you either. Be picky with where you invest your time and energy. I know that it can be hard to stay true to yourself but don’t jump into something just to say you’re doing something. It may sound like a no brainer to start a grad program in the fall to hold off on making payments on your student loans. I mean at least you’ll be working towards something, right? But, you know what you’ll find at the end of that graduate program? The same situation that you put off. You’ll still have to face some rejection. You still have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. You may still feel lost. I’m not trying to change your mind about furthering your education. You can never be overeducated (or overdressed.) However, I am telling you to make sure that your decision isn’t just a last resort. The same goes for jobs that will be presented to you. Every time I got rejected, I would find another position that had nothing to do with my interests or the position I had previously applied for and go through this process of trying to convince myself that this one was “the one.” I talked a little about this struggle here. I applied to be a claims adjuster, software trainer, cellphone retail sales specialist, bank teller, management trainee… and the list goes on. What did all of these jobs have in common? Nothing. I just wanted something to show for my degree. I thought that something was better than nothing. I was absolutely, positively WRONG. If you’ve found an open door, I’m not trying to convince you to turn it down. I’m just telling you to consider what you want and what they have to offer you. Consider who you are and use Glass Door to see what others have to say about the company culture. Consider the position and whether there is room for growth. Otherwise, consider yourself a sell out because if you take just any door, the longer you stay, the harder it will be to walk through it.
4. You’re right on time
The absolute worst thing that you can do in this moment is compare yourself to others. When you hear about the luck your friends are having, the places they are moving to, and how they seem to be finding themselves, be happy for them. Everyone is on a different schedule. It doesn’t matter if it took you 4 years or 7, if you graduated with a 2.5 or 4.0 or if you have 10 job offers or none. You’re doing just fine, kid. Just like a seed being planted, you can’t always see the progress, but the product will be beautiful. You’ll never be late to the party because you can’t rush greatness.
5. Money isn’t everything
If you have to choose between your passion and more money, please choose what you love. Your bank account can be full and your spirit be empty and it will show in the work you do. Don’t burn yourself out for a buck. Trust me, I get it! You’re a poor graduate with a stack of student loans and bills that have to get paid. But, life is also about more than just surviving. If you can’t do something that makes you happy now, just make sure you find time to do the things that make you feel alive.
6. They’re still proud of you
When you are at your lowest, remember all of those smiling faces that cheered you on as you graced the stage with your presence. They love you and want the best for you. But sometimes, you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to keep everyone else happy. They have expectations that you’re afraid you won’t be able to meet. Maybe they have expectations you have no interest in meeting at all. And if you don’t, it can feel like you’re failing them. You’re not. You’ve already committed to something huge and saw it through! It’s time to live for you. There may come a time when you realize that what they want for you isn’t what you want for yourself. In those moments, you’ll have to be your own advocate and it probably won’t be an easy thing to do! Maybe you want to be an artist but they want you to be an engineer. Maybe you want to be a social worker but they’ve always pushed for you to be a politician. Maybe you want to write…. I say do it. Don’t let other people project their lives and dreams onto you. Be brave, be bold, be honest with yourself but, above all else, be ready for the criticism and doubt that is to come because nothing you want badly will come easy. You will have to fight for those dreams. And don’t worry, even if it’s not what they want for you, they’ll continue to be proud of you (even if it’s in secret) because they’ll know, deep down, that they taught you to stand up for what you believe in. The time is now. You are responsible for the life you want. Go after it.
7. This isn’t the end
This is where the plot gets interesting! You are standing on the edge of adulthood and the possibilities are endless. You have the freedom to be whatever and whoever you want to be. You have the right to leap, run, walk or crawl but whatever you do… don’t stop! You’ve got work to do, a life to live and for the first time ever, you call the shots!
8. Don’t forget to breathe
You only graduate from undergrad once! This chapter came with a whirlwind of emotions. You’re in disbelief that you made it, sad about leaving your friends, excited about your next adventure, afraid of what’s to come… But just for one moment, do yourself a favor and BREATHE. Take a day off to take it all in. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” – Matthew 6:34. This moment belongs to you and only you. You earned it.
So, once you walk across that stage, know that the work has just begun and that you are walking onto a battlefield for those dreams of yours. If you put them off, they will let you. If you slow up, they will let you. If you give up, they will let you. No one is more accountable than you. You are responsible for your own happiness, your own potential, your own life. Congratulations! You deserve the world! But first, you have to believe that you can conquer it!