Congratulations graduate. You did it.
You’ll hear those words a lot on graduation day, followed by the inevitable, “What’s next?”
That question might provoke excitement as you eagerly share your grand plans or anxiety or even discouragement if you’re not so sure. Regardless of whether the next step is clear to you or is still germinating within you, I have some suggestions as you undertake your next great beginning.
1. Celebrate and separate. Your graduation is a wonderful achievement. Don’t dismiss your accomplishment no matter how you feel about that last exam, your GPA, or whether you chose the right degree. You persevered to the end. That’s worthy of genuine celebration.
But you must also separate. A new chapter is about to begin and, unless you’re continuing on to gain an advanced degree, it’s entirely different. Now you must discover a new structure, with its own rhythm and rewards, that is entirely different from the one you’ve grown accustomed to most of your life. You may feel confused, overwhelmed and frightened by it, but those feelings arise not because your incapable—you’ve already proven your mastery of one structure—but because the new structure is still unfamiliar. Remind yourself that this new unfamiliar world is where God’s gifting in you will come to light, if you let it.
2. Stay thirsty. You’re education hasn’t finished. Only the instructors have changed. In your old structure they were few in number, had regular meeting times and held office hours. In the new structure, those who will teach you best will come at any time and in every form. You might meet them in a coffee shop or in a webinar. They may appear in an article in a chance encounter when running an errand.
In college, a syllabus was your roadmap. Now, you get to create your own. Make a commitment to yourself now to become an intentional apprentice and a life-long learner.
3. Experiment. No doubt you learned how to conduct an experiment in college. Here’s a simple one to try over the next few weeks (or at your graduation party). Ask anyone who graduated more than 10 years ago if they are working in the field they studied in college. Their answer may surprise you. And, hopefully, encourage you too, because your first (or next) job is not your last (unless you ignored #2 above). That’s great news because it takes the pressure off of you in finding the “right job.”
View your next steps—and every one thereafter—as an experiment to see if that occupation unlocks some clue to your true vocation. View employment opportunities as the petrie dishes for discovering your talents. Keep the contaminates of inattention away from your experiment by regularly reappraising what you are learning about yourself and your personal mission. This is especially true if you’re still trying to discover your own mastery.
There is much more to be said about venturing in this new structure and many advisors are waiting to show you the way. Embrace them. Never before have there been so many resources available to help find your next great beginning.
Congratulations graduate. Now go forth and become all that God intended.
Add to mine. What advice would you give a new graduate?