What Now? An Open Letter to Graduates Trying to Find Their Way

First of all, congratulations.  You are nearing the end of a journey that has consumed the better part of life as you have known it.  Since kindergarten the bulk of your life has revolved around academics and graduation is the closing of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.

It’s cause for celebration no doubt.  But before you get too wrapped up in graduation festivities, commencement addresses and heart-warming speeches about the future I want to share something with you.  I want to be honest with you.  These days, culture has a way of telling you what you want to hear and not necessarily being truthful.  Before you walk across that stage and take on the world, I want to warn you that everything on the outside isn’t always as “pretty” as you’ve been lead to believe.

You are about to graduate into the worst economic climate of your lifetime, and probably your parents lifetime too.  Back when you were looking at colleges you probably heard a great deal about job placement and story after story of students from your alma mater that went on to do amazing things after leaving college.  That may be true but there are probably a couple of things that were left out.

The first is that most of those successful people didn’t get there overnight.  They took low paying jobs or started at the bottom with the goal of one day reaching the top.  They worked in coffee shops or other jobs that had nothing to do with their field of study while starting a business or further preparing themselves on the side.  In time, with persistence and a great deal of hard work, they’ve been able to reach a tremendous level of success, but for some reason that part always seems to get left out.

The other part you probably didn’t hear about were the thousands of students who crossed that stage at graduation faced with a lot of unmet expectations.  For some students, the path is always laid out before them.  They came into college with a goal, stuck with it, found work-study programs and internships, and landed a job in their field right out of college.

That might be you but chances are it’s not.  Chances are you’re in a much larger pool of students who find themselves asking the question “What now?”  You have a degree but can’t find a job to save your life and you’re not even sure you want to work in that field anyway.  Was college a waste of time?

Maybe you feel like your college helped you get a degree but failed to teach you how to actively pursue employment.  You did all the things you were told to do.  You got your degree, worked a couple of internships and life was suppose to fall into place right?  You feel like you’ve been fed a lie, or a bunch of lies, about an American dream that doesn’t exist and you’re not even sure you want it if it did.

On top of that, you have an onslaught of “life” issues that come along with being an adult staring you in the face.  Things like figuring out health insurance, auto insurance, student loans and finding a place to live.  You feel overwhelmed, ill prepared and on some level betrayed.

I want to tell you something that may be hard to believe but in time you’ll understand.

Everything will be OK.

I understand the feelings you’re going through and despite the people around you that seem to have it all together, they don’t.  If you look closely, the number of people in your situation FAR outweighs the few who made it out of college and jumped right into a lucrative career.

Times are changing.  Unfortunately simply having a college degree is no longer the cure all for getting a job.  Anyone that is still telling you that is lying.

It will take work to find a job.

It will be difficult to figure out what it is you want to do with your life.

And probably the most frustrating of all, it will take time.

But that’s ok.  Now is the time in your life when you are free to explore, experience and discover what it is that you really want to do.  Be proactive.  Take a job you may not really like that will pay your bills and afford you the opportunity to travel or pursue something you’re really passionate about.  If you have to relocate, do it.  I have a friend who moved to New Zealand and served in a church for two years as a young 20 something.  He didn’t kiss normal life goodbye.  He left.  He served.  He came back.  Life picked up right where he left off and he was more mature and better equipped because of it.

You are young.  I know it feels like you need to have it all figured out by now but the truth is you don’t.  The truth is you’ll probably go through several job changes in the coming years before figuring out exactly what direction you want to go.

Rather than move back in with mom and dad and complain about the economy or sink into depression because you don’t know what you want to do and you at least thought you’d be married by now, be pro active.  Do something.

If you do move back in with your parents, guard against getting too comfortable.  Fight the urge to sit back and “hold out for a management position” because you’ll blink and two years will have gone by and you’ll still be living with mom and dad.  If that’s your only option, use it as a springboard.  Your parents are graciously providing you a place to lay your head while you work on figuring out your next step.  Take one.

I can’t tell you where to go to find a job, a spouse or whatever it is that you feel like you’re missing.  But I can tell you, and millions who have gone before you would agree, life has a way of working itself out.  Those that work and apply themselves are the most likely to achieve success.

For the believer, rest in knowing that if you are walking in glad submission to the word of God, you are never outside of His will.  Take comfort in knowing that the God of the universe has you in the palm of his hand.  He will stretch you and grow you and require much of you but with the end result of making you more like Him.  Pray about what God would have you do, and move forward, all the while being sensitive to the Holy Spirits leading.

What’s the biggest question facing you as you enter this next season of life? 

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