At Work

Four Tips for College Seniors on Finishing Strong…and Beginning Well

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It’s April and if you’re a college senior, you may already have a bad case of senioritis. You’re having difficulty keeping your eyes on the ball and finishing well. You might be spending more time on the volleyball court than in class.

Or you may be knee-deep in stress, looking for jobs and uncertain about “what you want to be when you grow up.” (For those of us who have grown up, there are only a few who can say they’ve figured that out.) You may have a thousand decisions you’re mulling over that involve what job to pursue, where to live, and who to marry.

Here are tips from recent grads who have been in your shoes. They get what you’re feeling. They want to encourage you to both finish strong, but also to help you begin your first job well.

Avoid the Comparison Trap

Lauren Carl served as a research associate at IFWE in 2014-2015 and is a graduate of Hillsdale College. Lauren advises seniors to avoid the trap of comparing yourself to others who have landed jobs already, or landed “better” jobs, and worrying that your situation is different. Lauren writes,

Fortunately, you’re not supposed to have another person’s story, much less his or her job. I know it’s tempting to look around, to see others who have landed jobs in Fortune 500 companies, and panic. Don’t succumb to envy.

We often talk about comparative advantage on this blog, and it applies here. We are each given gifts and talents that we are called to develop, and this will look different in each case.

Don’t Be So Obsessed with Your Current Decisions

In a few years you may say, “Why was I so worried?” That may be easy to think in retrospect, but hard to live out in the middle of the decision-making process. But it’s true. The decisions facing you are important, but life involves a host of decisions that help us change and grow as we follow God’s calling. Lauren writes,

For now, it may seem like the decision you’re about to make is irreversible, and, in the sense that you will only have one first job, it is. Fortunately, however, you’re just at the beginning of your career, and we were not designed to be static….Whether we’re still in our first job or our seventh, we have the opportunity to exercise our creative gifts, fulfill the cultural mandate, and witness our faith in the workplace.

Listen to Your Heart, but Understand Your Gifts and the Job Market

Elise Daniel is a contributing writer to IFWE and graduated from James Madison University. She shares some advice both on how to select the right job but also have the right attitude in your first job.

As you apply for jobs, don’t be fooled that you could do any job. God has designed you uniquely and there are limits to what you can do. She writes,

Most of us were probably told as kids, “If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be.” Well, it’s a big fat lie. …But wait, this is good news! God created us all differently. He gave you a unique set of skills and interests that cannot be duplicated. You have a calling that you can’t change. …You can’t be anything you want to be, but the good news is, you can be everything you’re meant to be.

But that doesn’t mean don’t listen to your heart and follow your passions. Organizations want to hire people who are passionate about their mission. Most of them recognize that you will not have the skills or experience yet, but those can be taught. Elise reminds us that, “Working in an environment where everyone shares the same goal is crucial for the organization’s success and your personal fulfillment.”

However, following your passion should be kept in perspective with your own gifts and the needs of the world around you. Writer David Leonard provides some helpful guidance on how to pray toward these ends:

Pray that God would give you the wisdom to realize the unique temperament, skills, and gifts that he’s blessed you with. Notice that I’m not promising that God will reveal these qualities to you. It might actually take effort on your part, through a process of reflection, dialogue, and discernment, to figure out how God has wired you.

Then ask God for clarity in discovering the path that will most effectively allow you to employ those qualities, in light of current societal trends, and with a view to serving others.

Prepare to Work Your Tail Off…for God’s Glory

Austin Burkhart is a graduate of the University of Georgia and has been a contributing writer for IFWE. Prior to his senior year of college, Austin asked his internship supervisor for some advice. His boss gave him three tips for his first job (and any job): show up early, stay late, and “take out the trash” or, in other words, be willing to volunteer for any job that needs doing, no matter how menial. The point wasn’t to become a workaholic, but to show “discipline, commitment, and enthusiasm.”

Austin points out that Jesus is our ultimate model for doing the hard, messy jobs:

In Jesus we see an example of how we should work. A God who actually showed up and did plenty of unglamorous, messy, trash-like work in his life. Peter says it well in 1 Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Whatever you’re learning as you prepare to make this tough transition, know that God will use your current experience to help others in future years. Please pass on what you learn to those behind you!


Editor’s note: Passionate about doing something meaningful but not called to “full-time” ministry? Remember that all work matters to God. Learn why in How Then Should We Work?

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