At Work & Theology 101

An Open Letter to College Seniors

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Dear College Senior,

Put down that coffee. I promise this will only take a minute.

I recognize the signs. If the half-finished job applications peeking out of your stack of books were not telltale enough, I’m all too familiar with the bleary eyes and delayed reactions. You’ve completed midterms. You may only have one or two sets of exams left in your college career.

Then what?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Suddenly you’ve found the academics and extracurricular activities that kept you busy throughout your first few years pale in comparison to the increasingly urgent business of “after graduation.”

I was in that moment not too long ago, and I’d like to share a few things I wish someone had told me.

1. Don’t Fall for the Comparison Game

Campus became scary at the beginning of second semester my senior year. We probably would not have admitted it to each other, but we were all comparing notes, trying to see who got the “best” job, fastest. Suddenly, everyone around you has a better defined, more promising future. As Cara Joyner aptly writes in an article for Relevant,

We find ourselves drifting into someone else’s story, wishing their calling or their success was ours.

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.

2. Don’t Fall into a Decision Because You “Have To”

Related to the first point, don’t find yourself on a path that isn’t right for you simply because everyone else decided they were going down that path.

At a Christian school, this may look like not going into the mission field. At a public school, it might mean looking into that values-based non-profit. Both – or neither – could be the right path, but be sure that your decision is the right one for you, based on your circumstances and the direction in which you feel the Lord calling you.

3. Don’t Lose Perspective

The decisions you face seem significant, and they are. But they are not the last choices you will have to make. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and flurry of senior year, but if you were to ask any recent graduate, you’ll find that the hype and flurry continues after graduation, and you’ll soon find yourself reevaluating the job or school or other choice you made.

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. We can choose to be circumspect, whether in the process of applying for jobs or in choosing our attitude about our present job.

4. Don’t Neglect the Present

Enjoy senior year. The hype and flurry to which I alluded earlier isn’t necessarily bad. You’ve worked hard, and you’ve built deep friendships. You won’t always be able to live in such close proximity to this kind of community; take advantage of it.

And in the meantime, enjoy that coffee.

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