When I was starting my senior year in college, I knew instinctively that it was game time. The moment that I'd been waiting for and delaying: deciding what I was going to do after school. BIG DECISION!
As I start having conversations with seniors around San Diego, I'm realizing that what they need is a roadmap or a checklist for the things they should begin doing and by when. So, here's my attempt!
1. Decide that you're going to do this year well.
You need to make a decision that you're going to make good, healthy choices and do all that you can to transition well. Only you can make that decision- not your parents, friends, or professors. You need to decide that you're going to put the energy this year requires.2. Develop new spiritual habits.
Engaging with God looks different to every season of life. In this season of discernment, decide how, when, and where you're going to engage with God. Enlist a prayer team. Buy a new 'discernment journal'. Spend time reviewing different stories in scripture about calling. Buy a book (Courage and Calling, by Gordon Smith
, or Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer
) and read it with a friend.3. Find a mentor.
Or two. Or four. Mentors can help you reflect on your strengths and abilities and possible career path. They can open up doors for you. They can introduce you to others. 4. Engage on campus.
Do you know what types of students make the best transition to the workplace? The ones who are the most engaged as seniors- in their classes, with professors, in group projects, and at their internship. The ones who develop the deepest and healthiest friendships with peers. Don't be like most seniors who disengage and check out early. Pour into the campus and your life as a student.5. Get an internship.
Research over the past few years is clear that only the students who have the word "internship" on their resume get job offers. Get an internship!! NOW!! Talk with your professors, career services, or inquire with friends, family, and church leaders for connections. An internship (or two) in a relevant field that you plan on going into is obviously key, but even any internship will do. 6. Practice spiritual leadership.
God invites everyone who follows him to have spiritual influence on others. Spiritual leadership in the workplace, however, looks WAY different than it does on campus with college students. But, again, the students who make the strongest and quickest transition are the ones who faithfully take risks in reaching out, blessing others, and starting spiritual conversations with friends, classmates, professors, and internship supervisors. Now, think about this: Wouldn't it be cool if....
- you had an answer when your crazy uncle asks you at Christmas dinner: "So, what are you going to do after you graduate?"??
- you learned new ways to connect with God and your relationship with Him grew??
- your network of friends and mentors actual ends up getting you your first full-time job??
- through your friendship and risk a classmate/professor/friend (or more than just one) starts a relationship with God THIS YEAR and your confidence and trust in God surges into your new professional life??
WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THIS LIST?
After spending a couple years focusing on helping graduating seniors make a good transition from student life to 'real life', it's time to start checking in with a few of them about their lives post-college.
Steven Yuan stands out as a guy doing his best to lean forward into living life well. He's passionate, creative, and very entrepreneurial. It's been a blast to watch Steven experiment with his career and throw out more than a few lines into the water to see what he catches. Enjoy this snapshot into his life, and take a few moments both to pray for Steven but also to reflect on what his life sparks in you:
SS: Tell us about your career path since you graduated from UCSD, specifically the twists and turns that you didn't expect or plan on when you were still in school:
SY: Since graduating, I've bounced from your typical office job doing graphic and web design, to campus ministry, to start-up competitions, to music production, to even my own t-shirt company. It's been a year of trying many different things, and feeling out my different passions.
I honestly think the most unexpected twists and turns came from the people I met. Just talking to people I normally wouldn't, and letting them know what I wanted to do, connected me with so many random people that took me down so many unexpected but exciting paths. One of the highlights was my friend Eileen, whom I met through a couple of mutual friends. She was extremely involved in the music industry and I didn't know anything about the SD music scene, but within a couple of weeks of sitting and chatting I was playing a show downtown, meeting all these crazy DJs and producers.
SS: What have you learned about yourself since graduating that you wish you knew back in school?
SY: I think the main thing I learned about myself was the entrepreneurial flair I have. I wish I knew that earlier before I embarked on pursuing a major in art haha, I think I would have joined a lot more clubs related to that as well.
SS: Being a creative type, how does your creativity intersect with your faith?
SY: Oh man where do I even begin? I think the idea of even being able to create is key component the the basis of my faith. I have been created by a God that loves creation. And because of that, I have been given the awe-inspiring right to create just like my maker can create. That is an mind-bending truth that He has instilled in me.
In addition, a big portion of my creativity stems from idea creation and making connections. So everywhere I go, I constantly see ways that Jesus connects in this way or that. Or I'll randomly think of new ways that people can encounter God and meet with Him. I feel as if my creativity intersects with my faith by allowing me to see how God Himself intersects with the world around me in unexpected ways.
SS: We know that God is into changing the whole world, but what's the specific slice that gets you fired up the most?
SY: There are many "slices" that move me, but I think the slice that gets me fired up the most is when people are redeemed of their sense of worth, and concurrently when people see what they are capable of in terms of loving others. I think a good example of this comes from my time doing campus ministry. One of the people on a team I was leading had come to faith his freshman year - I still remember speaking to him before he was a believer. While on media comma team his third year, a dream of his was to shoot a documentary about a thriving homeless community that worshipped and fellowshipped downtown on a regular basis. By the end of his time on the team, the dream had become a reality in the form of a 45 minute documentary detailing the lives of the homeless leaders and student leaders that had partnered together to make the fellowship a reality. Stepping back and seeing the transformation from when I first spoke to him freshman year to when he finished the documentary, I was blown away by how God had transformed this man to transform others. And I was blown away that I could be a part of that. This is just one for a few stories that really capture what gets me fired up. Stories of people realizing their potential to be used by God.
SS: What's challenged your faith the most since you graduated?
SY: The most challenging thing for me since I've graduated has actually been grappling with the feeling of needing to be accomplished in some shape or form. Often times, I feel like I don't have enough time to do the things I want to do, or I feel like I am falling behind in the goals I want to achieve. I feel that especially in our American culture of striving for excellence, I often get caught up in focusing my energy on my own abilities as opposed to focusing on what God is capable of. So I get discouraged easily when I compare myself to my peers who seem to be "farther along" in life than I.
SS: In what ways have you seen God use you to impact others through your work, and where do you feel like God might want to increase your influence?
SY: I think the most tangible example I have of God using me to impact others has been while I was doing music production and performance. The underground music scene wasn't necessarily a place of very much light, but I was able to bring of piece of that light just by being there and being a friend. There was one time when one of the local producers committed suicide and it rocked the music scene in San Diego. I was able to attend his memorial and though I didn't necessarily share the gospel to everyone, I was able to be there with his friends and his family to shed a bit of God's love and peace. In terms of where he might want me to increase my influence, I believe that he wants me to bring more of His presence into the office I work at presently. He's been calling me to be more relational with my co-workers and just get to know people. I feel like He's leading me through a season of what it looks like to be a co-worker that not only does his work well, but is also genuinely caring of the people he works with.
SS: What advice would you give for a college student getting ready to graduate and trying to figure out what to do? What should they consider when thinking about life after school?
- Try new and different things, you can't find your passion until you try it!
- Focus on where God is bringing you, not on where you need to be compared to your peers.
- Find an accountability group that can help you process and discern what God has been doing in your workplace
- Be attentive to the opportunities that God presents to you, whether that be in making relationships or in moving forward in your career.
- Pray daily, you will be able to hear God clearer.
- Take Sabbaths, you will not regret it. You are never too busy to spend time with God.
- Expect change, life after college is exactly that: Life after college. The 9 to 5 is very different than college life. Don't dread it, just be ready to adapt.
- Finally, rejoice in every circumstance! No matter what God is bringing you through, he is gonna bring you through it. Keep your eyes on the hope that is in Jesus Christ and you won't falter. "3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5
When I sit down with someone to help them figure out their future, I tend to head in the direction of passion. But, a growing number of conversations I'm having lately get stuck in this spot.
Frederick Buechner is quoted a lot with his formula for figuring out your vocation: "The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." It's a fantastic quote with extremely helpful direction. But, what if you have no idea what your "deep gladness" might come from and find yourself without passion for almost anything?
Here are a few steps to take if you're not sure what you're passionate about:
: try lots of different paths. Volunteer, read articles online, take a class, get an internship. Reflect
: take five minutes at the end of every day to write down the moments of the day that you most enjoyed- the part of the day where time seemed to stand still, the parts of the day you noticed joy and deep contentment. After writing those moments down for a few weeks I guarantee you that you'll discover patterns within yourself that you weren't aware of before.Pray
: ask God's spirit to reveal your passions to you.Pretend
: there's a great phrase from the 12 Steps program- "fake it 'til you make it". Read the gospels and observe what Jesus seems to be passionate about. Then, go and do what he would do if he were you. Unpack
: sometimes we can get stuck in past hurts and pains that numb us to feelings of joy and passion today. You might be overwhelmed with fear, or self-doubt, or depression. Start by opening up to a trusted friend about what's going on inside, and consider starting a relationship with a counselor
The root of the word passion comes from suffering
. People full of passion are most often the ones who suffer the most for the cause they believe in. What are you willing to suffer for?
I thought that this email newsletter from Henri Nouwen was so good, we should steal it and put it on our website. Here it is, from Jan 17, 2010.
Often we want to be somewhere other than where we are, or even to be someone other than who we are. We tend to compare ourselves constantly with others and wonder why we are not as rich, as intelligent, as simple, as generous, or as saintly as they are. Such comparisons make us feel guilty, ashamed, or jealous. It is very important to realize that our vocation is hidden in where we are and who we are. We are unique human beings, each with a call to realize in life what nobody else can, and to realize it in the concrete context of the here and now.
We will never find our vocations by trying to figure out whether we are better or worse than others. We are good enough to do what we are called to do. Be yourself!