Learning to Run in the Dark

For the first time in my life, I cannot see what is in front of me. I don’t have a plan.

Next semester, I will complete my bachelor’s degree and get married. After that, my life’s blueprint becomes blank. I have no idea where I will be working. I don’t know whether or not I will have an internship or, most painful of all, where I will be working after I graduate.

I don’t even know what I’ll be doing in a few weeks from now. I felt the acute embarrassment of this situation a few weeks ago at the Evangel University Leadership Banquet. Campus President Robert Spence was seated at my table and asked some of the students what they would be doing this summer. I heard one student talk about an exciting internship in another state. I wished that I could have answered the same, but I could only tell him the truth: “I will be getting a job—hopefully.”

I know that I’m not alone. Many seniors feel like I do: It’s as if I’ve been driving on a highway that has led me somewhere different than I expected, and now I’m looking back and wondering, “How in the world did I get here?”

I recently read an article in the Duke University news that confirmed my fears; Sheila Curran, a career expert at Duke, estimated that one third of graduating seniors will not have jobs in place when they graduate.

I am not the only one hoping that my “dream job” will reveal itself the day after graduation. It was my pre-marital counselor, Brian Upton, who told me that many seniors do the same: they “pigeonhole” themselves into only looking for one specific job, usually one that they’ve dreamed of for years.

He advised me not to put all of my eggs in one basket. “If you already had something in mind and then that door closes, you have a tendency to get very disillusioned. In the disillusionment, you’re not going to think about all of the options that are available to you,” he said.

These options can mean exploring other career fields or knowing someone working in a desired job market. They can also be as simple as knowing how to talk about your strengths and experiences.

During an Internet search, I was surprised to find that the first characteristic executives look for when hiring is experience (47 percent), while only 18 percent considered a college degree most important. That leads me back to my first dilemma: getting the right summer jobs or internships before applying for a real job. Or does it?

I am a student employee in the Public Relations office at school. Almost every day, I edit copy, write press releases and communicate with others all over campus. Two summers ago, I volunteered to work an Evangel PR table at a district kid’s camp in Rhode Island. While I was in an auditioned choir, I asked to help talk to other people about their college choices. These are all forms of communication, which is also my field of study.

I am automatically attracted to what I enjoy. I love to write and communicate, so these are the jobs that I take in the classroom and in my current job, no matter how unimportant they may seem. Learning to talk about these gifts and experiences could be my ticket out of the land of doubt and into a world of opportunity. I suspect that many other seniors walking the line filled with apprehension could give a similar list to future employers, regardless of whether or not they flipped burgers for extra money during their summers.

By being open-minded about what I consider enjoyable, I could end up somewhere unexpected. Who knows? That unexpected place may end up becoming the right job. The book Keys to Liberal Arts Success (Figler, Carter, Bishop & Kravits) cites stories of students like Elsa Rousseau, who graduated with a sociology degree and now heads up the marketing department of a real estate and banking firm. “They hired me because there was an energy and compatibility between us,” Rousseau wrote (p. 242). “It wouldn’t have mattered if I were a dance major.”

It was helpful for me to find this information and think about my past experiences, but the best advice I received during my period of searching was from my sister, Lindsay. She had heard a sermon about not dwelling on past accomplishments, but instead focusing on what is most important to a hopeful future— becoming more like Jesus.

She read part of Philippians 3:12 to me: “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.” I will never have the perfect plan or make the perfect decision in my life, but I can have this peace: God has brought me to where I am, and He will never leave me.

There is a point when staying in one place causes people to stagnate. Even though it would feel comfortable if I kept working for my college newspaper or stayed in school until something better came along, I would never learn to take a risk. Even worse, I would never learn to put my trust in God.

Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states that change is necessary “where the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Walking blindly into an unknown phase of life is scary and dangerous. It requires perseverance in doubt and trust in the darkness.

I now see my unknown future as a time of opportunity, not regret. Even when it feels as though I am alone, my race isn’t over yet. I know that if I keep running straight, I will eventually reach the finish line. Besides, I’ll probably enjoy the change of pace along the way.

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