I love the Message translation of Proverbs 14:18–Foolish dreamers live in a world full of illusion; while wise realists plant their feet on the ground.
To help you plant your feet on the ground as you prepare to soar in your career after college, I compiled ten of the most important things I did, didn’t do, or wished I had done to get ready for the “real world.”
- Sit Down with one of your professors. Someone who has been an advisor, counselor, or mentor figure to you throughout your college years. Ask for their advice on what steps they would take if they were in your shoes, and be open and willing to follow what they suggest. If they’ve known you for any length of time, they probably see your strengths and your potential, and will be excited to help you launch. Ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni either working in your field or who could offer advice specific to your goals. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.-Proverbs 4:7
- Talk vision with your parents. Share with them the visions God has given you for your career. If you haven’t gotten clear direction on your future, tell them what your desires, gifts, and talents are. Describe what you define as a dream job. Including your parents in your dreams lets them know that you value them, and will help them understand that you’re not wasting time if the first job you have to take is in an unrelated field. Demonstrate your desire to work hard and maintain focus, and convey your trust that God will use any job experience you have to teach you something valuable.
- Email your past internship connections. Your direct supervisors, other employees you worked closely with, and even your former intern friends. Tell them that you’re graduating and share a mini update on your college accomplishments and future plans. Let them know you’d appreciate any leads they can send you regarding job openings, and ask if they know anyone at whatever companies you apply to. The best way to find a job is through knowing someone!
- Figure out a living situation. You may be open to moving cross country for a job, but if job searching requires a month or two more than you expected, you don’t want to be in a panic. Can you move back home, or with a relative, church friend, or family friend if your family is out of state? Thinking logically about these situations will help you stay calm and prepared should an unexpected situation arise.
- Plan a budget. There’s nothing worse than searching for months longer than you expected for a job while watching your bank account dwindle. Realistically estimate how much money you’ll need a week to meet your expenses. Most of this will depend on your living situation, and then factor in gas (for interviews), groceries, your cell phone bill, etc. And stick to it! Put the cash you’ll need for the week in an envelope at the beginning of the week. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Although it requires discipline to live by a tight budget, it teaches crucial money management skills you’ll utilize when you start bringing home regular paychecks.
- Realize that you’re entering a much bigger world. And one that doesn’t revolve around your schedule. Unfortunately, not every employer will be able to drop everything to call you in for an interview or set up a lunch meeting. The college lifestyle provides a luxury of planning your own schedule–you can go where you want when you want to and don’t have a heap of responsibilities outside of the classroom or a job. The sooner you grasp that flexibility, patience, and humility will be your biggest assets, the easier the transition into the real world will be. We ask him to strengthen you by his glorious might with all the power you need to patiently endure everything with joy. -Colossians 1:11
- Revamp your resume and cover letter. Job applications can be time consuming, especially since most are done online. To avoid last minute scrambling should you be asked to come in for an interview on short notice, have someone you trust like a professor, working professional, or someone at the career development office take a look at your resume. Simple edits can make your resume stand out. Also, draft a few cover letters so that you have them prepared. Be sure to specifically address how you fit the needs listed in the job posting, as well as include your strengths and why you’re the perfect candidate. You’ll have an extra boost of confidence knowing you’ve gone the extra mile to prepare, and you’ll be able to tackle online applications in half the time!
- Reach out to someone you admire. You’re at the perfect time after college to build relationships with people who understand you’re seeking advice and help. They’re most likely to respond when they see you’re fresh out of college and looking for a start, rather than five years out of college and “stuck.” If someone is in a position you’d like to be in one day (and their email is listed online) shoot them an email. Tell them you hope to be where they are one day and ask for any advice they’d give a new graduate. If they don’t respond, you’re no worse off! But if they do, you’ve opened a door to what could be a great career mentorship. He who walks with wise men will be wise. -Proverbs 13:20
- Reflect & celebrate God’s faithfulness. Look at how far He’s brought you, and thank Him for the visions, dreams, and promises He’s given you for your future! An attitude of gratitude will open the doors for blessings and help you remember all that you have to be thankful for, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the LORD! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! -Isaiah 12:4
- Pray. Not just when you’re wanting a job, but when you have that job. We are instructed to pray daily–to seek first the Kingdom of God, and everything you need will be given to you. (Matthew 6:33) Strengthen your daily habit of prayer when things are going smoothly in your life, don’t wait until you’re desperate to hear from God. A strong foundation of faith in Christ and His promises for your future will be crucial to help you persevere through the years after college. As you launch into the real world and answer the call on your life, daily prayer will allow God to direct your steps. He is the only one who knows what great things await you! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. -Philippians 4:6