Ready for the Real World: Take Action

Ready for the Real World: Take Action

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I used to have a bad case of analysis paralysis. The bigger the decision, the more I'd overthink it. And the more I thought about it, the less I could make up my mind and act. 

I think lots of new grads feel that way about leaving college and entering the real world. We wait for God to tell us plainly what we're supposed to be when we grow up. If there's not an announcement in skywriting, we feel we have to sit and wait. 

But I've since discovered that the best way to find out what we're supposed to do is to do something first and analyze it later. Why? 

God's will is not that complicated.

Millennial believers in Christ feel a great deal of pressure not to do anything until we're sure it's God's perfect will for our lives. At the same time, we believe that God's will is complex and inscrutable. 

But the more I read Scripture, the more I see God laying out His will for us in words that are simple and straightforward (I didn't say "easy," though.) 

If we do these things — even more, if we give ourselves, heart and soul, to these things — we will always be following God's will. It's very costly. It will require everything we have. But it's not usually confusing. 

On a related note (one which Kevin DeYoung communicated in much more depth than I can right here), the fact that God has a plan for your life is not dependent on you knowing in advance what that plan is. 

For me, these two ideas taken together have been extremely freeing. If I'm not in danger of accidentally missing God's will, I can get moving!

People and work are complicated.

God's will may be more accessible than we give it credit for being, but people and workplace dynamics are often very complex, especially when we mix-and-match the two. 

In fact, you and the way you fit into your career are so complex that they'll probably keep evolving for the rest of your working life. I find that completely fascinating. With each new work experience and environment, I learn something new about myself. And as I know myself better, I find I have more to offer to my workplace.

For example, when I graduated from college, I had a degree in English, a teaching license, a growing love for writing, some experience in ministry, and a desire to work on a team of people. Now, all of that is still true (except my teaching license has long since expired), plus I know...

  • I am good at evaluating systems and processes and plugging people into them. (Who knew?)
  • I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to the balance of flexibility and structure I need.
  • Being a major long-term, big-picture strategic thinker can be really frustrating to my supervisors, because it feels to them like I'm questioning their authority when I think I'm just troubleshooting. 
  • And about 23 other things that make up who I am in the workplace. 

In addition, I've discovered that work environments aren't one-size-fits-all. They've got layers of variables:

  • The actual tasks you do day-to-day: Easy or hard? Interesting or bland?
  • The values of the organization: A good match for your values or not so much? 
  • The personal satisfaction factor: Is this what you were made for? Are you growing? Would you do this if you weren't getting paid? 
  • Compensation and benefits: Are you making bank or scraping by? And what about the perks? 
  • The team: Are you like a family or barely functional?

Changing any one dynamic can change the whole experience. And at different times in your life, you may prioritize different factors.

With so many dynamics at work, it's almost impossible to grasp the big picture before you start. You'll almost inevitably learn more about finding the best job fit by working. 

Ideally, I think that means trying to land a job that's in or related to your field of study (or perhaps something you didn't study but have a good bit of experience at). I also think you should aim just a little bit over your head in terms of what you think you can easily accomplish, because that's often a recipe for growth. I know that my ideal isn't everyone's, and that not everyone can find an ideal situation. But I do think this is a good and realistic goal for many young professionals. 

Of course, what Socrates said about the unexamined life is true. Once you've started in motion, that's the best time to reflect on where you've been and what you've learned. By doing so, you'll be able to make increasingly informed choices in the future.  

What about you? Do you tend more toward paralysis or freedom when it comes to making early career decisions? 

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  • --Thank you so much for this article. I tend to beat myself up for not having figured out God's plan for my life. And the idea of spending my entire life trying to figure that out while not doing anything at all is debilitating. I am the kind of person who tries everything, and I mean everything, while trying to figure out who I am and what I am good at exactly. This article was very eloquent in truly expressing how I feel and where I am at in life. The line where you you talk about the balance of flexibility and structure, was perfect! That is exactly what I discovered with my latest stint. Haha!

  • --"Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God." That sounds simple enough but the devil is in the details as they say. What on Earth does that mean in practice? Are we to be rich men with children and grand children like Abraham or are we to be poor and childless like Jesus?

  • --Jack: Don't you think that if you're acting kindly, in pursuit of Justice and trying to live in accordance with scripture and at peace with others, the rest of that might figure itself out?

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