Congratulations! You're about to be a college graduate. You survived four(ish) grueling years of late nights and hard work to get that piece of paper you can frame at your new job.
If you haven't done so already, now is a good time to put on your armor and gear up for the road ahead. Maybe it will be an easy initial transition for you, but the journey won't be sunny and 70 degrees all the time. Having been out of college a little over a year now, I've learned a lesson or two about clearing my mind of false assumptions. Here are just a few I encourage you to watch out for:
Maybe you relate to this following scenario: From day one as a college freshman, I had newfound friends begging me to be on their intramural teams, girls wanting me in their sorority, teachers helping me believe I had potential, a BSM director cheering me on to be a better leader and a part-time job where I was promoted every few months.
My confidence level skyrocketed. I had become a committee head, a work manager and a student organization president - and I was confident I would step into the "real world" just as strong of a leader.
Not so much.
Stepping into the real world (specifically, in a new job) you have to prove yourself once again, and it takes a lot of patience to do so. Many people have worked years and years for their high positions. They know more because they have experienced more. Your résumé says one thing, but until you prove you are leader-quality, you're just another new face at the bottom of the totem pole, which can be a sure confidence-crusher.
Be ready to humble yourself and look up to the leaders ahead of you. Ask questions, learn from them and gain a whole new confidence based on experience and a willingness to be a follower once again.
If you assume you're finished learning, then you'll probably stop learning, and I'll just let Henry Ford speak on that:
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
In a world of YouTube, Kindle, books and affordable online courses (my favorite, Lynda.com), the possibilities of self-directed learning to do almost anything are endless.
Being employed in a profession makes you a "professional," but being able to display skill and knowledge makes you an "expert." So strive to be a better expert in your job and in side hobbies by constantly learning more about them. Not only will it make you more marketable for promotions and future jobs, but it will also give you more ways to connect with different people.
On a college campus, you are surrounded with somewhat like-minded people in your classrooms, dorm, cafeteria, recreation center, etc. Upon introduction of another person, you know immediately that you both are students striving toward a degree and, chances are, you are fairly close in age. Bonding happens easily as there are convenient locations to "hang out" and available times between classes and late at night.
When you move away from this environment, the reality hits that your new neighbors may not know or even care you are there. Finding a community of friends is no easy task as it can take planning and comparison of schedules to simply "hang out" for a couple of hours. Then, there's the daunting reality that you should actually go to bed by 11:00 at night to have a clear head for a full eight hours of work the next day.
Understand that you likely will not make (or need to make) new friends on a daily basis. It will take time, it will take patience and it will take a lot intentional effort to build deep and lasting friendships. Finding a church to get plugged into is a great place to start!
The greatest temptation, which haunts me on an almost daily basis is one I never anticipated: the temptation to look back. I am grateful for my job, my home and the friends I am slowly, but surely, making. But I admittedly often find myself reminiscing on the college "glory" days of late nights and great talks, free food and t-shirts and hanging out with whoever, whenever I wanted.
Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Dwelling on those thoughts of the past, good or bad, can blur your vision for what God has in front of you. So keep your eyes ahead and don't look back.
If you read nothing else, read this
I encourage you, College Senior, to get ready. Put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18) because the real world is no easy ride. It's a war zone where Satan will try to attack your weak moments of feeling alone, insecure or inadequate. Find an accountability partner NOW to walk with you after graduation so when times get hard, you'll have someone to call who will remind you to keep looking forward to God and trust His guidance.
Oh, and here's an assumption you can have that's undoubtedly true: God will be with you (Psalm 23).