Five Ways To Set Yourself Up For Success After Graduation (PART I)
Next week is our first College Week with five days worth of college-themed articles but, for some, this fall will be different from all the rest. For those of us who graduated in May, this is the first August/September that we won't be buying books and school supplies, and instead are making our way in the real world with full-time jobs. Others have been adulting in the "real world" for some time.
I graduated from law school in May and spent my summer studying for the bar exam and then traveling before I start work in September. I've already moved into my new apartment in a new city and once most of the boxes were unpacked it became a bit more real: life as I know it is about to change and that is equally terrifying and exciting. I'll have to figure out the whole working full-time routine after two decades of school, part-time jobs and summer internships. I'll need to make friends in a new city after relying on school for built-in friend groups. And that's just the beginning!
The beauty of this community though is that I don't have to do it alone - many of you are in the same boat so I wanted to talk about the things we can do to set ourselves up for success after graduation in this week's two part series.
1. Join Professional and Charitable Organizations
In almost all professions and industries, it's about who you know. Although you'll meet people in your profession through your job, you'll want to expand your professional network by interacting with professionals outside your company. I would recommend joining a few different organizations for your first year to see which ones are the best fit, and then in year two, narrow down your focus to just 1-3 organizations, depending on the time commitment. For example, I'm planning to join the local chapter of the Bar Association, which has a Young Lawyers section, in addition to the Women's Law Association. Since I love the work I do with Tirzah, and to expand my network even further, I might also look into joining a bloggers group or something with entrepreneurship.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. -Ephesians 5:15-17
I am very particular about how I spend my time though, so I try to narrow down my involvement in extracurriculars to the things that matter most to me. Service and charity have always been close to my heart and I try to volunteer where I can, when I can. I'm excited to research local charities, hospitals, and non-profits in St. Louis to see which ones I can get involved in a couple hours a month and hopefully someday work up to a board position.
Because although networking is important, it's not just about the network, but about having the opportunity to be the light - and Jesus's hands and feet - to as many people as possible. For me especially, it's about getting out of my comfort zone and convincing my introvert self to build relationships and friendships. Regardless of whether you're moving to a new city or back to your hometown, there are lots of organizations and people there who need you - your skills, time, finances and most of all, your friendship and the chance to see the Light in you.
2. Make a Home
As women, we are called to be homemakers. Contrary to common misconceptions though, you don't first need a husband, kids, or a white picket fence before you can create a home. Whether you're renting a tiny studio in the oldest part of town, sharing a house with roommates, living in your parent's basement until you save enough money to move out on your own, or sharing a home with your husband and kids, take some time to create a welcome atmosphere in your living quarters. Hang up art, photos and encouraging prints on your walls. Buy - or if you're a creative, sew - pretty pillows for your bed and couch (I've been eyeing pillows from Parris Chic (photo above) for years!). If you have hand-me-down furniture, buy couch covers and give your chairs/desk/table/shelves a new coat of paint. Buy fresh flowers once in awhile.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. -Hebrews 13:2
The perk of having a welcoming home is that you're more incentivized to host guests in your space. Offer to host a Bible study over brunch or tea. Invite out-of-state friends to stay with you when they're passing through. Host a dinner party (supposedly this is a grown-up thing to do and it's on my bucket list so if not now, then when, right?).
3. Build Community
Y'all, we need people. The independent introvert in me may fight it, but I have learned the value of friendships and community and it has made me a better person. When I first moved out on my own for law school, I didn't know a soul in my new city. For awhile, I attended a small church planting project, but it didn't fill me up spiritually, so I began praying for a new church home. Towards the end of my first year of law school, a classmate recommended a church to me. I was terrified to show up on my own the first day. I did not know anyone who attended there, but I googled their address and went. I'm so grateful I did, because over the next two years, those people became my strongest support system. They loved on me and pointed me towards Christ. When I moved away, they put me in touch with a few people in St. Louis who attend a similar congregation and I'm excited to see how God will unfold this next chapter of my life.
Finding a new church home is difficult. It may take a few tries to different congregations to figure out which one is the best fit and which one is doing the best job at living out the Word and seeking Christ. But it's worth it. Once you do find a congregation, make an effort to build friendships:
- Don't wait for an invitation - invite someone out for coffee or lunch
- Offer to host a Bible study in your home or to baby sit for a couple with young children
- Chat with the elderly to see if they need any help (a grocery run, a ride to an appointment, etc..) or maybe just a listening ear
- Remember details about the people you meet (the activities their children are in, where their grandchildren live, jobs, hobbies, etc...) and bring them up in subsequent conversations.
- Ask the second questions - friendships take time and cultivating, so embrace the awkward in the beginning and remember to focus on being present and asking genuine questions as you actively listen to the other person.
Although these tips apply beyond just a church building, I'm a firm believer in seeking out people who will point me to Christ to become part of my community. Although I have friends who are not believers or practice different religions from me, my closest, dearest friends are the ones who have prayed with me, discussed the Word and always pointed me to Christ above all else.