I went on my first mission trip one year before I graduated. I remember the colourful buildings, cobblestone streets, and old school European charm of Denmark’s harmonic lifestyle. My team leaders carried out hygge with candles, cheese boards, and jam.
I prayed and planned to return to Denmark after graduating to serve in ministry. But God redirected me and I stayed in Canada. Honestly, it was painful and I had to work through a lot of disappointment. Yet God began unpacking how I was viewing success. When I was a student, I believed that I would only be ‘successful’ if I served God long-term overseas in ministry. But God began to change my perspective. I realized that I was more concerned about my outcome, my plans, then trusting God fully, regardless of what he had for me.
I started to invest in my faith in a new way. Did I have any idea what would happen next? Nope. But a year later, I learned that success is investing in your relationship with God and surrendering to his leading. For me, this meant setting aside time to read the Bible, pray, attend a Bible study, and find a mentor.
God’s will is derived from loving him first, and knowing that our identity isn’t defined by what we DO, but by what Jesus did. The year after graduation proved to be instrumental to my faith, understanding my identity, and influenced big decisions like career, pursuing more education, and learning the ropes of adulting. I got to work for administration in the health industry, and intern as a writer with Power to Change, all while learning, growing, and taking note of where my skills fit and where I needed to grow.
This is just a snapshot of my life after graduating–trying new things and investing in my relationship with God. But my story isn’t everyone’ story. Whether it’s pursuing a Master’s degree, serving God in formal ministry, or heading into straight into the workforce, alumni life is about as colourful as a kaleidoscope.
Take a look at 6 snapshots of alumni life after graduating high school and university:
What did you find challenging after graduation?
I worked almost full-time the summer after graduation. I completely underestimated how the change of pace would affect me. Working full-time at a new job was difficult in the training stages, as my body and mind adjusted to the change. Through this, God was convicting me of sin through my struggles, which added another layer of exhaustion. My graduate program also took a greater toll on me than expected. I knew it was intensive, but actually going through it was a whole different story. I didn’t have the same kind of fellowship and support I did in undergrad and was too busy to look for it elsewhere.
How did God help you overcome these challenges?
Knowing that I’m where I’m supposed to be helped me see the difficulties in perspective. I knew that God had brought me to the program, and my confidence in that kept me afloat through the long days. Through work, God was pruning me and teaching me about himself, so whenever there was fruit, I clung to it. God spoke through the material I studied and there were many opportunities for me to draw near to him with my questions. I was also thankful that God allowed me to find two other Christian girls in my program with whom I could share and pray with.
How did you define “success” before graduating? Has post-grad life changed it’s meaning?
Honestly, success, in the context of career, wasn’t something I thought a lot about in undergrad. I wasn’t interested in the world’s definition of success (money, prestige, etc.), but I didn’t quite know what my future would look like. Even though I had ideas of what I wanted to do, there was enough uncertainty to hold any set plans with an open hand. I wanted to glorify God wherever he put me, and doing that successfully meant obeying him to the best I could discern.
Now that I’ve graduated, and not yet working full time, I’m not any more certain of the details of my future. All there really is to do is: continue practicing to trust God with the details, that’s the closest idea I have to being “successful” right now.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before graduating?
I need time to rest. I kind of bulldozed into the next thing without realizing that I was finishing up one stage of life and moving into the next one. Even though resting may not have lessened any of the difficulties, it would have been nice to, just for a month, rest, pray, and reflect on what God was doing and formally close my chapter in undergrad.
What did the year after graduation look like for you?
After graduating I faced the obstacle of deciding what my next steps were. I wanted to pursue further education, but also wanted to gain some work experience in my field of study. There were many positions I applied to, however the opportunity to work in these jobs did not arise for one reason or another. I was persistent and was able to find work as a part-time tutor.
How did God help you discern what to do next?
During my job search and figuring out where to continue my studies, I had a lot of time on my hands. I soon realized that this was an opportunity to use this season of my life to cultivate my relationship with God. I began to spend more time in prayer, asking for direction, and for God to create opportunities for next steps as I walked in faith. God answered in ways that I least expected. He gave me the opportunity to spend the past summer in the States, shadowing and working with professionals in similar fields of interest.
What advice would you give to your graduating self?
Intentionally make time for God. It’s easy to forget when you grow distant from campus groups, that kept you accountable, or as life gets busy with work, family, and friends. But we are called to pray continually and meditate on God’s word, in seasons of rest, or in times of busyness.
How did God lead you to live on mission after school?
With the new job, God opened the door for me to support my local church and global ministries financially. This was on my heart since graduating and God provided the means for me to do so. As I enter post-undergrad studies, I pray that God continues to open the door to advance the kingdom, not only financially but with my time as well.
What was the hardest decision you had to make post-graduation?
After graduating high school, the hardest decision was deciding whether to continue with post-secondary (college/university) or go right into the working world. I chose not to pursue more education and go right into the workplace, as I believed that was how God was leading me.
How did God help you make that decision?
I had actually applied and got accepted into university, but through the whole application process I never had God’s peace about it. I was doing it all for selfish reasons and to please people. Quieting the other voices in my life, including my own, revealed that God was not leading or guiding me to post-secondary studies (at least for now).
How did you live all out for Christ after graduating?
By not going to school, I was able to get involved in the local church doing kids camp, kids church (Sunday school), and a little bit of youth. After a few years, I was introduced to a church where I actively attend and am heavily involved in. Through my local church, Hope Bible Church, I have grown so much in my walk with Jesus and been able to proclaim Christ both in the local church and different global mission opportunities as well.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-grad self?
I would remind myself that each day is a gift from God, and to steward the time and gifts that God has blessed me with. To make Psalm 90:12 my prayer, and know that our days are numbered and to use each day to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17).
How did your perspective on success change since undergrad?
Before I graduated, I defined success as being recognized for my hard work, the ability to easily grasp concepts, and being better than everyone else. I used to share my GPA with anyone who asked without hesitating, but now I keep it to myself. Comparing myself to others was like breathing, and by God’s grace I’ve come a long way from where I was in first year. I thought I was heading to law school with my English and political science degree, but now I can’t see myself doing that long term.
God had been slowly shaping my heart and giving me a burden for missions. In third year I took a summer course so I could apply for nursing school. I try to be more intentional in reminding myself that success doesn’t mean being better than everyone else, but working heartily for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).
What was the biggest challenge you faced post-undergrad?
Several months passed by, and before I knew it I was entering my first year in nursing. This was a real rough patch because obstacles kept coming at me and I felt like it was all out of my control– whether it was going through a recent breakup, entering a program that I felt totally inept and uncomfortable in, or living in a house where I was getting hardly any sleep.
Although these aren’t your typical post-graduation obstacles, like unsuccessfully being able to find a job related to your degree, obstacles remind us that trials can come from anywhere (e.g. our living conditions, relationships etc.).
What did you learn about God through that??
God is not scared of entering into my brokenness, confusion, and pain. He’s not like a close friend who gives you space because they don’t know what to say, nor does he wait for me to recover or spend time on my own to get over the hardships. He’s in the midst of them!
During that time, I sensed God actively walking with me, purifying me, and breaking me down into a state of humility and worship. I found great comfort in Psalm 42 and a song by the Sing Team called, “Satisfied in You”. I loved it so much because (in spite of) the Psalmist exposing fears, sadness, and brokenness, and it’s not even like they reach a state of complete resolution at the end, but they can look to a future. They can say: I know I will praise you again Father.
God tells Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” in 2 Corinthians 12:9 and so like Paul, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Then in Romans 8:18, I read: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Every day is an active and patient waiting for me, and I don’t want to forget them because its months like September, where all my comforts and securities are thrown aside and prepare me for “a new heaven and a new earth…” (Revelation 21:1).
What’s one piece of wisdom you’d give someone before graduating?
Something I would encourage everyone (including myself) to practice and live out: you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and find a sense of belonging or identity in that.
In the past, I wanted to be the best, I wanted my pride to flicker on, I wanted to be in control of who I was and where I was headed. But the great thing about the God I serve is he does not leave me the way he found me! Christianity is an invitation to pick up your cross and die to self, not an invitation to maintain control and self-aggrandizement. With that in mind, I pray that God will give me the faith to follow Jesus wherever he would lead me and to serve the people that he has placed around me.
How do you define success?
Success is working hard and trusting God to help you with the job he has given you. I do my part and God provides the results however he sees fit. Success is knowing you have done your part and done all you can to honour God.
What are some challenges you faced after graduation?
Workplace politics are something I never really considered or was involved in before. The workplace environment has also impacted my life. I experienced different leadership styles and saw that micromanaging, and inconsistency hampered productivity.
How did God carry you through these challenges?
I prayed and trusted that God would provide and he did end up giving me an opportunity at a different company with higher pay, flexible leaders, and it is still very close to home.
What is one thing you wish you knew before graduating?
This is something that I always knew, but found hard to implement, trusting in God in your situation whether it be financial, personal, or workplace. Your job is not to provide results or control situations, but to do your best at whatever task you, in the situation in front of you, and trust God with the results of a project, family, or other personal situations.
What was the biggest challenge you faced after graduating?
One of the biggest obstacles I faced after graduating university was while I lived in Denmark. Serving in ministry overseas for a year was both awesome and challenging. I lost 3 family members while I was overseas, and felt the weight of added responsibility in life, thinking through my future career and life.
How did God help you through that season?
God gave me his peace during my family deaths. He reminded me that he is my shepherd and one in whom I can rest and place my hope in. God pointed me towards biblical truth, comforting me as I lamented. He was just so near to me and it strengthened my faith even more.
How has your perspective on success changed?
Before graduating, I defined success by results. In school, I defined success based off grades, not whether I enjoyed what I was learning or studying. I also measured success by praise and acknowledgment from people. If people acknowledged the work I did or gave me praise, I saw that as success.
Now, I see that success is influenced by the type of work you do. For example, I am a seminary student, intern at a church (leading one of their ministries), and a barista at Starbucks. Success in these three roles look different. Although success looks different, in all these things, I ask: did I give it my all? Did I do my best for the glory of God? If so, then that is a success.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you graduated?
One thing I wish I knew before graduating was how bad OSAP (Ontario student loans) is. I wish I worked part time, so I could pay for my own tuition and not have to owe the government money.