“How to know what job to do”
“What are my skills/gifts”
“Jobs my skills are meant for”
“Help idk what to do with my life”
“What is my purpose”
“Non-traditional jobs no one knows about”
“idk what to do about jobs”
“Graduating and freaking out”
If you can’t tell, I’m graduating from college in May with a degree in Biomedical Engineering, and those are my recent Google searches. I miss Ask Jeeves right about now. Anyone else?
In September, I got a job offer from a fantastic company that I interned with this past summer. It came with a pretty amazing salary for an entry-level position. It boasted a month of built-in vacation and good benefits. I have tons of friends working for the company.
And I was completely and totally freaking out about it. In late November, I decided I couldn’t do it, because I knew deep down it just wasn’t right for me.
You know that one thing that everyone always has called you in your life? Maybe it’s funny or kind or spirited. My words are “smart” and “has her sh*t together.” I was the kid who did her first-grade homework days in advance of the due date, never missed a piano practice, and always ate everything on her plate. I did as I was told.
You know what the problem is with people saying you have it all together? It perpetuates this pretty tough idea that you actually do have to have it all together. That you have to be perfect—dotting every “i”, crossing every “t”, showing up everywhere on time and pleasant, ready to do the most. It can be a super damaging thing, and I’m just realizing it for the first time at 22.
So, I’m going to just say it: I’m Dana. I’m graduating. And I do not have my sh*t together. That hurts to write.
I came to college, like most people, to get a degree so I could get a good job and start a career. But what happens when you get to the end—after five years, four internships, three majors, and two colleges—and you have no idea which way to go? I’m finding out that Google searches are not the answer to this big question.
I believe in a God who gives us what we need and even more than we could ever dream of. But what happens when you’re not sure if what you’re given is what God really wants or has for you?
I’ve been trying to listen to God more, especially about this whole situation. Not literally listening; I’m talking about sitting in my college living room, cup of coffee in hand, and just shutting up. Sometimes I’ll sit with my palms up, and sometimes I’ll sit with my legs up on the wall. It just depends on the day and how still I feel I need to be. Something cool (and also sometimes frustrating) that I’ve found while trying this is that God doesn’t always speak to you at that moment, but beginning that conversation of allowing Him to speak to you is critical.
I’ve experienced this in some wild ways after starting this conversation: seeing a quote on Pinterest made just for me, an unexpected conversation with a friend, a piece of hard truth from someone, mentors reaching out unprompted with advice and direction, and thoughts that very clearly aren’t my own.
I’m finding that this idea of “purpose” (or what we’re supposed to do for work in this world) is hard, sucky stuff for a lot of people. I mean, come on, we’re 22 when we graduate college, and we’re supposed to know how we’re going to spend most of our lives? Sheesh. Give us a break! After doing this listening thing with God for a while, though, a few things have become pretty clear to me:
First, my job is not who I am. When I stop putting all my identity in what I do after college, there is an incredible pressure release.
There’s actually a much better place to put our focus—a better question to ask than, “What should I be when I grow up?” There’s this great book called “Garden City” by John Mark Comer that talks about the Bible’s take on how the origins of life relate to work today. We’ve always been wired to work, but now we often get the luxury of choosing what we want to do with our lives—something that we tend to define as “purpose.” I’d push back on that (and I think John Mark Comer would, too), as I believe we are ultimately here to make the world closer to the world God created. There’s a Hebrew word for it called shalom that we have a hard time containing in English, but think of it as a deep combination of peace, tranquility, harmony, wholeness, prosperity, and more.
In his book, he speaks to college students specifically saying, “You’re not learning to get a degree. You’re learning to create shalom in the world.” What if, instead of asking, “What should I do with my life?”, I asked the question, “What can I do with my life that creates more shalom for God and his people?” That might just change the game.
Second, I do have skills. Anything short of this is a lie that really gets college students nervous, especially as graduation nears. I live in a house with five seniors, and anxiety can be high. There’s something about a full load of hard classes that makes you feel like you are the WOAT (worst of all time) at everything. I tried all kinds of things to figure out what I’m good at, and it all seemed to tell me I was good at nothing. 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV) told me otherwise, though. It says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…”. I believe that God is telling us right here that we each have at least one gift to serve the world, even if it can be hard to believe. I’m still figuring out what they are exactly, but I’m starting to get an idea.
Third, silence from God totally stinks. But it ends. God is even silent in the Bible, going over 400 years once without saying anything to his people in something called “The Silent Years” (dun dun dunnnnn). However, He returned with one of the biggest smackdown returns of all time: John the Baptist, the guy who came before Jesus to tell everyone that Jesus was coming. Even though God is silent sometimes, I’ve also found it can be that we aren’t really listening. A friend asked me, “Have you prayed about your job?” and I replied in the most frustrated tone, “Yes, and I’ve gotten radio silence.” I believe that while God appeared to be absent from my situation with jobs, he was really speaking through the anxiety I was getting towards one job and the excitement about the new opportunity I ended up taking. Sometimes He actually talks to us through our emotions if we pause enough to notice and ask him about them.
In 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT), it says, “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’” That means that God’s promise to take care of me and give me a future is a resounding “Yes!”—even when it seems like I can’t hear him.
These truths, as well as regular time with God, helped me come to that huge decision to go in a completely new direction. The God I know is faithful, and he swung a door wide open in the span of about a week for a brand-new job doing something I’m really excited about. I’m pretty sure He loves to do stuff like that—stuff that surprises the pants off of us and leaves us childishly giddy. While I’m still uncertain what the rest of my career holds, I believe that I can count on Jesus to move me where I’m supposed to be, even if the process to get there is painful and requires making a crazy, bold move.
What struck you most in Dana’s story? Journal about it if you’re processing alone, or talk about why it jumped out with a friend.
What if we were all primarily driven by how to create shalom in the world? What type of change would that trigger?
Have you ever felt like your gifts didn’t matter? Or maybe you didn’t even have any? What would it take to believe you were intentionally designed to thrive and bring something unique to the world?
Think about any places in your life you feel anxious or lost—like you can’t handle it or aren’t sure which way to go. Name them on paper and ask God (even if you aren’t sure you believe in him) to talk to you about them, or voice them out loud to friends and let them encourage you with some new perspective.
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