Viewpoint: Graduation is both end and beginning

By Jessica Foreman

“What are you doing after graduation?” will be a part of nearly every conversation seniors are having. The answer to that question gives many a great deal of pride in their achievements as they speak of having secured their first job positions and having a 5-year plans already in motion. But for most, the mere thought of the question leads to anxiety.

Graduation is a celebration of achievement, a well-earned accomplishment commemorated over ceremonies and family luncheons, an ending of a chapter and a beginning to the rest of the novel of life. It takes place in a time amidst engagement announcements, job interviews, a series of final finals and apartment searches on craigslist in cities unknown. Graduation is joyful, but it occurs in such an awkward in-between moment in life, especially if the path after seems more directionless than it did at the start.

My personal experience with finding a job has been quite a roller coaster, especially when my time competes with a full-time internship and demanding night classes in the fast-paced New York City program Baylor offers. Today, jobs are less abundant, competition is tougher and while you can still have a future plan, it’s almost guaranteed to get thrown off the highest skyscraper in the city. So where does that leave our graduating class of 2012? Discouraged? Confused? Ready to move to a different country on a whim and go incognito?

I must say I have toyed with the idea of moving to Australia and job searching there, working on a cruise ship to travel and get paid, or being a beach bum and making smoothies in the south of Spain. All of these are fine ideas and may end up making another comeback in my future plans. However, I would like to pass on some advice to those who may just be in the same situation as I am: trying to make life plans within two weeks.

First, an entry-level job will not fulfill your heart’s desire. If it does, you are one of the lucky few and I’d like to extend a hearty congratulations. However, an entry-level job usually exists as a segway to something greater. Every person has God-given talents and passions that eventually should be used to the fullest in one’s career. I personally love public speaking and being in front of an audience. Will a company trust me to manage all of their press and be their voice to the public initially? No and, quite frankly, they would be crazy to.

From what I have experienced in New York, entry-level public relations jobs much more likely entail drafting press releases, printing fed-ex labels and having a limited voice in client meetings. Eventually though — and by God’s grace — those that work hard will land in a position that uses individual strengths and characteristics they have been given to the fullest. It just may not happen in the first post-graduation job.

Second, many entry-level jobs prove to be valuable experience for a variety of future opportunities that better fit career desires, even if they are not in the same industry initially. Companies look for skill sets, specific characteristics and professionalism. With the slim pickings of jobs, many new graduates find it hard to find entry-level positions in their specific field and can quickly become discouraged and jobless for months.

Realizing that overlap occurs within many job opportunities may save you from living with the parents and becoming a “Step Brothers” rerun. If the same skills learned in entry-level are qualifications that can set you up with an opportunity more in line with career goals in the future, then accepting that initial job simply for professional experience may be what you have to do to get there. Think along the lines of “Administrative Assistant” or “Executive Assistant.”

Third, I have learned that God has a plan. Even if His may not align with what you thought your plan was, trust is the only thing that can hold sanity together. That and a long run in Central Park — or maybe even Cameron Park. Believing that He not only knows our heart’s desires, but also knows how to use the talents he created in us, is something I have had to come to terms with this semester. He knows what kind of job each individual would be a perfect fit for, and with trust and grace His purpose will be made known., Career Builder and New York City “Happy Hour” networking can only go so far. Job searching is a full time job in itself, especially in an exciting time with so many distractions and life going at 60 miles a second.

Remember all of this while enjoying the grand accomplishment from graduating with a diploma from one of the nation’s top universities. Take time to revel in the overflow of congratulatory cards, post-grad inspirational quotes and graduation success. The world is at your feet class of 2012, so I just have one question for you: what are you doing after graduation?