Getting From Here To There: An Encouragement On Bridging The Gap From College To Career

When I was a little girl, I was afraid to become a woman; in fact, I didn’t want to at all. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be an adult. I very much wanted to be an adult; it was because I didn’t want to be the same type of woman as those who were in my life. Don’t get me wrong, my mom and the other women in my life growing up were wonderful Christian women who I am proud to know. I just knew I wasn’t destined to be like them. I was raised by a stay-at-home homeschool mom in a tight-knit community of Christian homeschool families. All my friends' moms were stay-at-home parents too. I respect them a great deal, but I have never been destined for that.

I’m about to finish a degree in government, and I love my field. I’ve worked in it for about two years now, and I can’t believe the crazy things that have happened during that time. When I was finishing high school and starting college, I was honestly terrified. I didn’t have a clue how I would get from school to a career because I hadn’t seen it done by any other woman in my life. But it happened, and it can happen for you too.

I must say that I pitched this article as a how-to guide, however, as I was thinking about the article and my experiences, I realized that it would be a little disingenuous for me to write a step-by-step formula. I didn’t have a guide, and I doubt I would be able to adequately provide anybody with a magic formula. What I can tell you is that it’s possible to get from college to a career, because I did. I believe that you can too if you want it. With that said, allow me to provide you some humble, anecdotal advice.

Although I have had many ups and downs in my personal journey of faith, there are two Bible verses that have been close to my heart for many years and have helped to guided my outlook on life and my journey to coming of age experience. The first was my high school graduation verse, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I have never felt that I was capable of doing what the Lord placed in front of me at first glance. His grace has never failed me.

The second verse that I have found profoundly encouraging and that I have consistently seen the Lord honor in my life and the lives of other is Proverbs 22:29: "Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.”

"Excels" is also sometimes translated, “Is diligent,” in this passage. First and most important, even if the task seems impossible, be diligent.

As a 17 year old leaving for college, I looked starry eyed at successful women in politics, law, and government, wishing with all my heart to “make it”, but feeling extremely daunted by the prospect of actually doing so. However, I felt a profound sense of calling in this area that has only strengthened as I have grown. I began in prayer that somehow the Lord would be strong in my weakness and take me there and that I would be diligent enough to follow his calling.

I quickly realized that the Lord doesn’t need even our best efforts to make his plans a reality. I also quickly realized that his plans are ridiculously, jaw-droppingly, unfathomably better than the best that I can envision for myself. While his sovereignty has been clear and pervasive in my life, I also strongly believe that he calls for my diligent, consistent action. Many times, well meaning Christian friends have informed me that in order to follow the Lord’s plan I have to wait, be still, listen, and then I will “feel” his calling. I’m a very logical and pragmatic person. This advice has always felt awkward and never worked for me. The Lord can accomplish his plan without my involvement, but when I study scripture that does not appear to be how he desires to accomplish his plan.

I love the stories of Joseph and Daniel. Both were fantastic administrators who the Lord called and gifted for government. Neither had a clear path to follow, but here’s the thing: they didn’t sit on their hands waiting for opportunities to feel comfortable. God made a promise to both men, they believed him and worked diligently at whatever was put in front of them. They took the opportunities that came their way and were used to save God’s people and show his faithfulness. I’m no Joseph or Daniel, I’m a Jessi, and I endeavor to do the same. Consistently and surprisingly the Lord confirms and clarifies my forward motion, shaping it to his will. Why say all this? As you seek to grow in faith and pursue the calling you feel strongly about, never stop moving forward. Never stop seeking new opportunity or knowledge. Learn as much as you can and take every opportunity you can. Push yourself to be better every day. Take on just a little more than you think you can do, but never to much that you cannot do all of it well.

As Winston Churchill would say: “never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never. In nothing, great or small, large or petty never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Don’t be afraid to take chances. In the last three years, I’ve been presented with some cool opportunities. I’ve met plenty of people in college who turn down great opportunities because it’s not exactly what they want to be doing. Don’t be that person because you might miss a ridiculously valuable experience. My first job in government/politics was an internship that I applied for two days before the deadline, because a professor suggested it last minute. It was way out of my league, and I wasn't sure I would get accepted. I applied anyway.

After a month of hearing nothing, I assumed I had been passed over, but then I received a call. They offered me an interview for a position as a video intern--an area in which I had exactly zero experience. I did the phone interview in a church waiting room in Nashville that I snuck away to during a mission trip. Afterwards, I was sure I had bombed the interview. The next day I was offered the internship, and I still had no idea how to do the job I was offered. This was one of a ton of internships I had applied to, but it was the only offer I received. It was not comfortable, intuitive or my dream career track, but I took it anyway. I lived in D.C. for the summer in an apartment the Lord provided, driving a car the Lord provided, paid for by an interim job the Lord provided shortly after I accepted the internship. I learned so, so, so much. Absolutely none of this seemed possible less six months before when I was bawling on my boyfriend's couch because I had a calling, but no idea how to break into the world of politics and inbox full of rejection letters from other internships.

Push yourself farther than you think you can go, and take every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t rest on your laurels, instead, leverage your network. During the last weeks of this internship, I was already looking for my next job. I had caught the political bug, and I couldn’t stand the thought of going back being waitress. I posted on Facebook looking for any way to be involved in Virginia Beach. A friend responded with a Congressional campaign internship and my next adventure.

During that time, I pushed myself to look for ways to immerse myself in my field, so I joined a political club. Less than a week after joining, they asked me if I wanted to go to a conference in D.C. that they were going to that weekend. I crammed my homework, skimped on groceries to pay for the trip, and made it work without having hardly any idea what I was attending. Always have your resume updated and ready. Always carry business cards. In the exhibitor’s hall I asked every relevant table if they had an internship and applied for every program I could. While there, I met a former Regent grad student who worked for a political non-profit that engages college students in politics. She lived in Virginia Beach and was looking to hire a part time field director, but I didn’t know that at the time. I cannot possibly exaggerate how incredible the Lord is at or how unfathomably complex his plans are for your life.

My campaign internship wasn’t paid and I knew I couldn’t keep working for free, so the Lord provided again. About two months after my spur of the moment decision to cram and attend a conference, I was flying to Chicago to learn how to be a field director for a political non-profit. Never miss an opportunity to network--good networking is about relationship building, it’s not speed dating like I thought when I started out. If you get the chance to spend time with peers in your field, alway take it, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. I’m naturally introverted as my fiance will gladly tell you, so it was hard for me to get good at networking. I am naturally uncomfortable, awkward, clumsy and foreign to small talk, but I pushed myself to get better. I attended networking events and forced myself to go out with coworkers, even awkwardly inviting myself a few times to get more opportunities. If I can do it, you can to. Initially, I was horrible and it was not fun. After lots of painful practice, I’m way more comfortable and it’s way more productive. It’s possible even for us introverts, and it will pay off one hundred fold.

Forward motion doesn’t need stringent guidelines. When I started college, I thought I was going to get my degree, join the foreign service and go to law a school. That didn’t happen, but many incredible and much better things did. I now know that I would hate law school and I suck at learning languages. I learned I’m great at politics, enjoy marketing and can strategizes campaigns and often predict outcomes very precisely. My career track now is mind-blowingly more incredible and fulfilling than if I had only allowed myself the original plan. Give yourself room to learn, shift course and grow. Push yourself forward and be prepared for anything. Believe the Lord’s promises for your life. You can make it from college to your dream career, even if you don’t quite know what that is yet. Mine is taking shape every day in unexpected ways.

When I was a little girl, I had super blond hair and I loved Cinderella. I often find myself feeling like Cinderella pre-ball: totally unprepared, barely believing it’s real, but super excited to find out what’s next. If you feel the same, take heart: God provides glass slippers that fit just right. Just two days after Christmas, I turned 20. In May, I’ll be finishing my B.A. in Government. I’m mommy to two wonderful kitties and in August, I’ll be getting married to a wonderful, smart, and caring man. In July 2016, I began working full time in my field. June 1 of 2015, I switched from working for $2.13 an hour at Wafflehouse (as a waitress during the 9pm to 7am shift) to a job in my field. I’ve experienced how crazy, exciting, scary and unbelievable the transition from college to career can be. As I finish up school, I want to encourage you that however scary it seem, it’s possible and you can do it.

Photo Credit: Cover, Image 1.