Just Breathe: 10 Important Things to Remember in Times of Transition

There is a scene from the 1998 movie, “Ever After” that always strikes a chord with me. The main character is on the brink of a major role transition. She is walking into a room full of people that hold titles and power she does not. Although she has done the best she can to prepare herself to survive (at least until midnight) there can be no guarantee that things won’t go terribly wrong. She stands at a precipice. Instead of retreating back to the situation she was most familiar and comfortable with however she bolsters her courage, calms her nerves, and whispers those two famous words before taking that first leap of faith into the unknown.

Just breathe…

On high school, college, and university campuses all over the world, students from all different backgrounds and circumstances are preparing to make a leap of faith of their own out into an unknown future. Should I go to college? Which college? What job should I take? Is graduate school the right path for me? Like our hero from, “Ever After” the thought of stepping into the unknown can be one of the riskiest things we ever do.

It requires faith.

It requires courage.

It often requires a dependency on others we might not be comfortable with.

It requires persistence.

Above all, I believe it takes a sense of connectedness and a trust in the belief that there really is a plan for us.

What can I tell you that might help you make your big choices? In the last seven years I have made it my job to become an expert in career exploration, successful job search strategy, and vocational discernment. I have watched thousands of students transition to Graceland University as First Year Students who struggle to find their place, and then transition again to new grads struggling to discern their professional niche. I could provide you with mountains of data, anecdotal accounts, and the names of some super awesome books, but in the interest of time, let me sum up the bulk of what I have learned in 10 points.

  1. The person that knows your heart’s desire best is you. While others mean well, and love you very much, and have experienced insights about you, it is YOUR voice that needs to be the one that counts most. This is not to say the voices of others don’t have value or truth. It only means that we cannot hear our own truth when too many voices invade our space at once. You would be best served to discern which one of those voices is yours, and which are well meaning loved ones.
  2. A degree is not a promise of a satisfying job, or a job at all for that matter. While statistically a degree should mean that you will earn a million more dollars over the course of your working life, success in gaining a job you love means doing things outside of the classroom too. Volunteer. Travel. Do an internship. Join a club. Employers are no longer impressed by your Bachelor of Arts Degree alone.
  3. The days where you could take a job and stay there forever are gone (yay, right??) This means that focusing on your unique strengths, the ability to learn, grow, reflect, and adapt are non-negotiable qualities in building a satisfying life. Start viewing yourself as an entrepreneur. What great services can you offer? What can you learn from one job that can make you awesome at the next one?
  4. You have a long life ahead of you. Hypothetically, if you began work at age 22, you will spend about 43 years, or about 86,000 hours of it working. If you have a career dream that requires a young and healthy body, go for it while you’re young! Statistically you will have between 10- 14 different jobs during the course of your working life. SO if you want to major in dance do it. If you want to join a band, now is the time! If you want to play football at college, do it! If you want to try out a career in modeling, what are you waiting for? These careers are short lived. There is NO RUSH to get yourself to a “real” career when you are 21. You can learn great lessons in a variety of ways.
  5. Less debt means more freedom to make decisions. Enough said.
  6. The road to a good life is very rarely in a straight line. Expect detours. Expect the universe to throw you a couple curve balls. Expect that what you thought was your dream is only a first clue on the path to who you are meant to become. Have you ever heard the saying, “If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans?” True statement.
  7. What you are passionate about right now is not necessarily your calling. Passions are things we do. They change, develop, evolve, and sometimes burn out. Your calling will not change, and has always been with you. Listening for and embracing your calling can give you the gift of stability and peace in an uncertain future. In the process of being who we are called to be, we also bless and empower others.
  8. Your major. Does it matter? Sometimes yes but more often the answer is no. Employers rate “working successfully in a team” and “critical thinking skills” above other technical skills. If you can prove that you can do those things, it won’t matter that your major was Philosophy (as long as you don’t want to go into a field that requires a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, or math.)
  9. Your community matters. Did you know that most people find job opportunities because someone they know has a connection to the employer? I also probably don’t need to tell you that breaking out in a new community can be scary. Our level of happiness is in direct correlation to the closeness of our relationships. Keep in touch with family and friends. Find a church home or other supportive group of people to spend time with. You’ll be happier (and more likely to find employment or other interesting opportunities).
  10. Prayer, meditation, exercise and healthy habits provide fertile ground for creativity and inspiration to take root. We also must learn to listen to the still small voice inside of us that prompts us in directions we don’t understand. Do you feel inspired to take a pottery class? Have you felt compelled to stop by and talk to someone? This is often the gentle way God moves us. If you get a “wink” or a “nudge” don’t be afraid to act! A conversation you have with a friend today or an event you make a random choice about participating in next week could alter your path in a thousand ways that are impossible to unravel right now. (There is actually a career development theory attached to this by the way…I didn’t make that up.)

In conclusion my friends, as you stand in the doorway of possibility take a moment to reflect on the courage it took for you to get here in the first place. Know that you’ve got angel’s wings at your back and just breathe…

You will get to where you need to be eventually. God is patient.


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