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A Post-Grad’s Guide To: “What am I Supposed to do with my Life?”

Do you have no idea what to do now that you've graduated college? Here's my best advice on how to transition into adult life!
I'm Stephanie May Wilson!

I'm an author and podcaster and my specialty is helping women navigate big decisions, life transitions — creating lives they love.

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Graduating college is a surreal experience.

Up until this point, you’ve had your whole life expertly mapped out in front of you. You know exactly where you're supposed to be and what's expected of you to get an A.

Then you graduate and suddenly you have about a million options. You've heard people talk about “calling” and “God's plan for your life,” and so you wait around hoping to hear what that is. You plan, and plan, and research, and wait. You want to please Him, you want to do something epic with your life, but the whole thing feels ambiguous. What the heck are you supposed to do and how will you ever know?

The whole thing feels like a tightrope walk. There’s some adult destination you’re supposed to reach and every decision you’re forced to make seems like the perfect opportunity to fall off course.

The transition between college and adult life is a rocky one and although many people have made the transition, very few of them have left breadcrumbs.

In fact, while it’s one of the rockiest transitions we’ll ever make in our lives, it’s also one of the transitions with the least amount of advice and wisdom to guide us along the way.

And so with a few steps under my belt, and knowing exactly how tumultuous this transition is, here are a few truths about the process of graduating college and entering the real world that I wish people had told me.

1. Plans always change

The thing I've learned more than anything since graduating is that plans change. Even if you plan something perfectly, that plan always changes. My life has been rerouted at least once a year since graduating. It's not the, “find the perfect job and stay there forever” situation I thought it was.

I worked for a church after graduating college — for free. That was totally not my plan. Then I traveled around the world, which also wasn't my plan. Then I moved to Georgia which I was planning on doing for six months and then I wanted to move to California. But I ended up meeting my husband there and staying for much longer than I had anticipated. Then once I was comfortable and ready to stay for awhile, the company downsized and both my fiancé and I lost our jobs 3 months before our wedding. Then, almost on a whim and with a part time job between the two of us, we moved to Nashville. And then once we had things all planned, plans changed again.

Nothing about my life so far has gone according to plan. But you know what? I wouldn't change a day of it. It’s been far better at every moment along the way than anything I could have orchestrated for myself.

2. All you need to do is take a step

When we graduate we think we're making a decision about the rest of our lives, when really, we're just taking another step forward. It's like that MLK quote. “Faith is taking the next step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”

That's all you have to do today. You just have to take a step. And the amazing thing is that after you take another step, a whole new set of options opens up to you.

Before I left for the World Race, I was trying to figure out what I'd be doing after. I was looking into jobs, trying to take the third step before I'd taken the first. But after I took the first step and decided to go on the World Race, I was offered a job to work for the Race’s parent company. We have to take one step—blindly maybe—but the other steps rely on our boldness to just take that first one.

3. There usually isn’t a wrong answer, but if there is, God will let you know and guide you back on course. 

So what if it's the wrong step? That's what I was always afraid of. But a friend told me something that's really stuck with me. She said, “The will of God isn't like walking a tightrope, the will of God is as wide as the floor of the Grand Canyon.”

If you’re in a close relationship with God and trying to make the best decisions you can, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be right on course. However, if there’s something specific God wants you to do, or wants you not to do, He’ll make it clear.

God does this—every time you’re at church the message is saying the exact same thing. Every time you open the Bible the same message is staring back at you. Every friend reflects the same truth, every song on the radio points to the exact same thing. When God wants to get His point across, He’s not shy about it. So if this is happening to you, pointing you so clearly in one direction, go in that direction.

The same is true on the other side of the coin. If you’ve taken a job, or picked a path and everything about it makes you feel sick to your stomach, if there are red flags flying as far as the eye can see and nothing about this situation looks like God’s goodness, it’s safe to say you might have wandered a bit off path. So fix it!

If you take a wrong turn, it’s not the end of the world. He’ll guide you out of it, and you'll have learned something, He'll have done something beautiful in it, and He'll have made you better in the process. His redemption is infinite. If you’re in a relationship with God, He will not let you mess this up.

When it comes to making post-grad decisions, take a deep breath and just be you.

God has placed desires and passions in your heart. He’s given you talents, and a story, and relationships that are unique to you. So use them. Pursue the things that interest you, remember that He made you, passions, desires and all. Take one step and trust that more steps will open up as you move.

But remember that for God to take you somewhere you have to be in motion. Choose to move and keep moving forward. Keep making the best, most loving, most faithful decisions you can, and trust Him to take care of the rest. He really will. I know it.

P.S. I have a podcast episode all about navigating transitions. Check it out here.

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How to have a smooth transition after graduating college!

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  1. lauren says:

    Stephanie! This is uncannily timely! Today I set myself the task of dusting off my resume and trying to figure out what’s next. I got married in January and only just got my visa to remain (I’m American, but living in the UK with my British husband). Until I had the visa, I wasn’t allowed to work, but now that I can, everything feels so wide open.
    I’ve really been struggling over the last couple of months with my identity without a job/ school. I *know* that my identity is in Christ and that because of His love, I am worthwhile; that it’s not up to what I do or can’t do. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like it or I forget. I discovered after the wedding rush that I had been subconsciously measuring my worth by my work an awful lot.
    Now that I can start the hunt for a job, I’ve been thinking about where I should start and a bit of anxiety about getting it wrong was creeping in. This post was so encouraging. Thank you! 🙂

  2. Rachel says:

    I graduated last May, while working in my career field & I still experienced a quarter-life-crisis. I put my complete trust in God & followed him as he led me away from the career I thought was my calling. Man oh man was that rough…one of the toughest seasons of my life. Only to be surprised when he moved a major mountain out of the way & gave me a platform to truly shine…at my current position. I am constantly reminded how amazing our King is & when we are obedient the desires of our heart come to fruition.

  3. Kelsey emery says:

    THANK YOU. Wow, this is exactly what I needed today. These are needed reminders. Thank you for taking the initiative to write about this.

  4. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. With graduation six weeks away, this is exactly what I needed. Thanks so much for your wisdom and guidance, Steph!

  5. Laura says:

    Words – make that truth – that even a 40 year old with the same job for 16 years needed! I’ve heard God say “move”, “just do it and trust”, “move on”, “do you really trust me?” all day today. Then your words. Thank you for being so real and God-glorifying!

  6. Sunday Reads says:

    […] not to hide under my bed as it all starts getting more and more real, Stephanie’s piece about figuring out your life is speaking to me heart this […]

  7. Arayna says:

    Thank you for this.
    My roommate, some friends and my younger cousin just graduated. And I have maybe two more years.
    I’m truly excited for them, but at the same time I feel like I should be done already.
    At the same time, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m even on the right track. Because after 5 years off, I’ve returned to this major, to finally finish something and I feel so, doubtful. Even though I feel like God called me to this way back when I was a senior in high school, and even though I’ve wondered why (because “I don’t feel qualified”) I’m pressing on. I’m trusting Him to lead me.
    So this encourages me.
    I’m truly grateful.

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