By Jade Taryn Perry

What I’ve Learned After College

I followed all the advice I could get: made the grades, visited the Career Center, volunteered, and sought out resume boosters. I purchased books about job hunting, started planning, and spent hours in the library applying for jobs. I knew it would take about six months to secure a job, and I was pretty certain I’d be able to find something. “The real world” was waiting, and I was ready to jump into it!

After graduating from Penn State and meandering about in my apartment for a few weeks, I packed my belongings and headed back home to Philadelphia. I’d heard the stories of my peers: stories about new jobs, new cars, new relationships, and new goals. I longed to have one of those stories. I figured, “Well, God did that for them! So, my post-grad ‘wow’ story should be coming along soon!” And it did! Just not in the way I thought it would.

After graduation there were many days of what seemed to be endless applications. Every rejection letter stung. And soon, I began welcoming the rejection letters because the silence from potential employers was worse. I wondered what was going on. Had God forgotten me? Where was my story? What was the good in this post-grad transition?

One of the first lessons I had to learn was that I am not defined by what I do. All through college I was asked, “What is your major? What do you do?” I was admired because of the activities I involved myself with, the people I associated with, and the things that I did. Nevermind the fact that I was sick, sleepy, and burned out most of the time. I hated slowing down. I didn’t like the silence. I thrived on doing. At some point I stumbled upon Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I found my attitude towards constantly “doing” had transferred to my spiritual life. I had plugged into religious activities: serving on this team, singing for that group, traveling for ministry, discipling others, doing . . . doing . . . and doing.

Now after college, I felt like I was doing nothing. I had a real identity crisis when people asked me, “So . . . where are you working? What are you up to now?” Deep inside I equated, “What do you do?” with “What are you worth?” And my answer seemed to be a resounding, “Nothing.”

Yet it was in that space of nothingness that God reminded me that my true identity was not wrapped up in what I did. I was a child of God, dearly loved, and taken care of through every season of life. He made me worth something. That would never change—job or no job. I’d placed a lot of stock in the outward appearance of success, but I was learning more about inward success—patience, surrender, and trust.

I’ve also learned that God’s ways are not my ways, and his thoughts are not my thoughts. That’s not a novel idea; it’s written in Isaiah 55:8-9. This time, though, I was seeing that Scripture play out in my life. The post-grad journey I’d drafted in my mind simply wasn’t his plan. God’s plan was really the best one and the one that would prevail. I learned for myself “how unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

Now while I was back home and unemployed, I certainly wasn’t thinking clearly about God’s plan for my life. I was hurt, and I wanted out because I couldn’t figure him out. But he had me figured out and was guiding me the whole way. He restored relationships I’d left back home, both challenging and encouraging me through them. He placed new people in my life to make me laugh and keep me motivated. He helped me to be wise, taking some jobs I didn’t particularly enjoy so that I could start paying off my debts. He allowed me to employ my creativity, opening doors for me to write, speak, and sing with people I admired. He taught me how to grieve and how to rejoice.

One thing that you must know, no matter where you are in your journey, is that life is not just about what we will do post-graduation, despite popular opinions, pressures, and the threat of “the real world” hanging over our heads. Life is about knowing and trusting God in your journey. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

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Jade was involved with InterVarsity at Penn State University, graduated in 2009, and returned to Penn State in 2011 to pursue her master’s degree in College Student Affairs.

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