Is there life after college?
May 31, 2013 | Ashli O'Connell
You’ve spent the last four years working for this. You’ve done the homework, taken the tests and written the papers. You’ve finally walked across that stage, shaken the president’s hand and received your hard-earned diploma.
Sometimes it’s hard to envision where you’ll go after college — and what you’ll do once you arrive. Even if you haven’t yet finished your college adventure, it’s not too early to start planning for the future. Four years goes faster than you think.
For this reason, we at Evangel have compiled a combination of tips, tricks and suggestions to help you make the most of your life after graduation. We consulted the experts — recent grads who are successfully navigating this post-college journey called life. We’ve also asked some of our staff and faculty to share their advice.
Getting a job
Dr. Sheri Phillips served as Evangel’s director of Career Services for 14 years and is the newly appointed interim vice president of Student Development. Ideally, she says, during the last few years of college you have been assessing what career path you want to follow and building your skills and resume.
Now is the time to make intentional moves that will help you achieve your career goals. And right out of college is the time to dream big – but also the time to be willing to start small.
Phillips offers three suggestions:
- Form a realistic plan of action. Prepare to work your way up. “It may be that you need to start out at the ground floor of an organization you are interested in, rather than top management,” Phillips says.
- Expand that resume. You should already have one written, of course, so now you need to work on making it look better in real life. “Identify the skills, experience, etc., that you need for the next level, and look for ways to use those skills in your current job,” she says.
- Build on the strengths you identified at Evangel. You need to know what you’re good at, but it’s more than that. “It is not enough just to name your strengths,” Phillips says, “you need to be able to show the employer how those strengths enable you to do your job with excellence — what sets you apart, what is unique about you.”
Did you know that even after graduation, you can take advantage of Evangel’s Career Services office? There are plenty of Alumni Resources for you to take advantage of throughout your career.
Sometimes you have to follow opportunities outside of your comfort zone to make your dreams come true. Here are two hints from recent Evangel grads who have done just that:
- Flexibility is the key to success. “Continue to make goals, but keep your goals pliable to allow for change in yourself,” says Matt Smith, a 2010 Evangel graduate who is about to move to the Republic of Georgia to teach English with his wife, Beth, who graduated from Evangel in 2011. “Life after college brings opportunities too circumstantial to understand. I never planned on living in another country, but I welcome the challenges it will bring.”
- Don’t be afraid to move away. Bethany Bashioum, a 2009 Evangel grad, didn’t have to leave the country to find her job. Nonetheless, she moved farther away from home than she ever planned. A week after graduation, she accepted her “dream job” working at an award-winning newspaper in a small Iowa town, a day’s drive from her hometown.
“It may just be natural decision to look to start your career either back home or even in Springfield,” she says. “But when you’re making the next step after college, my advice to students is not to be afraid of chasing your career – even if it takes you to another state – or country, for that matter. The time I spent on my own in a new city helped me learn a lot about myself and gave me job experience that has helped me pursue other endeavors.”
Pursuing grad school
We know that for many the idea of going back to school now sounds crazy. You’ve barely finished celebrating the end of finals. However, now may be the ideal time. “If you need an advanced degree, it is usually better to begin sooner rather than later,” says Dr. Geoff Sutton, professor of psychology at Evangel.
In addition to the career benefits of obtaining a graduate degree sooner rather than later, there are practical considerations. It’s much easier to handle graduate school when you are single or newly married without children. Later in life, it becomes much more difficult to balance career, family and school.
Lisa Tyson received her bachelor’s degree from Evangel in 1993 and did not pursue graduate work until later in life. Now as a mother of four and full-time job as assistant director of Adult and Graduate Studies at Evangel, she is working on her Ph.D.
“I wish someone had convinced me to continue my education right after college,” she says. “As a wife and mother with a full-time job, school is much harder. A lot of times, it’s after 9 p.m. when the house has settled down when I am free to concentrate on school. Another side effect of pursuing a degree later in life is that I have to make some hard decisions about what I can’t and can do. This may be volunteer activities, hobbies, and my children’s sports activities. I hate missing anything with my kids. If I had gone on to grad school right away, I wouldn’t have to worry about some of these things.”
Here are two additional pieces of advice from Sutton and Tyson:
- Do your homework first. Know whether or not a graduate degree is necessary for your career. “An advanced degree might sound inviting, but know whether or not it is a wise investment for you,” says Sutton. “Some careers are actively recruiting and others are not. Also, the path to graduate school may be via an employer who hires undergraduates and offers support for an advanced degree relevant to the employer’s needs.”
- Pray. “I have always made this a priority when deciding about school and my future,” says Tyson. “Sometimes I never felt a definitive ‘yes’ when praying. Unfortunately, for some, this means they don’t feel free to take action. But I didn’t feel a ‘no’ either. I kept praying and asked the Lord to close any doors of institutions where I didn’t belong. And that happened. That was my signal to refocus my plan. I’ve never been happier, and I feel the Lord directed and orchestrated every step of my education. He’ll do it for you too.
In the three years since her graduation from Evangel, Bashioum completed a master’s degree, and she says it was one of the best decisions she ever made.
“Six months after entering the work force, I started grad school with the intent of furthering my skills in the area of digital communication and social media. I saw the importance of this area of study and how it was affecting the way reporters practiced journalism, so I acted. I found that getting an advanced degree early not only is easier, but it also helps set you apart from others when you’re looking to advance your career as a young professional.”
Exploring new interests
Although working is important, you can’t do it all the time. In fact, you might even find you have a bit more spare time now that all that homework is out of the way – unless you’re going to graduate school, of course. So what are some things for a new graduate to do?
- Don’t stop learning – or reading. “Education is a lifelong pursuit,” says Dalie Hand, a 2012 graduate. Hand currently works as an Internet marketing specialist at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri. His wife, Monica, also graduated in 2012, is a patient care associate at Mercy Hospital. “I still push myself to read every day,” he says. “I suggest making a list of books you’d like to read. A good mix between theology, your profession and pure entertainment would be advisable.”
- Pick up a new hobby. Smith found he could make money through his social networking hobby. “Several years ago, I advertised myself as a skilled marketer in social networking,” he says. “I instantly received several job offers, and I have worked in this field (on the side) ever since. It’s something I enjoy doing and it looks great on my resume. Find something you’re interested in that pays and/or adds to your career goals and experience.”
- Increase your online communication skills. “Email, social networking and every other online communication will continue to shift their format, but they’re all here to stay,” Smith says. “The better we are at using them, the more marketable we’ll be in almost every field.”
One of the things most alumni say they miss is having a dorm floor full of friends to come home and hang out with at the end of the day. After college, you’re going to have to make some new friends (while staying connected to the old ones, of course). Here are some helpful hints from some recent grads on how to do just that:
- Plug yourself into your community. “Our church and friends have supported us when we weren’t sure what we would do next,” Smith says, “and they’ve rejoiced with us after we were given the opportunity to serve in the Republic of Georgia as missionary associates. Whether you’re married or single, you need a support group to carry you through difficult places in life.”
- Get involved in a church. “Once you’ve taken the next step after graduation,” Bashioum says, “whether it was to get married, find a job, attend grad school or any combination of these, find a church in the area that has an active young adult ministry. Spending time with other like-minded 20-somethings can put the ease of the pressure to trying to develop new friendships.”
- Keep in touch with your Evangel friends. “Evangel people just understand Evangel people,” Hand says. “If you live in the same town, hang out and reminisce. If no one is close by, give them a call. A good Miss Joan reference or another great tale of President Spence always makes for a better day.”
Hand found the ideal way to prolong his closest Evangel connection: “Marry an Evangel grad,” he says. “It worked for me!”
Staying in touch
One final bit of advice: No matter where you go or how successful you become, don’t forget about us. Evangel wants to hear from you even after you’ve graduated. In fact, we have a whole office dedicated to keeping in touch with you.
Chuck Cox, Evangel’s director of Alumni Relations, shares a few practical reasons you should stay connected with the Office of Alumni Relations:
- It can assist you in connecting with alumni who can serve as resources when you move to a new location.
- It will keep you informed about the latest Evangel news.
- Through Vision, the campus magazine, you can hear about the good things happening with your classmates.
- Also through Vision, you’ll be able to share news of your accomplishments and major life events.
- Remaining connected keeps you in the know about alumni activities in your area.
- You’ll be informed about alumni programs, services and benefits.
There you have it. There are all sorts of opportunities out there for you to pursue, so take the experts’ advice and make it your own. But as you set out on your post-graduation adventure, remember where you’ve been, and try to drop us a line every once and awhile, too.