The New Chapter as a Graduate Professional
Whenever I attend a graduation ceremony or hear about one, I am reminded of my own that took place about twenty years ago. I have fond memories of my days at the AAU-Sidist Killo Campus which was filled with a lot of learning, building friendships and growing as a spiritual person. When graduation approached, I had sad feelings about leaving such a warm place of fellowship and rich learning to a point where I felt ready to get enrolled again the next day after graduation. I could somehow relate to Peter when he suggested to Jesus that the experience at the mount of transfiguration was so great that they could make it a home there. It was natural for most of us then to feel that way. Nonetheless, such a strong grip to the wonderful life as a Christian in the campus left me unprepared for the life that ensued post-graduation. Some of the points I share below are things I have learned over the last two decades from pleasant and not-so-good experiences.
Fellowship: One of the things I have learned is the importance of being surrounded by the right friends in your early life as a graduate. Compared to many other countries, there is less structure and predictable path of growth in the job market here in Ethiopia. This makes life as a graduate a hard start. Hence, choosing who you hung out with is one of the big choices you will have to make as you embark on your new life. If you have formed strong friendships in the campus, make efforts to maintain them as it will be your support system for some time in your early life as a graduate. Such relationships have strong chances of becoming life-time friendships that you will cherish. My strong advice is to continue to meet with like-minded people, both informally and formally, to nurture your spiritual, intellectual and emotional needs as a graduate. There is a rich mutual learning from such meetings and keeps you in good shape through the challenges and some of the unchartered paths you will go through.
Settling and learning: whether we choose a career life as self-employed or working for an organization, we need to approach our professional life as one that provides a unique platform of learning. It opens opportunities for us to cross-learn from other disciplines, go deeper in our disciple, add new skill-sets into our resume, etc. Part of a good learning process is settling. The prevailing job environment is characterized by competition where people make choice about their employment mostly on the money they make. Hence, it is common to see graduates making frequent career changes without taking the time to settle and complete a learning cycle at a place. We need to be constantly aware of the opportunities of learning that settling opens for us and the need to be intentional about it. This is particularly important at the first stage of one’s employment. Such seemingly simple but significant choices we make have a compounded effect on how fast and well we mature in our career life.
Setting goals/targets: one cannot imagine a productive life as a graduate without setting goals. The biggest goal we can set as Christian graduates is to make it our core end to honor God in all we do. It is important to set the bar high with a life that displays purity, excellence and servanthood in the work place. This is our differentiator as a Christian graduate. It is also vital to set goals about forming a family, pursuing post-graduate studies, the faith family to minister at, etc. with timelines attached. One of the things that pass unnoticed is the fact that most graduates underestimate their current and prospective roles as leaders in society. The fact that you are a graduate of some discipline in itself sets you apart from the majority of the people in a country with lower levels of higher education and opens huge possibilities of growth and influence. Such opportunities can be missed if we approach it with passivity and luke-warmness without a plan of how best to use such possibilities. Setting goals will have to be followed by some actions too; actions that align with your Christian values and are God-honoring.
Self-learning: you will soon realize that formal education has been helpful in broadening your perspectives and allowing you gain from peer learning. However, learning does not stop at completing undergraduate studies; it is actually the reverse. You may find that university/college education is not so much linked with what you would conduct daily in your career. Hence, one needs a strong drive to do some self-investment to continue to learn and adapt to the demands of career environment. That may require you to read books, participate in training, network with like-minded individuals, pursue excellence and higher achievements etc.
In as much as the above points are useful to consider as you begin your life as a graduate, they all need to be anchored in dependence on the Lord’s guidance and instructions to pursue a great career life. There is no replacement to that. All the best of God’s abundant provisions on the new chapter.
Director of Africa Operations Bethany Christian Services Global LLC