Clopping around in shoes six sizes too big, wearing a dress that drowned my tiny five-year-old figure and carrying around a notepad with a tangle of crayon etchings on it, I asked my parents in the kitchen, “May I take your order?”
As a 10-year-old, after packing up a briefcase with random things from my dad’s office—including a legal pad, ink pens and big hardback books with gold edges—I trekked downstairs to settle down in my makeshift office, the ottoman by the living room window. I pulled out my dad’s legal pad and began to write the next great American novel about a talking hurricane named Katrina.
Years later, at 21, I was hired for my first full-time job—the junior copywriter for The Master’s University—and though my shoes fit and the navy blue blazer I wore over my crisp white shirt was mine rather than my mom’s, I still felt like that little girl playing dress-up, a fraud in the professional world.
I sat in the desk, looked around and wondered, “What do I do now?” I felt as if my toes were scrunching in the shoes six sizes too big, trying to keep them on.
I was already asking, “Am I even qualified for any of this?” By securing a full-time job before walking across the graduation stage, I thought I would avoid the classic college senior question: “What am I doing with my life?”
I have 11 months under my belt and still ask the same questions now and again. But, in the multitude of conversations I’ve had with alumni from The Master’s University, I have gleaned comforting wisdom.
Lena Kelley (Class of 2013) said, “Going through college you think it is a phase of learning skills for your specific career, but that is a big misconception. College teaches you how to learn, it doesn’t teach you knowledge. You are never qualified for a job, but you are qualified to learn.”
Kelley is a director of content development at Scorpion Design and one of her responsibilities is to hire new employees. She described a trend among the current generation of graduates, most of whom are so focused on being unique and individualized when employers really want and need work ethic.
“Work hard and work smart,” she said, “rather than working hard and ineffectively. That work ethic will be the thing that sets you apart. Individuality doesn’t get sacrificed with hard work, it makes you unique. Work hard to figure out your job and become an expert in your field. No matter the industry, there is much to learn.”
Dr. Kevin Hill, chair of the Business Administration Department at Master’s U, gave advice that all pointed back to work ethic and ethics in general:
Do not compromise your integrity. “Graduates may be put in a position to compromise their integrity more in the first day on the job than in the four years of college. Graduates should be prepared to hold their ground, say ‘no,’ and set the tone early as to what kind of person he or she is.”
Be professional. Show up early and leave late. Dress appropriately and surpass all expectations at work. This will set you up for rapid advancement.
Use your phones sparingly and only for work functions. A new employee should never check his or her phone during a meeting, when in conversation, when walking around the office or any time he or she is expected to be productive. “To be on a phone is a signal to everyone around you that you are doing something other than working.”
We live in a world consumed with uniqueness and individuality. Every college graduate must know exactly what they want to do and then pursue an accelerated career track to secure that dream job, whatever it might be: the next great American novelist, the next Steve Jobs, the scientist who finds the cure to cancer, etc.
I constantly need to be reminded that I am only 22. Yes, I have a college education in a field I would love to pursue—English with an emphasis in writing—but leaving college does not mean I have it all figured out or that I stop learning.
John MacArthur, president of Master’s U, aptly summarizes this idea. For everyone, it comes down to habit. “People do what they do not because of self-discipline but because of habit. I do what I do out of habit. Ever since my first year in seminary I spend 30 hours a week studying the Word of God and I’ve never gotten out of that groove. When you are dealing with people in counseling you are dealing with people with bad habits and will have to figure out how to break those. One of the great things of being [at The Master’s University] for four years are the influences and pressures that force the development of those good habits and you have those habits when you walk out the door.”
Whether or not you know what you are doing with your life, whether or not you feel like a professional fraud (everyone has been there), you must do your best where you are placed, trying your absolute hardest, building good habits and trusting that God has you exactly where He intended you to be. Nothing is outside of His plan. I am no seasoned professional, but I want to work hard to become a professional at that.