From campus to cubicle . . . and beyond

campus to cubicle

After her graduation in 2008, Kelly Knight discovered that the move from school to workplace was a big adjustment. In this interview, Kelly reflects on her doubts, fears and journey of faith in this transition.

Kelly was interviewed for flux, a free publication for recent graduates available from InterVarsity’s Alumni Department. She is a 2008 graduate of the University of California, San Diego. After graduation she moved back in with her parents and worked as an administrative assistant while waiting to begin a fall internship with the The Fellows Initiative, a program for recent graduates that seeks to develop leaders as vocation ministers. She is currently looking for a job.

flux: What were your fears as you left college?

Kelly: I like to have a plan and know what is happening next, so my biggest fear about transitioning away from college revolved around having to trust that God knew exactly what I would be doing next. Throughout my senior year, I struggled with many questions. What am I passionate about? Where do I want to live after I graduate? Should I be looking for an internship or a real job? How am I going to afford living expenses if I want to pursue a low-paying job? Even with a degree from a prestigious school, do I have enough experience to get a job in my field of study?

Ultimately, all the unknowns culminated in these two questions: “God, what is your plan for my life?” and “How do I know that I am following your lead and not my own?”

I still don’t know what God’s plan is for my life and I never received crystal clear confirmation about whose lead I was following. But at the perfect time in my senior year, God placed an amazing internship opportunity in front of me and, in doing so, he gave me the gift of knowing that I would have something specific to step into after graduation.

flux: Over the summer you worked as an administrative assistant in an office environment. What was that like?

Kelly: The transition from a college environment to an office environment has been interesting. Cube-land office life is much slower paced, much quieter and less naturally social. The slower pace and quietness is nice some days but other days it just makes me more tired. In college, it is pretty easy to meet new people without much effort, but in the office I found that if you don’t take the initiative to introduce yourself, you will not get much further than the fleeting, two-line greeting over morning coffee.

The age diversity of the office is also very different from my college experience. After being surrounded by mostly college students for the past four years, it’s been refreshing to be around people who span the age spectrum and have different life experiences and perspectives than me. On the other hand, I am so accustomed to relating to college students that it has been an adjustment learning how to build relationships with coworkers who are at different stages of life. Often I simply feel very young and slightly intimidated at the thought of initiating a relationship with my coworkers who, unlike in college, are not necessarily my peers.

flux: What has it been like to move back home with your mom and dad while you wait to start your internship and move to Washington, D.C.?

Kelly: Being back at home has felt like two months of waiting, much like a layover in an airport. My graduation “flight” from campus started in June but I have been waiting out my layover back at home — looking forward to my next flight departure so that I can finally step into a new and exciting phase of my life.

flux: What lessons from college do you hope to remember as you transition?

Kelly: When I studied abroad in Hungary during my junior year, I started to understand the importance of prayer. I always knew prayer was important but had never experienced for myself the power and joy of prayer. While I was abroad, I committed to growing in prayer and God blessed my efforts enormously. He opened my eyes to the things he was doing all around me and the ways in which he was answering even my unspoken prayers. He gave me joy, which I had always struggled to find but could never quite grasp. This is one of the commitments I hope to continue.

My college experience also taught me the importance of maintaining an attitude of learning. I remember my freshman year when I was thinking about becoming a student leader and an InterVarsity staff worker spoke about leadership requirements. I specifically remember him saying that the number one thing that makes someone a leader is possessing an attitude of learning. I definitely struggled with keeping an attitude of learning all throughout college, but it was amazing when God blessed my efforts by giving me joy in all I did. As I transition out of college, and out of the environment of academics and learning, I want to make sure that I continue to adopt an attitude of learning in every aspect of my life.

flux: Do you have any advice for this year’s graduates who are facing harsh economic realities?

Kelly: The only advice I have to offer comes from what God has been teaching me in the last few months as I have been looking for a job in the Washington, D.C. area. One of the things I have learned, and am continuing to grow in, is “considering it pure joy” to be in this place of so many unknowns. As Christians, we talk a lot about how important it is to trust in the Lord, but how often are we put in a place where we are really forced to put those beliefs into action? I know for the last twenty-two years of my life, those places have been few and far between, so what an amazing opportunity I have at this moment in my life to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to truly trust in the Lord by having to practice it on a daily basis. So, I guess the advice I have to give is to take James’ words to heart when he encourages the church to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds… .” (James 1:2-4).
Something else I have been learning throughout this job search is how God does not want us to live in the future but rather desires us to be present and available for his use every minute of every day. Recently I was describing my ongoing job search to a new acquaintance and she semi-jokingly suggested I tell people that I am “in between opportunities”. I laughed along with her, thinking it was pretty clever but, as I thought more about it, I realized that this perspective is not quite right. I am not “in between opportunities” simply because I am in between jobs. Whether or not I am employed, I have the opportunity to serve God every day of my life. I believe this with all my heart but the question I need to continually ask myself during this time is whether or not I am living like I believe it. Am I looking for ways every day to serve and love the Lord and those around me or am I so consumed with worry and preoccupation about the future that I miss the opportunities that are right in front of me?

flux: Has there been a Bible verse that has been helpful or significant to you in the midst of this transition?

Kelly: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). This verse has been helpful in the midst of my transition from college because it has been easy to get lost in the details, worries and decisions that accompany transitioning.

Especially towards the end of my senior year, this verse reminded me that no matter what decision I made, as long as my eyes stayed focused on Jesus, I could not make a “bad” decision. Furthermore, it has been easy to worry about what people will think of me in my new job and new community. In those moments of worry, this verse has been a much-needed reminder that ultimately the only one I should be aiming to please is Jesus. When I fix my eyes on Jesus, although I know that everything will not automatically be perfect as a result, I do know that Jesus will reward me with himself — and that is far better than anything else!

Additional resources for alumni:

Following Jesus in the ‘Real World’ by Richard Lamb (InterVarsity Press, 1995)

The Fabric of Faithfulness by Steve Garber (InterVarsity Press, 2007)

Everything Twentys: Designing Your Best Decade by David Edwards, Margaret Feinberg, Janella Griggs, Matthew Turner (Tyndale House, 2006)

For more resources, contact InterVarsity’s Alumni Department. You can order the free publication, flux, and other materials for recent graduates.