At 8am last Sunday morning, I was lined up in a tunnel under the parking lot of the Allstate Arena, waiting with hundreds of other DePaul students prepared to graduate. I was surprised both at how many familiar faces I recognized from classes and even more so, at how many I had somehow never crossed paths with in four years.
One universal characteristic of graduation ceremonies is that they are painfully boring. It probably isn’t safe to trust speakers who promise to be brief, or those who begin any statement with “we all have experienced…” Because the fact of the matter is that each college experience is unique and each person leaves having learned completely different lessons. As I stood in line, and later sat in my chair while hundreds of my peers accepted their degrees, I found my thoughts drifting to a questions that have become all too familiar recently: What am I going to do after college and how will I apply the knowledge that I have learned to the rest of my life?
I started reflecting on my college experience before college was over. In fact, the past year has actually been pretty difficult as I have been forced to ask myself tough questions like “Who am I?” and “What kind of work will make me happy?” Through a lot of self-reflection (and through the results of my StrengthFinder test) I have been able to determine my five themes, which I eagerly share with anyone that I can get to listen:
1. Responsibility: “People strong in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.”
2. Significance: “People strong in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.”
3. Individualization: “People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.”
4. Adaptability: “People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.”
5. Belief: “People strong in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.”
Knowing my five themes has helped me better understand my past and what might make me happy in the future. I was raised by parents who were committed to teaching their five children ethical and moral behavior. As the oldest child, I took these lessons to heart and as an adult, I feel that often I am my biggest critic and judge.
So as I navigate my job search, which has been constant since the beginning of April, I struggle to find jobs which fit into my belief theme (jobs which contribute to my overall purpose in life) and are also paid. Meanwhile, my psychological need to take responsibility for my life and a personal need to feel significant often get me feeling frustrated and disappointed that getting a job is taking so long! I know that many recent graduates are in my same shoes right now, so the best advice that I can give myself and other job seekers is to have a positive attitude and remain vigilant.