It’s OK not to Have a Plan: 4 Tips for Catholic Women Who Just Finished School

“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal” (Pope St. John Paul II).

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When I graduated from college, I had no clue what I was going to do with my life. I had studied education and psychology but decided that teaching was not the path for me. I considered graduate school but concluded that starting a master’s or doctorate program without being sure of my career goals was a bad idea. It didn’t help that it was 2010, and the recession was in full swing. I wound up accepting the first full-time job I was offered that sounded remotely interesting. That job, which I held for four years, is unrelated to the rewarding career I’ve shaped since then.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my career and where I could best use the gifts God had given me (in fact, it took me a while to figure out what those gifts are). Here’s what I’ve learned, though: That’s OK. When you’re in your early 20s, just out of school, it’s OK not to know what your calling is. It’s OK to explore and experiment with new skills and interests.

As you do that exploration and experimentation and discernment, here are four tips to keep in mind.

1. Find Community

The last two decades of your life have provided ready-made opportunities to develop friendships, from the roommate you became BFFs with to the other members of your favorite club. (Or, like me, you may have ended up with loose ties because you were too shy to get to know people better.) Either way, you may now find yourself alone in a new city or at least in a new office, surrounded by strangers. Your college friends may have moved away, or you may have simply grown apart.

But God made humans for community. We need relationships with other people to support our relationship with Christ. (Plus, meeting other people can help you find jobs and learn new skills.) Go to networking events, and ask people genuine questions about themselves. Find a mentor at your company or in a local alumni group. Keep in touch with friends from school, whether through texts or Facetime or email (or all of the above!).

Perhaps most importantly, get involved at your parish. One of the best things I did in my 20s was join the local Catholic young adults group; it resulted in friendships with people who have similar values and who are in similar times of life, engagement with Bible studies and other events for spiritual growth, and even meeting my boyfriend. It’s also helping me develop leadership skills as I’ve taken a more active role in coordinating and leading events.

2. Fight the Imposter

Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon experienced by many driven, successful woman. You may suffer from imposter syndrome if you sometimes think:

  • Why did this company even hire me? I don’t know what I’m doing!

  • I am definitely going to fail, and then everyone is going to find out that I shouldn’t be in this position.

  • Sure, that project went well, but it was really because of luck and other people’s work, not because of my me.

These feelings are normal. People just out of college feel them, and CEOs of major companies feel them. Remember that everyone is learning, and everyone makes mistakes. Your boss hired you because they saw your potential; trust that they were right. It also helps me to remember that in Jesus’ eyes, there are no imposters.

3. Ask for Help

It is tempting to avoid asking for help to make yourself seem independent, competent and trustworthy. But having the humility to ask your boss or a co-worker for help demonstrates that you are smart enough to know what you don’t know and that you value your work enough to ask for help to make it better. In fact, asking for help can make your boss trust you more, because they’ll know that you’d rather ask for help than do something the wrong way.

In general, you’ll find that people want to help you. Consider how it feels when someone identifies one of your own gifts and asks you for your help because that gift is a weakness  of theirs. You probably feel grateful and proud of your talents, as well as that feeling of connection that comes from helping another person. Asking for help from someone else gives them that same gift.

4. Call Your Mom

People like to say that parenting lasts 18 years, but by now, you know that’s not true. If God blessed you with engaged parents, your mom and/or dad likely tried to keep in touch with you all through college. If you’re like many college students, you didn’t do a great job returning the favor.

One of the great things about being an adult is becoming friends with your parents. Call them. If you live in the same town as them, have lunch with them. Frequently. They want to be a big part of your life, and if you don’t include them in your life, you’ll regret when it’s too late.

As an added bonus, chances are, at least one of your parents has had a relatively long career by now. They are a great source of advice when a dilemma comes up at work, when you’ve had a bad day or when you don’t know how to deal with your difficult boss.

Finally, don’t forget your other mother. “Call” Mary, too, whenever possible. Your career is meaningless if you’re not growing closer to Christ. What better way to do that than by getting to know his mom?

Taryn Oesch, managing editor of Catholic Women in Business and owner of Everyday Roses Editorial, LLC, is a writer in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she writes and speaks for Catholic women and the organizations that serve them. Her role models are all named Teresa, and she keeps discovering new ways they influence her work and her life. When not writing or editing, Taryn is typically reading Jane Austen, drinking Earl Grey, and spending time with family and friends. She is a contributing writer and assistant editor at FemCatholic.com and an active member of the Raleigh Catholic Young Adults, where she leads a women’s Bible study and plays the piano and flute for monthly Holy Hours. You can follow Taryn on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, and on her blog Everyday Roses.