08 Nov Making Sense Of Life After Graduation
What is it like for Christian graduates when they transition from student life into the working world? Let’s hear the views of Michael Kang, senior staff worker with FES, currently working with graduates of the FES Indonesian Ministry (IM).
One of the aims of the graduate ministry is to encourage graduates to be salt and light in the workplace. What are some of the challenges they face in this area?
The experiences of the graduates vary from those who struggle to get along with their colleagues or supervisors, to those who struggle to maintain their character and integrity. But overall, I find most of them still strive to live out their calling as salt and light. Some of the most common challenges faced are:
To cut costs and boost ‘efficiency’, many companies today squeeze their employees to work long hours, sometimes even on weekends. It is not rare to find graduates who cannot afford personal time, much less time for fellowship with God and with others.
With attitudes of ‘squeezism’ towards the workforce, many professionals are stressed out by their workload, pressure to perform, competition, lack of focus, and lack of rest – physically, mentally, and spiritually.
3. Dualistic view on spirituality
Besides the pressure coming from the workplace, some graduates face certain expectations to ‘perform’ in their local church. This expectation may come within themselves, as they long to be an active part of their church community, or the church itself, due to different perceptions of ministry.
How do you think these challenges can be addressed?
First, it starts with maintaining our relationship with God and one another. Christians in the marketplace need to set their hearts and priorities right. Our calling as God’s people, or even as human beings, is not a call to a job or occupation, but a call to an everlasting life. As our graduates leave the ‘comfort’ of their Christian Fellowships (CFs), they should not let go of these basic spiritual disciplines: meditation on God’s Word, prayer, and fellowship with fellow believers.
Next there needs to be greater understanding that it takes time for young graduates to transition to the marketplace. Though they may now be free from the demands of school life, and supposedly can be more involved in church activities, some of them may need support in adjusting to the workplace, as well as additional spiritual grounding to cope with the challenges they may be facing.
What are some ways graduates can integrate their faith with their work?
In the first few years of working life, many struggle to adjust to new environments, new responsibilities, or new communities (colleagues, seniors, supervisors). However, amid these struggles, we find opportunities to integrate faith with work.
First, by keeping their integrity. In Singapore we seldom face the challenges of corruption, but the challenges on our integrity are still rampant, for example, covering flaws in our products or services to protect our company’s reputation, taking credit for others’ achievements, and abusing company budgets or resources for personal use. This is where Christian graduates are called to keep their integrity, to speak up for what is right, and be willing to pay the price. Second, they integrate their faith and work by giving their best, as they would to the Lord (Coram Deo). Third, Christian professionals in the workplace become salt and light by showing love and compassion towards their colleagues and counterparts. In today’s competitive world, human beings are often reduced to commodities hired for profit-making. However, from the Bible we understand humans are created in the image of God. So, it is our calling to treat colleagues with love and compassion.
One of the struggles young graduates face is integrating into their church. What encouragement can you offer?
I was active in NTU Indonesian Students’ CF during my student days. When I graduated and had more time, I wanted to be more involved with church ministry. However, due to different expectations and understanding of ministry approaches, I went through a period of disappointment in this area.
Looking back, I would do things differently. I would encourage CF students to get involved as early as possible and as much as they can with their local churches. I understand student life can get quite busy, and CF responsibilities already make many students struggle with studies. But I would like to appeal to our students to take the church community more seriously, and to be an active part of it as much as they can. One practical suggestion, to both students and graduates, is neither to just attend church service on Sundays nor to jump straight into the church’s ministry, but to join the church small group (cell group, family group, discipleship group, nurture group, etc.). This small group will be our family, our support, and accountability in church.
Whichever community God puts us into, including our local church, we are to enter it with humble hearts, with willingness to unlearn our existing preconceptions about ministry and to learn their way of ministry.
Written by Michael Kang, FES Staffworker for Perspective October/November 2018 (FES newsletter)