Now what? How to be a college graduate

Now that all the pictures have been taken, all the old run-down furniture has been pawned off to all your underclassman friends, diploma is in hand and car filled to the brim, you pull away from your home with a sense of bewilderment. Now what? Here’s some baby steps to help get you on your way.

Now What?

1) Employment – Hopefully between those last couple finals and term papers, you were sending out résumés and securing interviews and perhaps that dream job. For those who weren’t so lucky, your first step is polishing up that résumé. Send it to your uncle, your old grammar teacher, or even give it to your current boss (they know you’re not going to lifeguard forever). The more eyes who see your résumé, the less chances you have of misspelling anything. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, but it never hurts to get as much of it as you can. Furthermore, many colleges offer alumni career services. Use them. You’re going to be paying those student loans whether you have a great job or not.

Once you’re résumé is pristine, it is time to start networking. If your parents belong to any organizations, ask them to get you a members list and then start researching them on LinkedIn. If you find someone promising, ask your parents for an introduction. Searching through your school’s alumni database can also yield results. The key point is don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t and they, more than likely, will be impressed by your proactiveness. Like with dating, the worst that could happen is you get turned down.

If you live somewhere that you’re interested in staying, just show up! To be fair, this really isn’t your best chance but it’s definitely worth trying. So go ahead, put on a nice suit and drop a résumé off at a target company. The likelihood you’ll get an in the spot interview is very rate but at least be prepared for it; know the business and be able to answer all your standard interview questions. Just in case. What else are you going to do all summer long?

Finally, don’t be afraid to branch out. Apply to anything and everything. You can always say no if you are offered a job. Just don’t limit yourself. Furthermore, this is not your first and only job. You want to get something in your field, but it doesn’t have to be your dream job. You’re 22 or 23 years old, you can compromise.

2) Residence – Now that you’re employed or well on your way, it’s time to start thinking about where you’re going to start the next chapter of your life. My fiancé did a wonderful guest blog post about our process of finding our first apartment. Here is the post, but the gist is as follows.

Budget – There is no point of even going to shop for an apartment if you don’t know how much you’re able to spend. Current financial wisdom states that you should spend about 30-35% of your gross income on your house. Therefore if you have a starting salary of $40,000 you have about a thousand dollars a month for rent, electric, cable, internet, and water. When looking for an apartment many complexes will be able to tell you about how much their residents pay for water and electric. Speaking of budgets, stay tuned for how to budget the rest of your newfound paycheck.

Breakdown needs and wants, then do your research – Sure we’d all love granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, but are they necessary? Figure out what you can’t live without, and make a wish list for your apartment hunting. Then start your research. It’s not worth creating a financial hardship just so you can have a bigger closet or a more open kitchen.

3) Stay connected and get involved – Welcome to your new community! You know how your parents would always read the local newspaper and actually care about local school board elections? Well now it’s your turn! All that money you think is disappearing from your paycheck is actually going to your state and local taxes. Thereby, you might as well be active in your local community or else your money is being used regardless of your opinion. Sure, this may not be your home forever and I’m certainly not suggesting attending every county council meeting. Just stay informed, and if something peaks your interest get involved. It’ll make you feel better about where you live and you may make some great contacts along the way.

Finally, stay connected. First to your college friends. It’s very easy to become distant and caught up in your own new routine and life. Call your friends. They’ll appreciate it and you never know when you’re going to need them. Also, stay connected to your university or college. Whether you donate or not, be an active member of the alumni body. Your college shaped you and helped mold you into who you are and gave you the great opportunities you’ve had and will have. Pass it along by housing an underclassman for the summer or reading their résumé.

4) Network and challenge yourself – After graduation it’s very easy and normal to feel a little lost. After all, pretty much every part of your life up to this point has been broken up into four month semesters. Now you’re starting a job with really nothing on the horizon except retirement ……. in 40+ years (yeah let that one sink in). Research, and common sense, have shown that the most successful people are the ones who set goals for themselves. Just this process of benchmarking your future allows you to have a general idea of where you’re heading. Forty years is a long time so set 1, 3, and 5 year goals for yourself. It can be anything. If in 5 years you want to buy a house, figure out how much you need to be saving for a down payment. Or maybe within the next year you want to meet more business people in your community. So join the chamber of commerce or your local respective professional organization. As Momma always says, it’s all about who you know.

It’s not easy being a full fledged adult, and it’s going to take some time to get used to. Get organized and make sure you pay those bills on time. Feel free to read my blog post about some useful apps to help you along your way. Good luck!!

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