So the whole spectacle is complete. You’ve walked across the stage, shaken hands with some folks you barely know, and tossed your cap in the air. Maybe you even have a job lined up. Either way, the halcyon days of getting summers off is no more; though you have worked hard and learned much, there are new considerations you must face.
“Welcome to the real world!” some might say. And that can be profoundly terrifying if you’ve attended educational institutions for years and aren’t yet sure of what the implications of living as an adult truly are
Hint: it’s never as bad as you think. That said, the first few months following graduation are a pivotal period, and can set the tone for your future career plans. You’ve done well to have gotten this far; I’m a firm believer that educational institutions are one of the biggest influences in any person’s life. Now, what you do with that knowledge is up to you.
The first step? Look into employment. If you aren’t already enrolled in graduate school, then it’s best to find something in your field right out of the gate. This doesn’t mean that you have no right to be choosy, but going for a significant period without a job can severely hurt your prospects in the long run. Searching for a job can be an unpleasant process, and rejection can take its toll after awhile, especially if companies neglect to contact you about a position you weren’t chosen for. It’s frustrating, and it feels a lot like bashing your head repeatedly into a wall.
Solving this problem can be as much about attitude as it is about prospects. It’s far more difficult to adopt a positive attitude than to fall into a negative one. Be willing to listen to advice from others, and have a sense of humor about your situation. Sometimes, you may be passed up for a job for reasons outside of your control, even if you ace the interview. Realize that, by continuing to apply and leverage your network, you are doing everything you can.
And, just as you should be mindful of your behavior during a job search, you should also be mindful of the position that you end up accepting. There’s no reason to take the first job you are offered if you don’t believe it will be a good fit. When interviewing, be sure to ask questions that give you a sense of what the job is like. Ask about working hours early, and get a sense of how the company runs. Considerations, depending on the position, include dress code, work from home policy, on the job travel, and afterhours communication.
It’s tempting to take that first job offer, especially with the prospect of making adult money fresh on your mind. However, before signing any contract, you should step back and get all of the information that you need to make an informed and smart decision.
Once you’ve established your place of employment, you can start thinking about your financial situation. It’s one of the big aspects of adult life that college students worry about, and gaps in knowledge are alarmingly commonplace. The first step in ensuring your future financial independence is to eliminate debt. Student loans may be a little too large of a consideration at first, but paying off your credit cards and not accruing interest is a great start to building strong financial habits. When looking at employers, also consider their 401k plans. If they’re willing to match your contribution, it’s a great investment that you should consider when budgeting for the month.
Even beyond this, the sooner you practice smart saving, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Resist the urge to spend all of your money acquired on the job and live as sparsely as you can—something that many college students may already be used to. Don’t adjust your spending habits drastically immediately after you graduate. Be gradual when it comes to changing your spending, and you’ll never worry about living outside of your means.
Sure, life after graduation may be the start of “real life,” but it’s easy to adjust with a little preparation and work. So enjoy that last slice of graduation cake that you’ve stashed in the back of your fridge—you’ve earned it.