Hey there college grad! Are you ready for a new chapter in your life? Are you excited about getting your dream job? Do you have any questions about what it's like to embark on your new life.
You're probably looking for advice, and we get you. Every college grad has questions about what steps to take in their new life.
Luckily for you, we have the answers to some common questions you might have as you leave the comforts of college for the unknown working world.
This is the best time to set yourself up for success, and we all want to do our best not to blow it.
Life as a College Grad
Life as a college grad involves a lot of changes, some good, some not so good. When you finish college, it seems like you have to have everything figured out.
It's okay not to have all of the answers.
As a recent college grad, you shouldn't have to have a plan for your entire life. Life will throw a lot of curveballs at you, and you have to take them in stride.
Graduating from college is an amazing achievement, and it's worth celebrating!
You finished your education. Now you're ready for the next chapter.
Our first piece of advice:
Before you plunge into the "real world," enjoy your last moments as a student.
You're Not a Kid Anymore
Chances are, you've been a legal adult for a while now. That's not what we're talking about here.
In the US, college students can still be considered dependents. Now that you're a new college grad, you're no longer considered a dependent.
You have to find a job, pay bills, and manage your home and personal life. Not to mention chart your career course, and change it as you go.
It's a lot to handle, but you can do it!
There's truly been no better time to be a recent college grad than now. We have the internet, and you can figure out anything with a few clicks. You can learn about anything from how to cook a meal to how to change a tire.
For younger graduates, there are certainly plenty of things you need to know to be an independent adult. Even if you are 28 and have been living on your own for 10 years, life after college is way different.
Basic, practical advice is what you need.
One of the biggest hurdles you will face is getting your first position. Another big decision to make is where to live. Then there's managing your money.
We all dream of that "adult" life: a full-time job, living on your own, and saving for the future.
College Grad Reality
Even if you don't have a full-time job and your own place, don't stress. Plenty of students graduate, move back home, and work a series of part-time jobs before starting a "real" career.
Avoiding Failure to Launch
You're ready! You've worked hard for that degree and now, the job market is a wide open sea of possibility.
A sea, which like the real one, makes no guarantees you'll catch anything -- let alone what you want.
Here's what I mean:
Landing a job as a college grad can be difficult. Many jobs require experience, but not many college grads have experience.
But don't let your lack of experience keep you from applying for jobs! Not every position requires years of experience, so you can probably find something.
And, any experience is better than none. You may not be able to find a job in your dream office, or even in your own field.
That's ok, it's all steps towards getting where you want to be.
Keep in mind:
It might take time to find a job as a college grad, and it can take even longer to find your dream job. So the earlier you get started, the better your chance of finding a job within a reasonable amount of time.
There are a few things you can do to speed up the job hunt. Let's look at some ideas for how to land a job as a college grad.
Look at Your Phone for a Couple Hours...
We live in a digital age, so the first place to look is probably the first place you thought of. There are quite a few jobs online. There are many different job boards including Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.
Here's what you may not have realized:
One benefit of these websites is that you can create an account with your resume. When you apply for a job, the website can use your resume, and that will save you a lot of time.
Here are some other places to look online:
You can also find jobs through professional organizations and your university website.
If you can't find anything through those websites, you can also do a Google search. The best way to do that is to type in your desired position, followed by the word "jobs" to find a variety of open jobs.
The internet is an excellent place to find jobs, and you don't even have to leave the house.
job search statistic
Online job searching and applying have doubled since 2005.
Actually Talk to Human Beings
Seriously, ask around.
One of the most underused ways to get a job is to ask. Ask your current or past professors if they know of any openings. Reach out to family and friends, even if they're not in your industry.
This is also called "networking." And, yeah, there's a right way to do it.
It's pretty easy, really:
Just mentioning that you're looking for a job can be a great way to find a job you would never have found otherwise. People know people, and people will want to help you find the perfect job. Don't be afraid to take advantage of any connection you have.
If you're still on campus, you can stop in your school's career center.
Many schools have a place dedicated to finding jobs, preparing for interviews, and polishing your resume. Your college career center can be a great resource, and many of them are open to alumni.
Don't Wait, Start Early and Reap the Benefits
One mistake that too many college students make is waiting until they graduate to apply for jobs. Don't do this!
Even if you still have a few months left in school, start applying now.
Starting early will give you more time to apply to jobs. It will also give you enough time to go through the application and interview process before you have been out of school for long. That way, you can hit the ground running with a job soon after graduating.
If it's too late to start early, it's not the end of the world:
If you're out of school, it's not too late to apply for jobs, but the earlier you start applying, the better.
There is one positive to starting after you graduate:
When you're out of school, you have more time, so you can put more energy into your applications. Just don't put off job searching any longer.
Create a LinkedIn profile! It's an easy way to build your network and increase your exposure to potential jobs.
Control What You Can, Multiply Your Options
There's no way to guarantee you will get a job.
That's just part of life. And, it's not something you can control every aspect of.
But you can control how many jobs you apply for.
The more jobs you apply for, the better your odds of getting at least one of those jobs.
Here's the best way to multiply your options:
Set a goal for a number of applications per day or week. Or set aside a certain amount of time per day or week to apply for jobs.
Just as you scheduled in study time as a student, it will be easier to apply for jobs if you make time to do so.
How often should you be applying for jobs?
Companies list new jobs each day, so the job market won't be the same from day to day. If you apply to jobs every day, you will find new jobs with every search.
This leads into the next tip...
Don't Be So Stubborn!
When you first start applying for jobs, you will probably stick to jobs in your dream field. That's okay, but not everyone gets their dream job right out of school.
Of course, you should apply to jobs in your field. But you should also be open to other jobs. Unfortunately, it can be tough to get a job if you don't already have a job.
So, stop being so stubborn and be flexible.
If you don't find success with jobs in your industry, open your search to other jobs. Yes, it really stinks to have to apply for jobs you don't care about. However, you can't live off of student aid and savings for long.
You're not "too good" for any job.
No one likes it, but starting out is tough, and that can mean taking a job that doesn't match your industry or experience.
Around a third of college graduates are considered unemployed, which means they work a job that doesn't pay as well or has as many hours as a "regular" job.
Don't have a skill? Don't list it on your resume.
When you start applying for jobs, be honest. Don't fill your resume with experience and skills you don't have. Some employers can see right through that.
And for the employers that don't?
Think about it:
You don't want to take a job and then, six months in, get assigned a translation project because your resume said you were fluent in Mandarin.
Or be handed a spreadsheet that you have no idea how to use with instructions that read like Greek.
They see through you then.
And it gets worse:
Explaining why you were fired from a job after a short amount of time, or moved to the mail room, to your next employer is going to suck.
Since you're a new college grad, many employers will understand why you don't have a ton of experience.
Yes! List every single experience and skill you have relevant to the job for which you are applying.
Just make sure you're truthful.
Take Advantage of Your Free Time
Speaking of experience and skills, you can use your free time to build your resume.
Remember all those clubs in highschool, and volunteer hours to use for your college applications? It works in the real world, too.
If you want to work with animals, volunteer at an animal shelter, or local rescue.
Future teachers can take on babysitting gigs, or work at a daycare, volunteer at summer camps or any position that works with kids.
That's not all:
You can also spend some time learning a foreign language or improving your writing skills.
Once you get a full-time job, you won't have as much time to pursue other interests. So even if your interests don't add to your resume, enjoy the time you have now.
A transferable skill is a skill that you can use in different jobs or fields. Some skills, like computer programming, are specific. But other skills, like writing and teamwork, apply to almost any job.
Warning: Read the Job Description, Seriously!
This should be obvious, but there are many reasons why you should read the entire description of every job you apply for.
Here are a few of those reasons.
Job descriptions list all of the responsibilities for the job. If there's something you really don't want to do, you can pass on a job now instead of after getting hired.
Many employers know that not everyone reads the job description. To see if you read through everything, some companies will include application instructions in the middle of the job description.
Get a feel for the company's vibes. Some employers will add a bit of personality to their job description. This is a great way to see if you would work well with the company.
Don't weed yourself out of a job by skipping over the instructions hidden in the job description.
Here's another benefit from reading every word you may not have considered:
One of the best things you can do as a job seeker and new employee is read and follow the directions. Even if a job description doesn't have specific instructions, reading the description can tell you a lot about the company and the job.
Your Resume Needs Your Attention
If your resume isn't up to date, you need to change that before you start applying to jobs.
But, that's not all:
Make sure it fits the job you're applying for. If you want a job in marketing, highlight your marketing experience. Your summer job at the local juice bar shouldn't take center stage.
Your resume shouldn't be one-size-fits-all:
And if you have a couple of ideal job titles, create a resume for each of them. Fit each resume to the job, and that way, you don't have to constantly change your resume for each application you send.
If you've never created a resume before, start simple.
Yes, Your Cover Letter Can Hurt You
Your cover letter can make or break your application. The last thing you want is to submit a generic cover letter with every application.
Or, be lost in the sea of applicants that all used a generic cover letter.
Writing a cover letter for each application sounds like a lot, but it's an excellent way to personalize your application.
If you write a cover letter for each application, you can mention the specific job or company. That also allows you to relate your experience to the particular job.
There are plenty of cover letter templates you can follow, but you want to make your cover letter unique. Writing a unique cover letter not only helps you stand out, but it's also a great way to show a bit of your personality.
A cover letter is the perfect place to sell yourself. If you don't fulfill all of the requirements, you can include why you should get the job.
You Finally Landed an Interview! What Now!?!
Once you apply for a job, the next step is getting an interview. If you make it this far, you need to be prepared for the job interview.
First things first: Breathe!
Job interviews can be intimidating because you have to answer different questions. You don't always know what questions the interviewer will ask.
Not to mention, it feels like your whole future hinges on this single moment.
How can you prepare for the nerve-racking interview?
Here's what you need to do:
Do Your Homework! (Again...)
Once you schedule, it's time to do some homework.
You may be thinking, "but homework is for students!"
Yes, you probably had a lot of homework in college, but this homework is different. You want to prepare for your interview.
The first way to prepare is to research the company.
One of the most common interview questions asks why you want to work for that specific company.
You can't answer that question if you don't know anything about the company.
Even if you don't get that interview question, you should still know the basics of the company you are interviewing for.
You may be interviewing for an accounting position. Sure, accounting jobs don't vary too much, but the company could have an effect on the type of work you will do.
And, there's more:
Understanding the company's purpose or mission allows you to get a better understanding of the job. Understanding the culture of the company helps you in many ways, like, are they strictly dress-coded? Is your interview outfit way over-, or way under-dressed?
Know a Bit About the Job
Once you research the company, you can research the specific job. You should know what your day-to-day will look like.
If you know a bit about the job, you can go into the interview with more confidence because you aren't entirely clueless.
Yes, you want to get a job, but you don't want to waste your time interviewing for a job that might not be right for you.
It's better to realize a job isn't right for you now rather than after getting hired.
Job interviews can be scary, but you want to stay calm. The interviewer understands that you are probably nervous. If you can stay calm, the interview won't feel as stressful.
Nailing the Look
Where you have an interview might help you decide what to wear.
Here's the secret:
No matter what job you are applying for, you want to look nice.
As a college grad, you don't have to have a full professional wardrobe, yet. However, you should have a few nice pieces for an interview.
The Ground Rules
Make the Clock your Ally
No one likes an employee who arrives late. As we mentioned, the interview is your first chance to make an impression on the company.
And, you are going to make one, so enlist your clock as an ally to make a good one.
If you show up late to your interview, that can give the company a bad impression of you.
On the other hand, showing up early, indicates that you're interested in the position and you care about making a good impression.
Not to mention... traffic happens. Planning on being there early will allow you to avoid getting lost while trying to find the office.
And then, to park. And then, to find the right place in the building, and then...
It's just a really great idea -- planning to be on time may leave you late, sweaty, flustered and leaving a negative impression of yourself.
Put the Phone down
Your GPS is a great tool for finding a job interview. However, don't forget to focus on the road. If you get lost, pull over and then pull out your phone.
Be Prepared to Do More than Answer Questions
The interview is a two-way street. Not only is it the company's chance to learn about you, but it's your chance to learn about them.
We mentioned that you should know a bit about the company before the interview. That comes into play here, because you can narrow down your questions.
Here's the secret:
You won't have to ask basic questions about the company. That's because you did your homework and now know that basic stuff.
Instead, you can focus on more detailed questions like the hours, paid time off, and other benefits.
Having a few questions in mind can also show that you prepared for the interview since you want to know more about the job.
About that First Impression
We can't stress enough how important your first impression can be. For that reason, you want to be yourself.
Keep it real. Just don't be your "party" self.
You don't want to get a job for being fake. If you act fake, you might feel pressured to keep that up during your time working there, and that can get exhausting.
Not to mention, the employer is looking for a person that will fit in well with them. You want who you are to fit in well with your employment.
Of course, you shouldn't be rude or unprofessional. Be nice, and be yourself.
If a company doesn't want to hire you for you, then you don't want to work for that company.
The Interview isn't Over, Even When it is
Once you leave the interview, you don't want to leave it in the past. One of the best ways to make a great impression on a company is to follow up after your interview.
It's simple to do:
Within the next day, send an email or leave a voicemail for the person who interviewed you. Many interviewers will give you a business card, so don't throw it away.
Use your follow up to score some bonus points...
Address the person by name, and share something you enjoyed about the interview. Thank them for their time. One thing you don't want to forget to do...
Yes, while on the phone. A smile can be heard in the voice, it changes the shape of your mouth and thus how you sound. If you want to sound warm, smile while speaking.
Following up with a company will remind them that you're interested in the job, and it puts you back in their minds as an applicant.
Down the Road with Dollars and "Sense"
As a new college grad, you probably don't have a ton of money in the bank. And if you don't have a job, you will have to live off of what's left from your student loans, grants, and savings, until you get one.
If you are lucky enough to find a job right away, chances are it's not going to be at the top of your salary goals.
If you know how to manage your money, your life will be much less stressful.
Whether you have a job or not, there are a few things you can and should do to set yourself up for financial success from college grad to retiree.
First Consideration, What About Those Graduation Gifts?
As a college grad, you will probably receive some graduation gifts.
Some of those gifts will likely be cash or a check. If you're lucky enough to receive some money for graduating, save that money.
Don't spend it on the first thing you see. Especially if you don't have a job lined up, you never know when you will need that extra cash.
Even if you do have a job, that money can help you start saving money for the future.
It can also begin your first emergency fund.
Speaking of which:
Emergency Prep Starts in Your Wallet
This is another way you can use your graduation money. You never know when you will have an extra expense. That could be getting sick, losing a job, or getting into a car accident.
Here's the truth:
Emergencies will happen, eventually, to all of us. Hopefully, you will never have to use your emergency fund. But you want to make sure the money is there if you do.
Some important considerations:
Make sure you keep your emergency fund in a regular savings account where you can access the money at any time. Now, you shouldn't go into that account unless it's an actual emergency.
Pizza emergencies are not real emergencies.
Stuff happens, and you need to be prepared for whatever might come your way. An emergency fund is the perfect tool for saving for unexpected costs.
Ignore That 401(k) at Your Own Peril
Once you land your first full-time job, ask about investing in a 401(k). A 401(k) is a type of retirement savings account.
You may not want to think about retirement, but you should. It's never too early to start planning for retirement.
But, it does get too late to save enough really fast.
Any money you put into your 401(k) doesn't face taxes like your take home-pay. So a 401(k) is a great way to lower your taxes and save for your retirement.
Also, many employers will match your contributions to your 401(k).
That's basically free money...
So take advantage of that.
If you end up working for yourself, you can invest in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This is another type of retirement savings account for individuals.
You won't get employer matching, but you can take it with you no matter where you work.
Be Strategic About Where You Live
Not all cities and homes are created equal.
Before you choose where to live, there are a few things you should consider.
Home is... Your Decision
As a new college grad, you probably aren't tied down to any one city or town. You have the freedom to stay in your college town, move home, or move somewhere new.
You may also move back in with your parents.
So what should you do?
Consider your situation, and then take a look at when and where you should live as a college grad.
"Home" May be Your Best Bet, Here's When
Moving home can seem like a step back, but it can be an excellent option for some college grads. If you don't have a job lined up, you shouldn't be spending a ton of money on rent.
Moving in with your parents can allow you to save money even if you do have a job. You won't be spending a ton of money on rent, and you can split your food expenses with your parents.
If your hometown has a good job market, then you'll be in a great place to find a job.
You can move to your hometown without moving back home. If you find a place on your own, living near your parents can make life as a college grad a little easier since you can call them with any questions or problems you have.
When to Stay in Your College Town
If you live off campus, your apartment lease might not expire until the end of the summer. That's a great excuse to stay in your college town and look for local jobs.
And if your college town has a great job market for your field, then you should have no problems finding a job.
When to Move Somewhere New
You might be tired of your college town and equally tired of your hometown. Or maybe neither of them have a great job market for your industry.
Both of these things make great reasons for moving somewhere new after graduation. You can explore a new city, and hopefully find a job in your field. Just make sure you follow our previous tip about being strategic with your move.
Start Your Career and New Life Off Right!
As a college grad, you will get tons of questions on everything from your career to your living situation. And it's okay if you don't have all of the answers.
You don't need them all right now.
However, there are a few things you can do to make your transition from student to graduate go more smoothly.
Applying to jobs and preparing for interviews is a lot easier said than done. But if you do your research, you can set yourself up for success.
Then there's where to live. Your living situation will probably depend on your job prospects. If you're strategic about where to live, that can help your job search.
Of course, we can't forget managing your money. If you start saving for an emergency and for retirement now, you will be more prepared to tackle what life throws at you.
Whether you are a non-trad or traditional student, "adulting" doesn't have to be scary. A bit of preparation and planning can do a lot of good.
Get out there and make a future for yourself!
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