Congrats! You did it! College is now about a month or so behind you, and the real world is waiting. Whether you are already working your dream starter job or if you’re struggling to make it work back at your parent’s house, your journey is just beginning. And there’s a lot of work to be done. To help you out, we broke down the essential next steps all college grads should consider now that you’ve got your diploma in hand.
Get a Jumpstart on Loans
One of the best graduation presents you can give yourself is financial freedom. For most, you’re going to walk out of school with the weight of student loans following you around. Don’t wait for it to catch up to you six months from now when your deferment period ends. It’s time to tackle it now.Start by calling your loan holders. Ask them what your minimum payment will be each month (and if you will have multiple payments). Then, set up a payment plan today. Whether you can pay all of the minimum due, a fraction of it, or more, your money will go a long way during this period when it is not accumulating interest. Plus, it will get you in the habit of paying monthly.
Speaking of Money…
Talking money is difficult, especially when you’re not exactly bringing in the big paychecks just yet. However, it’s essential you figure out the basics before you sign on to a new job. Start with budgeting. You can use apps like Every Dollar or Mint to track how much you need for bills (rent, utilities, cell), necessities (food, gas, insurance), and wants (eating out, clothes, gifts).Once you’ve got a handle of how you spend, read up on some key money terms you’ll see at your work. Retirement plans like 401(k) and 403(b), Roth IRAs, and pensions are common, but they are all vastly different. Then there is insurance terminology like “HSAs” and “deductibles” that mean so much when determining what you need to get by. Find a person you trust with money to sort out what’s best for you.
Graduate School or Nah?
One of your biggest questions may not be what to do with your diploma, but if you need to get another one. Graduate school is a HUGE deal, but not one we should take lightly. It’s expensive, and loans and scholarships are rare. But with some careers, it’s essential.Before you take the leap and sign on for two or more years of school, talk to someone in your field about the marketplace. While aspiring MDs and lawyers will need to go on for school, teachers, nonprofit workers, marketers, etc. may be able to put it off until they’ve got experience to back up further schooling.
Landing the Perfect First Job
If you’ve decided against going back to school, it’s time to talk jobs. You’re probably on the job hunt right now, but don’t forget to keep that resume up to date with anything you may do this summer (such as volunteering or event planning). LinkedIn is valuable too, so refresh our page frequently. And don’t skip out on networking events in and around the city you want to work in.If you are struggling to find a job in your career, don’t be afraid to reassess and take a “starter” job that’s maybe in the same field, but not the right position. A foot in the door can mean a lot, especially if your manager knows your goal and is willing to mentor or work with you. And if you’re just stuck and in need of cash, don’t forget that you can always keep applying for the job you want while working a job you may not care for.Being a college graduate isn’t always perfect and amazing, but you’re just getting started! Making the right choices early on can help you kickstart your career, finances, health, and more! Be bold, be brave, and go get ‘em!