Congratulations class of 2014! Four years or more of hard work has gotten you here. Alright, maybe it wasn’t all hard work; you enjoyed college, joined a fraternity or sorority, participated in sports, joined clubs or organizations, enjoyed a party or two and had a good time. Now you have to start acting like an adult and get a job, move out on your own and support yourself. What should you do?
The economy is picking up! Unemployment is going down. You may be some of the lucky ones because you majored in high demand majors. Perhaps, you were someone who had an internship that turned into a job offer. You may be looking at grad school. Maybe you found a way to demonstrate your skills in the business world. Last, you may join a start up, start a business or you already started a business.
For those of you who are set, you are probably thinking about vacation or travel. The rest of you are probably in panic mode! Before you leave, don’t forget to join the alumni association. It may be one of the best resources, you never thought about. Second, don’t forget your friends, professors, supervisors, employers or anybody else you met in college. It is the beginning of your network! Networking is the best way to find a job.
Stay connected! It is easier than ever. Social media is not just for posting pictures of drunken escapades, vacation pictures, or embarrassing statements; you do not want employers to see. It is a great way to find out leads for job openings. Social media is a great way to contact employers for those unadvertised openings. You have to be clever in this approach, but it is a great way to beat the competition. Your employed friends can help you.
Don’t forget the alumni! Past graduates who by now may be in management are great resources to help you find an opportunity. They know better than anyone else what you went through to get that degree and they are more likely to help you. Some schools are better than others in helping fellow graduates get jobs in their industry. Last, don’t forget you university placement center. They may have unadvertised openings for recent graduates.
Paid or Unpaid Jobs
No job and you have to start repaying student loans soon. You probably need to take anything just to survive. You can defer, but sooner or later you need to start repaying those loans. What is the best thing to do? You want to add something to your resume that will make you a more attractive job candidate. You may have to take an unpaid internship for a short (4-8 weeks) period. First, you will have to find an internship. This is where you university career center, professors or friends may help. You may have to develop your own internship. After all, it will probably be unpaid.
Next, you still need a paying job. The unpaid internship may lead to one with the same company or you just added a great experience to your resume. You also picked up a reference you can use or better yet, another networking opportunity. You can use your supervisor or manager and the people you work with to network. It is another opportunity to demonstrate skills in the work world. Depending on your particular role, you may interact with customers, clients or suppliers. You should not ask for a job, but you can let them know your role is temporary and express your career aspirations.
Family, Business Connections or Family Friends
Don’t forget one of the best networks that is right in front of you. It reminds me of the scene at Benjamin’s graduation party in the movie The Graduate. One of his parent’s friends pulls Benjamin aside and tells him a piece of advice. He says just one word, plastics! Family have some of the best reasons to help you get a career started. Use it, if you can. They may know somebody who may know of an opportunity. Don’t ignore it!
One of my daughter’s first interviews was a lead I passed on to her regarding a training program. She worked for the company for six (6) years and promoted eight (8) times. She moved from store management to corporate and learned a great deal. It was a good foundation for her next career move which doubled her salary. Her next move came from her network and put her on a rapid advancement. You never know where your next opportunity may come from and you have to be ready for it.
Finding work is the first step toward a brighter future! When you are a broke student, you feel $40,000 a year is a fortune. You can easily spend all of it and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Things like rent, car, food and all the expenses of starting out will exhaust most of that fortune. The best way to make your future brighter is to start saving and investing. Saving and investing is not glamorous, but it can be! You had career goals and now you are working on financial goals.
Putting together a financial plan and budgeting are good ways to achieve your financial goals. One of the best ways to save and invest is your company’s 401k, but it is not the only way. Usually a company has a match program for your contribution which helps you row your investment. You want to take advantage of that because you do not want to leave any money on the table! You can take advantage of a Roth IRA because you can save for a home tax deferred and withdraw your principal for that down payment.
A brighter future is putting savings away for retirement and your future. Time is the most important factor for saving and investing. Putting off saving and investing materially affects the amount of savings. To catch up in your thirties, you will need to double your contribution which is not realistic. It is better to contribute the minimum to get the employer match because of compounding and time. Doubling down can never restore the time lost with the employer match.
Admittedly, these are tough times, but you can do something about it. The economy is slowly improving and you don’t want to be left out. Networking, social media, internships and family can help you find employment. It is still up to you to turn your skills into a career. Waiting for something to improve or to happen is never a choice. Once you get that job, you need to think about your financial future. Putting money aside for your future is important. Whether it is for retirement or other financial goals, you need to save and invest. Most companies offer a match to your contributions and you don’t want to leave any money on the table. Congratulations class of 2014!
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