If you are a recent college graduate, you are surely aware of the array of challenges as you venture out on your own. High unemployment rates, staggering student loans, and the struggle to find housing and manage finances can cause many headaches from the moment you receive your diploma. However, though it may be daunting, you can weave your way through the madness with a little planning and a lot of ambition and diligence.
1. Make an Effort to Stand Out From Other Job-Hunters
By being creative during your job search, you can make quite an impression on potential employers. Create a great stylized resume and portfolio, or post a video on YouTube explaining why you want to work for a particular company. Jobs are at a premium, and the candidates who stand out have the best chances for success.
2. Be Choosy in Your Job Search
Even though unemployment is high and the job market is ultra-competitive, you don't have to take the first position offered to you - especially if the benefits are limited or nonexistent. Will you be offered health insurance benefits? If so, how soon after you start? There are other things to consider - such as vacation and paid time off - but healthcare should be your primary concern.
3. Don't Sell Yourself Short in Salary Negotiations
While you don't want to price yourself out of a good job opportunity, you certainly do not want to accept a grossly underpaid position. Use resources like the IEEE-USA Salary Calculator or a website like Salary.com to research starting salaries for careers in your field, and use this information in the negotiation process.
4. Start Saving for Retirement
While saving for retirement may be the last thing on your mind, it shouldn't be. With the power of compound interest, the sooner you start saving, the better off you'll be when you reach retirement. At the very least, sign up for your employer's 401k program and set your contribution percentage as high as you can afford. Next, consider opening up an IRA. With the uncertain future of Medicare and Social Security, you can never be too safe when it comes to saving for retirement.
5. Reduce Your Monthly Bills
If you're tight on cash, it may be time to trim or eliminate some of your monthly expenses. For instance, if you have an unlimited cell phone plan, review your monthly bill to see just how many minutes and texts you're actually using. You may very well be able to downgrade to a cheaper plan. You should also consider a cheaper monthly Internet plan, as well as cutting your land line and cable.
6. Create a Plan to Pay off Student Loans
If you are like the majority of college graduates, you have a large amount ofstudent loan debt to pay off. While it can be tempting, avoid enlisting in forbearance programs unless you absolutely must as interest will continue to accrue. Instead, find ways to save more money so you can pay off these debts as quickly as possible.
7. Pay off Credit Card Debt
Regardless of your level of credit card debt, it's time to pay off your balances. Any money you send to the banks for interest is wasted money. Create a personal budget, and aim to spend less than you earn each month. Use the extra money to pay off your credit card debt until it is eliminated.
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to managing your finances after college is organization. Avoid making major purchases until you can afford to pay them off in full, and be sure to implement and stick to a budget. Many of the decisions you make now will have long-term effects on your finances well into the future — so be careful to ensure that your future is comfortable and stable.
What other tips do you have for recent college graduates?