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What to do After Graduating College

Post-graduation doesn’t have to be a panic session

If you are one of the lucky college graduates who had an entry-level job lined up months before you even tried on your cap and gown, congratulations!
But this article is not for you.

If you are about to graduate and have no idea what you’re going to do with the degree you just spent the past four years earning … welcome to the club. However, you don’t have to panic. Although getting your life on track after graduation can take time and effort, things will eventually fall into place. Until then, consider these areas to ensure that things fall into place for you sooner than later. Good luck with the rest of your life!

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First things first

Going back to school? – Are you going to return to school to earn a graduate degree? Don’t turn to graduate school just because you are having a tough time finding a position or do not feel like getting a 9-5 job. Before you make a commitment of going back to school for at least another year and accruing more student loans, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Examine your current situation by asking these questions:

• Do you have the time to stay in school?
• Do you have the financing available?
• Will it guarantee a benefit to your career path?

Finding a place to live – Of course you will want a big, beautifully furnished apartment. However, you may not be able to afford one on your own. Finding a roommate or two will not only cut your rent payments, but also divide the utility expenses – which can really add up. You could also consider moving back in with your parents, if they are willing to let you. This would be an adjustment for everyone, but with a bit of compromise, you can save a whole lot of money in a short amount of time if you live at home while working fulltime.

Health insurance – No matter what you decide to do with your new adult life, know that you can't be covered under your parents' policy after age 23. More than 80% of college graduates with full-time jobs are eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance, so finding an entry-level job quickly can take care of health insurance worries. However, many companies have probation periods before coverage goes into effect. Talk to an insurance agent about catastrophic coverage as an interim measure, or contact your school’s alumni association – many offer short-term insurance coverage for recent graduates.

Finding a job

Tell everyone you're looking – Networking is especially critical to landing your first full-time position. You never know who has a job lead to share, so let everyone know that you're job searching. This means family, friends, former bosses and colleagues – everyone.

Identify and market your transferable skills – If you’re having a tough time finding a job, it's easy to buy into the myth that your degree doesn’t matter to real-world employers. However, it doesn't matter if your degree is in psychology, anthropology or art; as long as you know how to present the skills you learned in college: critical thinking, writing, communicating, etc. Think back on all of those group projects (teamwork) and presentations (verbal communication), or even your busy schedule (organization), and you will find some important transferable skills that can look great on your resume.

Financing your independence

Budgeting – Even though entry-level salaries can be low, you will probably be making more money than you ever made while going to school. You may be tempted to get an apartment and buy a new car based on your gross salary, without realizing you have to live on your net salary. This is dangerous when, two weeks after you start, bills are due and your first paycheck turns out to be less than half of what you were expecting. To maintain the expenses you’ve locked into, you find yourself further in credit card debt. So, a graduate budget is about more than day-to-day expense tracking – it’s about choices. Should you buy a new car, rent a nice apartment, or start paying off student loans? You may not be able to do more than one right away.

Saving for retirement – Although it seems early to be thinking about retirement, now is the best time to start saving. Your finances may be tight to begin with, but set aside as much as you can. There are many different ways to invest for retirement, some of which can be helped along by your new employer. No matter what kind of savings plan they offer, take full advantage of it. You’ll thank yourself later. You get long-term growth and tax savings from a 401(k) or Roth IRA, but it's the interest on the earnings you accumulate early that will really count.

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