You've graduated from college, degree in hand. The next logical step is to put that degree to use and start your career, right? Maybe not.
The time after graduating from college is a huge transition period. You are going from the sheltered life of a matriculated student with a meal plan, support from parents, and not a lot of bills or expenses, to an actual real-life adult with responsibilities. This is a time to make some important decisions before you embark on a life-long career path.
How do I know? After I graduated college, I witnessed several friends and classmates chart the course of what you do NOT want to do after you receive your diploma. As a financial planner, I continue to see young people who have done the opposite of what one should do when beginning a career.
Avoiding these common mistakes can make that transition much smoother:
Trying to be too independent
You've lived in a dorm or some other cheap housing with hundreds of your peers for the last four years. Now you are on your own. The responsibility and expense of paying rent, utilities, and food, as well as having spending money left over for fun and entertainment is a big one. So why not consider living at home? If your parents are okay with having you there, it is a big money saver and gives you some time to look for a job and figure out where you want to go next. Not considering living at home is one of the biggest mistakes college grads make.
Being too adult too soon
The early to mid-20s are a really important part of an adult's life. It’s the beginning of striking out on your own. But it's also a really fun period, and focusing exclusively on starting your career could be a mistake. Take time to enjoy dating, going out with friends, traveling, exploring your city, visiting sites you haven’t seen before. Once you start a career, you will rarely be able to take big chunks of time off to travel or explore. You've worked hard to graduate from college, having some fun is allowed! Besides, curing that wanderlust will help you settle into a career later on.
Ignoring your health
As a college student, you were probably covered under a parent’s health insurance plan. You may think that going without health insurance for awhile is no big deal. But, if something happens to you, you could be starting out your new adult life with thousands of dollars in medical bills. Perhaps not able to start a career at all. Be sure to research all your post-college health insurance options. This will hold you over until you start a career with an employer-sponsored health insurance plan.
Screwing up the job search
You've graduated, you have a degree, you are confident in your ability to land a job. However, there are thousands of other college grads out there looking to do the same thing. So, if someone hooks you up with a lead, follow it. Thank the person who gave you the lead or referral and give them credit for helping you. While not every lead will be your ideal job, the connections and experience you gain pursuing them can be invaluable. A mistake that new grads make is looking for the perfect job in the right career and ignoring all other possibilities.
For those of you who are interested in my line of work — financial advising — see my recommendations for how to get your start.
Putting off savings
Retirement? Why do you need to start thinking about that now? The reason is that it's much better to save when you're younger. It’s all about the power of compound interest, and if you start early enough, the payoff could be huge later on in life.
But where to save? Start with your 401k at work, especially if they match your contributions – your employer will add free money on top of yours. Trust me. It doesn't get much sweeter than that. If you want to save more or your job doesn't offer a 401k, go with the Roth IRA. The Roth IRA is a like a savings account on steroids that will yield you tax-free money at retirement.