How to Transition From College to a Career
- Prepare to apply for jobs early with a great resume and letters of recommendation.
- Start good money habits immediately, like budgeting, saving, and investing.
- Automate your savings to remove the temptation to spend your paycheck.
Congratulations, you have graduated college and are ready to take the next step: finding a career. Make sure you celebrate because the world is waiting for you. You now have two important choices: move forward with a plan or float.
Read on to learn how to start on a path to success post-college. If you follow these steps, you will be far ahead of your peers.
Here are six steps to transition from college to a career:
1. Start Gaining Experience
Most jobs, even entry-level jobs, list experience as a qualification. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a job without experience, but having experience in your chosen field can make the difference between getting a job and being passed over.
Experience can come from volunteering or working part-time. If there’s a company you’re targeting, check out part-time or entry-level jobs they’ve posted. The experience will always help you in the long run at the beginning of your career.
2. Get Your Resume in Order
If you’ve graduated college, chances are you probably have a resume. But let’s be honest, is it any good? Your resume may be the most important document you write, so ensure it’s professionally done.
Most universities have a department that will go over your resume for free. If not, consider paying for a resume expert to take a look and give you some pointers. The money you’ll pay for someone to look over your resume will most likely pay for itself when you quickly get a job.
3. Ask for Letters of Recommendation
If a resume is the most important document, a recommendation letter is a close second. A good letter of recommendation from someone who can praise your abilities in your chosen field—bonus points if they’re also respected in the same field—can make a huge difference in your job search.
Be sure to genuinely connect with people who could write you a letter of recommendation. Having four or five letters of recommendation ready to send to your employer allows you to choose the right letters to present to your potential employer. This will allow your best qualities to shine.
As with your resume, you’ll want the letters to read well. Carefully choose your writers or kindly ask them to revise it if you feel comfortable asking.
4. Understand Your Student Loan Debt
Assuming you’ve completed steps 1-3, you now have a job and are ready to pay for all kinds of things. Yes, that includes your student loans.
While in school, there hasn’t been any requirement to pay back your loans, but your student loan payments will kick in six to nine months after graduation. Make sure you understand what that means by answering these questions. Then, you can log in to your account to get the most up-to-date information.
- How much is your monthly payment?
- How long will it take for you to pay off your loan at that rate?
- Will you pay off your loan at that rate?
- Do you need or qualify for loan forgiveness?
Loan forgiveness is simply a deferment on your loan payment schedule. You could be granted forgiveness if you have trouble repaying the amount or if you have the right job. Generally, jobs that qualify for loan forgiveness are government jobs or ones that are vital and need to be filled, like nurses and physicians.
Understanding your student loan payment schedule will help you make a plan to pay it off and get out of debt as quickly as possible. It’ll be tempting to spend your new salary on fun things. Strategically paying off debt will put you in a good place when you start making larger purchases like a home.
5. Build a Conservative Budget
So, by following the steps above, you’ve got your job and an understanding of your debt. Now it’s time for a game plan, and this starts with having a budget. Budgets aren’t meant to be restrictive but to give you more control over where your money goes. By building a budget early on, you’ll be more able to avoid unnecessary debt and start investing early.
Your budget should revolve around the Big Three: housing, transportation, and food.
Here are a few ways to find quick savings:
- Find a roommate to spend less on housing.
- Keep your dependable car.
- Learn to cook and eat at home more often.
All of these things will help you stick to your budget and avoid piling on debt out of college.
Automate Savings and Investing Day 1
Typically, your employer will give you the option of automatically sending money to a savings or retirement account before it hits your bank account. This takes all the effort out of discipline and helps you build a budget around your savings.
Some employers will even match what you invest in retirement—it’s like free money! So choose a percentage that feels comfortable; you can always change it later on.
The amount you’re putting away may seem small and insignificant, but be patient. It all adds up and will be a great safety net for you in the future.
The Money Wrap-Up
Not all of these steps will immediately apply to everyone. You may have even completed some of them, but each step is essential to transition to a career successfully.
The transition from college to a career is less about landing a job and living your life. Instead, you’ll want to find the right job and manage your life. To do so, plan your financial future as you start your career.