If you thought avoiding the “Freshman 15” was hard, just wait until graduation when less time and more money means fast food drive-thru. Navigating post-grad life can be difficult: job scams, moving back in with your parents, thankless jobs, even-worse-than-college roommates and the dreaded calls from Sallie Mae. Here’s how to avoid, or at least handle, these post-grad pitfalls because getting an “F” in the real world is a whole lot worse than failing a college quiz.
Pitfall #1: Flying the coop before you’re ready
No one wants to move back in with his or her parents after graduation, but it’s better to rack up some savings — or at least break even — than to move out before you’re financially ready. Mom and Dad might cramp your college lifestyle, but that’s probably a good thing.
Pitfall #2: The overloaded job board
Nothing is more disheartening than applying for countless jobs to hear absolutely nothing back. My non-professional, yet experienced, two cents? Skip the middleman job board and apply to jobs directly through the company’s website. Don’t apply for jobs you know you have no chance of landing. And sign up for indeed.com job email alerts. Those will save you hours.
Pitfall #3: The job scam
If you apply for a job and get a call about 15 minutes later to schedule an interview, it’s a job scam. If you’re told you can make up to $90,000 (or an equally ridiculous figure) in your first year, it’s a job scam. If their mantra is “You have to invest money to make money,” it’s a job scam. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s a job scam. Research questionable companies on the Better Business Bureau or RipOffReport.com. You’re too smart to work for a scam of a company.
Pitfall #4: Making your job search a full-time job
People say finding a job is a full-time job. Yes, it takes time. But you can’t tell me you spend 8 hours a day applying for jobs. Supplement your time with an internship — just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you’re above internships. Employers will be impressed that you took the initiative to lower yourself to intern status, and if you play your cards right, you’ll leave with an awesome recommendation or even a job.
Pitfall #5: The thankless job
Everybody has to start at the bottom. You didn’t get a degree to pick up dry cleaning and massage the ego of a power-hungry boss, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of the situation. Plaster on a smile, do what you’re told, suck up a little, and you will leave that thankless job with an excellent reference. Rest assured in the fact that you will someday refer to this as your “first job out of college.”
Pitfall #6: The bad roommate
The only thing worse than a bad college roommate is a bad roommate in the real world. There are no semester breaks in life, when a few signatures and hauling some crates across campus mean a new living situation. Don’t live with someone who you suspect won’t pay half the bills. Don’t live with someone who can’t get over the college lifestyle. Don’t live with someone whose significant other could become a third roommate. And I recommend living with someone who makes relatively the same salary as you. Jealously will run high if the roomie’s salary allows him or her to buy new cars and order the lobster.
Pitfall #7: Not being prepared for the dreaded student loans
Sallie Mae seems like a real pill when she starts calling twice a week a month before your first student loan payment is due. Pick up the call, otherwise she’ll fill up your voicemail box like a bad ex. You know the payments are coming, so save money for it. Creating a budget has never been easier with free tools like Mint.com available.
Pitfall #8: The alumnus 15
I don’t understand why the alumnus 15 doesn’t get as much attention as its freshman counterpart. A little more cash in your wallet (maybe), less time and no cafeteria salad bar means fast food drive-thru. Don’t fall into the habit of eating out every night. Instead, cook healthy meals at home. And I don’t buy the idea that healthy eating has to be expensive. Frozen fruit and veggies, frozen chicken breasts and rice are nutritious and inexpensive post-grad staples. Your wallet, your waistline and your Facebook pictures will thank you.
Everyone looks back on his or her post-grad life as a time of small apartments, pinching pennies and maybe some mistakes. As you prepare to take the walk into true adulthood, know that you will fall on your face a few times, but things always get better.
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