You’ve done it! You’ve reached the end of your studies, and I’m over here at the edge of my seat, shouting out a wild and resounding ‘congratulations’ to you for all of your hard work. I hope you relish in this feeling of accomplishment as you close one chapter of your life and open another, a way more exciting one. I still remember being a little lost when I stepped out of LSU’s union for the last time (as a student) but at the same time literally shaking with excitement to start my real life as a real adult.
I have a treat for you! I have jotted down the Cliff’s Notes version of some solid tips for you as a new grad that (had I been given this advice earlier) I would have printed out, laminated, and stuck to my refrigerator.
(Here I am, fresh out of college, thinking I knew everything and was a real gen-u-ine adult.)
Don’t max out your paycheck.
Now that you have completed your classes and can devote much more of your time and attention to your new job or blossoming career, you’ll be thrilled to see your paychecks double or triple in size. The trap that a lot of young professionals fall victim to is the budget trap.
As their monthly earnings increase, so do their expenses: They move into a bigger apartment or buy a small house. They treat themselves to a new(ish) car, and splurge on a new office-friendly wardrobe. I know this is true, because I did the exact same thing. I was earning about $2,200 per month right out of college and made sure to spend most of it on things that made me feel like a grown-up. I “budgeted” my paycheck down to the last cent, and am embarrassed to admit that only a couple bucks made it to my savings account each month.
Whether you have a job, or are searching for one, make sure that your monthly income well surpasses your expenses. Dave Ramsey likes to say, “If you live like no one else now, later you can live like no one else,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Food for thought: How would you feel if you if you woke up on your 30th birthday, and had the same amount of money in your bank account as you do today? What can you do today to make sure that doesn’t happen?
Get a job, then forge your path.
Let’s say you graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general studies, with no earthly idea of what you want to be or do for a living. That’s ok! I would recommend that you tap into your personality strengths, and get a job that comes easy to you, just so you can meet new people, pay your bills, and go to bed feeling accomplished after a day’s work. Waiting tables or answering phones for a year or two is definitely more rewarding and a better use of your time and talents than sitting on your parent’s couch, wondering why life hasn’t handed you a career on a silver platter.
I hope you don’t take offense to that suggestion; I mean it with love and encouragement! Personally, I could have closed my eyes and pointed at a list of possible majors, and still would have ended up starting an art business within a few years, because I believe that this is what I was meant to do. I didn’t even want a career! My goal was to be a stay-at-home mom, even during the times that I didn’t have a prospect for a husband. Not because I wasn’t ambitious, but because I knew in my heart that that was my vocation. To my earlier point, however, I needed to do something in the meantime to pay my bills and build my character.
Don’t feel insecure about your age.
To some, that may seem like a silly concept. Others, however, have already felt the sting of age discrimination. It’s a subtle issue that pops up in the world in ways that will surprise you. You may be turned down for a job that you apply for, or for an early promotion, or a loan at a bank, simply because of how recently you graduated from college. You may feel like a freshman all over again.
Facts: You are young. You have a lot to learn. You will make a ton of mistakes. But.. you are energetic. You are optimistic. You are immersed in an ever-adapting culture that promotes new technology and fresh ideas. You operate outside the rules for rules sake, just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Don’t allow yourself to be arrogant, but instead step forward with humble conviction, and watch the world cheer you on. You can bet that I will be, too!
Make time for your family.
You had many reasons to stay in touch with your parents while you were in school. Maybe you were financially dependent or swung by frequently for dinner and extra leftovers. Maybe you lived close by home or continued to live at home and commute to school.
Now that you’ve graduated, you will follow a path that may lead to a new job in another state or may require you to work overtime a lot. No matter where life takes you, I strongly advise that you make it a priority to touch base with your parents and siblings, or those family members who have remained close with you and keep those relationships alive.
Once you get out in the real world, time flies by faster than you can imagine, and sharing your milestones with your parents is a priceless gift.
Remember to give.
In your life you will be given many good things: money, opportunities, second chances, slaps on the back, and blessings beyond your imagination. Take the good with the bad, because the bad will definitely come, too. Remember that everything that you are given comes from someone else, so you must also do your part to give back.
Give of your time when you want to be lazy. Give blessings to those less fortunate than you. Give praise to those who deserve it, and a second chance to those who need it. When you find yourself blessed with knowledge from your experiences, be a mentor to someone in search of wisdom. Continue to give when the opportunity arises, when it’s hard or when you don’t feel like it. It will be the greatest, most rewarding thing you ever do.
Matthew 6:2-5 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”