I graduated college in 2007 with a degree in finance. It feels like yesterday that I graduated, but at the same time it feels like ages ago. I’ve had multiple jobs (including a 3-year stint in waitressing) and am finally at a place where I can say I love what I do for a living. I never imagined life would take me to where I am today, but I couldn’t be more grateful. If you’re about to graduate college, I wanted to share a few tips that I wish I knew back when I was new to the workforce.
5 Tips for college grads entering the workforce
Don’t place so much emphasis on your first job. The average person changes jobs 10-15 times over the course of their lifetime. The reason for this is we, as humans, continue to grow, evolve and change. What we might be passionate about right now isn’t necessarily what we will be passionate about in five or 10 years. Your first job especially is literally a job to get your feet wet. When I graduated with my finance degree, I had never worked in finance. How was I supposed to know exactly what I wanted to do day after day without trying anything?
I personally did place a lot of emphasis on my first job. For some reason, I had it in my head that this was “it.” I didn’t want to bounce around from different companies, I wanted to have a stable career that would last my lifetime. I attended career fairs at my university, scoured job boards like Indeed and The Ladders daily, went to networking events and was in clubs that taught me about different careers in finance. My first job was working in the mortgage industry. I thought I had hit the jackpot – I loved mortgages and was extremely interested in real estate. Little did I realize that the economy was about to crash and a short four months later, I would be laid off. Devastated would be an understatement.
Take your time. After I was laid off, I realized that working a 9-5 every day wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. While I enjoyed working in mortgages, I didn’t like that I was limited to vacation time and taking days off. But, nonetheless, I had to pay my bills and earn a living. I got a job working for CareerBuilder in business to business sales. While I enjoyed the “helping-people-find-careers” aspect of it, I hated cold-calling businesses trying to sell them ads on the site. After 8 months, I turned in my notice and started waitressing for a local breakfast restaurant.
The “plan” was to work at the restaurant until I could decide exactly what it was I wanted to do. I ended up loving working there and it’s my favorite job to date outside of what I’m doing now. I loved it so much I stayed for three years. The money was great, the people were incredible and I was off every day by 2:30 in the afternoon. For the first time since graduating, my life felt balanced.
After you graduate, know that it’s OK to take a job not in your field but that allows you to focus on other things in your life. I wasn’t cultivating a career in finance by serving at a breakfast restaurant, but I was enjoying my life each and every day. I traveled, I enjoyed happy hours with friends and I spent my summer days laying by the pool. I wasn’t tied to a desk and I loved it.
Discover what you’re passionate about. Even though I knew I didn’t want a desk job my whole life, I knew I loved working in finance. I’ve always been fascinated with budgets, saving money, investing and creating passive income streams. At the time, I didn’t necessarily know how to make a living from my passions outside of a desk job, so I got another one working as a financial advisor for a large university. I wasn’t selling anything, I was simply telling students about financial aid and smart borrowing. I liked the job, but I remember on many occasions looking at the window thinking that my life was being wasted in an office. I wanted to be outside living, not trapped at a desk.
It was while working as a financial advisor that I really started thinking about a career in freelance writing. I was newly married and pregnant, and my husband and I planned on having me stay at home with our daughter once she was born. While I did always dream of being a stay-at-home mom, I wanted to have something just for me, too. I figured a career in freelance writing was the best of both worlds – I would get to have something just for me and bring in an income all while raising my daughter.
Once you know your passion, give it your all. As you can see through reading my personal story, I had no idea I wanted to be a freelance writer right after I graduated. It took multiple jobs and multiple experiences to discover what I wanted out of life. Once I did decide, though, I went for it. I wanted to be a financial freelance writer, but knew I’d probably have to write on any topic in order to gain experience. As soon as you know what you want to do, whether that’s running your own business or working your way up the corporate ladder, go for it. Give it your all until you reach your goals or until your goals change, which is totally fine, too!
My first freelancing jobs were for a large women’s website and for a content mill. I worked as a writer and eventually an editor for the women’s site for more than two years. Between that site and the content mill, I wrote about everything under the sun. Every once in a while, I would write an article on personal finance, proving once more that that was my ultimate goal and giving me some credibility on the topic.
Keep your priorities straight. After having two precious little girls and a husband I adore, I’m realizing even more just how incredible (and short) life really is. While work is and always will be a big part of my life, it’s not my whole life. No matter what job you end up doing, don’t let it take over your life. Take days off, go on vacations, put your work away so you can focus on your kids, have that date night with your spouse and call a friend. As important as it is to have a job and earn a living, it’s equally as important to enjoy your life while you’re young and able. Money and careers aren’t everything.
And for those of you wondering what it is I do now – I’m finally a personal finance freelance writer (amongst a few other topics). Even though it took seven years from when I graduated college to land this gig, it took all of those other jobs and life experiences to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Starting a blog on personal finance was a huge factor in giving me credibility and connecting me with other bloggers and writers.
I can honestly say right now that I’m living my dream. While I’m not sure what the future holds, I’m going to continue putting my family first, doing what I love for a living, and learning and growing along the way.
If you’re a new grad about to enter into the workforce, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to enjoy your life now. First and foremost, be responsible with your money. Save first, then pay bills, then enjoy the rest. Take vacations, meet new people, say “yes” to dessert. It’s your life experiences that will allow you to discover your passions. If you can figure out a way to turn your passion into a career, you’ve made it.
What advice do you have for new grads entering the workforce?
photo credit: Flickr via David Joyce