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Life after college can be intimidating and statistically you may find yourself either underemployed or not employed at all for at least six months after you graduate. If you want to talk stats. The fact is that approximately 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree (source).
And if you want to talk personal experience I was one of those 53% because it took me a few months after I graduated from college to get “real job” one that actually paid a salary and offered benefits. I was stuck working my college job literally making a little bit more than minimum wage AND when I finally got a “real job” even though it was in the field that I majored (I majored in criminal justice for undergrad and was a correctional officer) I was not making that much.
That job only required a high school diploma and I was STILL underpaid starting off at only $25,000 a year and after working mandatory overtime I ended up making $32,000 a year my first year. When in all actuality college grads on average make between $48,000 – $60,000 a year (source) and so I was well under that. And if you factor the fact that you have to pay back student loans, rent, and utilities into the equation then you are pretty much broke, living off Ramen noodles, and probably close to poverty level which is not what you expect as someone who has a degree.
Now that I have depressed you enough there is hope. Because although, life after college can be both an exciting and a confusing time. Exciting because you are moving on to the next phase of your life and confusing because you have to finally utilize all of those skills you learned in college and confusing because you don’t know if you can or cannot get a job.
Graduating from college is a milestone, but what you do after graduation can be an even bigger milestone because that is when you actually have to start living life. If by chance you are still in college then there is ALOT more hope for you yet because it is so much easier to get a good job if you start preparing for one while in college. I am not going to go into great details about that because I do have a blog on it which you can click here to read. But the overall jest of it is that having both education AND experience will help you get a good paying job then just having a degree.
But in any case I think that I have rambled on enough and you want to get the information that you came in for. So why don’t we get into it shall we?
1. Starting Your Life After College Starts With The Perfect Resume
Your first and most obvious life after college option is that you need to find a job. And as you can tell from my story from above that can be easier said that done. But there are things that you can do to ensure that you KNOW how to stand out from the crowd. Just because you have a degree or even if you get an interview does not mean that you are just going to get the job. They only give interviews to people who meet the bare minimum qualification and even when you get an interview you actually have to knock it out of the park over other applicants who may have more experience and education than you.
Life After College ~ The way to do this is to first: Perfect your resume
I know that this seems like common sense but it really is not. So many people follow the wrong advice about putting out a resume, then send it out, and then they wonder why on Earth they have no job. I have an entire blog on how to write the best resume which you can read here (click here for resume tips).
But really as a recent grad the company has no idea who you are and they are relying on your resume to be an accurate description of you. So, make sure to include any job experience, volunteer experience, and specialized experience you may have since your work experience may be limited. Also, include any specialized clubs you may have been a part of, like the honor society, and any major achievement or skills you have mastered in college.
And most importantly, put the RIGHT key words in your resume as it pertains to the job description. If a job says they want someone who has mastered Microsoft office, types 80 words per minute, and has experience with working with special needs children. You should not just say that you work with youth from ages 10-15 that has learning difficulties. Even though the children you have worked with may be special needs and HR person is reading your resume and they don’t know that because they are not someone in the field and they are the one going over resumes to give to the real person who does work in your field. So you would put:
- Extremely proficient in Microsoft office and have mastery skills in excel, word, power point, Skype, and One Drive. ( To drive home your point put a specific job, volunteer, or organization where you learned such skills and what task you performed).
- Currently has a certified typing speed of 90 words per minute.
- Specialized volunteer experience working with adolescent children ages 10-15 with learning disabilities and that are classified as being special needs.
Do you see how these examples not only meet the specified requirements of the job but also goes above and beyond in explaining under what context you received the skills. Thus giving a potential employer the understanding that not only do you meet the minimum requirements but you have some additional to offer.
Life After College ~ Case in point: Me
When I got my first job as a correctional officer I did not have any experience in corrections. I had worked a job at my campus security and I also had a degree in criminal justice. Even though the job only required a HS diploma there were other people who worked there that had a BS degree, and it was a state job and therefore considered local government and therefore considered to be a good job, and everyone that applied was not hired because of their lack of experience. So some of the things that I highlighted on my resume was.
- The fact that I had done security before. Even though it was only campus security I beefed this up on my resume.
- Since I attended a state university my security job was also considered a “state job'” which I also beefed up on my resume because I was applying for a state job.
- I also had experience through volunteering mentoring underprivileged kids that had behavioral problems while I was in undergrad. And since I was applying to be juvenile correctional officer I also beefed this experience up on my resume.
- And of course my BS in criminal justice was icing on the cake as this was a correctional facility and I had direct education in that area.
And so as you can see all of this adds up to me being a perfect candidate for this position. Even though I had no direct prior experience. So even if you are saying that you do not have any relevant experience or do not know how to highlight the job and/or volunteer experience you have. You can if you try hard enough.
2. Life After College ~ Don’t Go In Blind But Do Market Research
I actually talked about this in my how to find the perfect job blog where literally I tell you the ins and out of a job search and finding SOOOO many appropriate jobs to apply for that there is no real good reason why you cannot get a job. Secondly, you want to do some market research on the job that you want or the jobs that are prevalent with your degree.
I will give you a brief overview right now but I really suggest you read that blog. Because you cannot get a job if you are not looking in the right places for a job or cannot find the right jobs to look for. Search entry-level jobs or recent graduate jobs because these are the jobs that match what you specifically are. Also search local government, state, city, federal and county jobs along with private sector jobs.
And just so that you don’t get stuck in a job that cannot pay your way of life you want to know the starting salary for specific jobs and the locations in which the job you are looking for is prevalent. Doing so will help you know how much to ask for when it comes to negotiating your salary because many companies do not post this information. You do not want to ask for $10k more than what a job is asking for and not get the job just like you don’t want to asked for $10k less then what they are willing to pay and are then underpaid.
You also want to know what is the job market like in your area for what you want to do. If you want to be a publicist, it can be hard to get into that in Tim Buck Too nowhere land. You may have to relocate to find a job that you want and it is better to know and plan for that as quickly as possible. You can always start applying even if they are not where you live, as many jobs will interview you over the computer or the phone. Either way do not limit yourself to a specific place that are limited on jobs. Be open, willing, and ready to relocate for a better job if need be. Also, check out my video down below for more tips on how to find the perfect job.
3. Life After College ~ Apply For As Many Jobs As Possible As Soon As Possible
Do not wait until the day of graduation to start applying for jobs. Apply months, yes I said MONTHS in advanced. Companies understand the dynamic of being a recent grad and as long as you are graduating relatively soon they will wait for you to graduate. And with the stats above it can take you 6 months as a grad to find a job so if you start applying months BEFORE you graduate you can have one after you walk across the stage.
AND. Do not just think that applying for a job here or there is enough. You need to aim to apply for at least 20 jobs a week. YES I said 20 and you can find them. Especially if you implement my job search tips. And either way as a recent grad you are not going to get an interview for probably 90% of these jobs.
So applying does not mean that you are just going to be going to back to back interviews and even if you do getting an interview also does not guarantee a job. As a recent grad you are going up against more qualified people with experience and possibly more education so you are at the bottom when it comes to candidates. Which is why you want to apply for so many knowing that only of few of them will contact you back.
4. Life After College ~ Started From The Bottom Now We Here
Even though I started off at a job paying less than what I should have as a college grad it was still a good job on paper. Don’t expect to get paid a crazy high salary and all these other benefits because it may not happen. And do not turn down jobs that you consider minimal or that you are over qualified for.
Life After College ~ Case in point: Me
When I started my correctional officer job I worked there for 3 years. It was a local government job that looked great on my resume. I had great health insurance because when I had my son that was very much so needed. I was able to work overtime and make more money than my base salary. And while I was there I worked in the sex offender unit, the self injurious behavior unit, I was apart of treatment teams, etc. All that really means is that I got a lot of experience which prepared me for my next job as a counselor working with children and adults with mental health issues in which I made $50,000 a year. A big leap huh?
The reason is because sometimes you have to start small. And even a small job at a company can lead to a internal promotion and experience that can get you a bigger and better job later. So do not be afraid to apply for those smaller jobs that you may be over qualified for if they offer experience and room for growth.
Working at an admin position at a big company you REALLY want to work for and then moving up once you work there is better than applying for upper level job at the same company, not getting the job, and applying time and time again after being turned down and losing the job to better applicants. Of course you should always apply for jobs you are qualified for in case you do get it, but also don’t turn down the lower level jobs if they bring something of value.
5. Life After College Try Going To Graduate School
Some people go to grad school right after undergrad, some people wait and then go, and some people work AND go to grad school at the same time. You can take as long as you want to finish grad school and sometimes your current job will even pay for it. More degrees mean more money. And, depending on what you want to do, you may need to further your education to even compete in your field.
The same is for a medical doctor or a lawyer. Now while you are in grad school you can work as a paralegal (if you want to be a lawyer) or even a case manager like I did before I got my Masters (if you want to be a licensed counselor). Jobs that are still in the field that only require a BS. Not only will this give you valuable experience but a job will invest AKA pay for your college if you are working on a degree that can benefit them. The fact is that having a graduate degree can add on average $17,000 to your annual salary starting off and that is depending on the field. Click here for a great chart by Good Call that will show you how much MORE you stand to make by getting a graduate degree based on the field in which you want to work.
6. Life After College Get A Job Guaranteed
Let’s just say that you do not have time to waste and that you need a job right now. Then have you ever heard of the military that is pretty much a guaranteed job? They are always hiring and looking and they only require a HS diploma. Of course, with a degree you can become an officer which will give you a higher rank and more money if you have certain types of degrees.
The pro of the military is that you have a job, you get specialized experience from schools they send you to and you get it for free, and they pay off your student loans. You can stay in for 20 years or 3 years if you want and once you are out it makes it so much easier to get federal job as a veteran AND the experience you get as someone in the military is looked upon VERY favorably. Of course other options would be a fire fighter or even a police officer. They are not the military but once again are always hiring and have some of the same benefits I just mentioned above about the military.
Okay, there are literally all the tips that I have for you to learn how to master your life after college, get a good paying job so that you can transition into adulthood and a productive life. If you know a recent grad that is wondering how to manage life after college then go ahead and share this post with them.