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May 14 2018

Millennial Monday: How to survive after graduation

by Betsy Pearson

Graduation season is upon us! Congratulations, but it is time to get back to reality. Earning a degree is something to celebrate, but now that four in ten millennials have a degree, even in an improved economy, the job market is more competitive than ever before. Here are some of the cold, hard, truths about adulthood that won’t wait until after your graduation party ends:

Your Degree Didn’t Prepare You for Day-to-Day Activity in the Job of Your Choice

Yes, you may understand the big picture of how things work, but there is always industry knowledge that your professors didn’t teach you about. It is important to remember that just because you are outside of the classroom, doesn’t mean the learning stops.

IWF has recently published a policy focus on the need for a Market in Higher Education. We argue that “many high-paying jobs, including many that do require college degrees, go unfilled for lack of qualified candidates.”

Although most graduates would probably prefer to get a full time job, because there is this knowledge gap between the working professional and the recent graduate, taking an internship after graduation could set you up for success, if you are able to do this. Other ways to bridge this gap could be informational interviews and supplemental courses.

Your Degree May Only Get You an Entry Level Position

This is where a lot of debate comes in as to whether or not a college degree is worth the money and time it takes to obtain one. If you are most likely going to be starting out doing entry-level work, is a high-level education worth it?

For some, it is hard to realize that a four-year degree doesn’t mean much in their job field. Because degrees are becoming more common, you will need other things to separate yourself from the other applicants. What is most valuable is actual job experience—this could be internships, volunteering, apprenticeships, or an independent study. 

Maybe in your field you’re only qualified for an unpaid internship, but you have to realize that is how many senior employees started as well. IWF’s Julie Gunlock put it simply, “College students need to understand that they might not be the Vice President of Marketing their first job… You might have to take your standards down a little bit.”

It is Time to Create a Budget, and Stick to It

Recent graduates will soon come to realize that life is much more expensive outside of a college campus—no more student discounts! With the reality of taking entry-level work, you will also most likely earn entry-level pay. Serious budgeting at this time in your life can get you on the right track, and also keep you from moving back in with your parents.

In recent reports, student loan debt has reached $1.5 trillion. Preparing for your student loan payments to start should be one of the top priorities on every graduate’s list. If finding a job is taking too long, it may not be a bad idea to take a service job waitressing job just to start saving money. And although many internships are paid, unpaid internship could require a part time paying job at night. This is the real world, and it it may require taking jobs you might not like to pay the bills.

It is hard to believe that just a year ago I was entering the job market with my new college degree. For me, the hardest part was continuing to go on interview after interview and dealing with rejection. But as you can see I ended up with a good job--persistence is key. Recent graduates, these next few moves will determine your success—no pressure!

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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