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5 Things College Grads Should Never Do

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Do you know a recent college grad? Four short years ago, I was a new college graduate, and there were quite a few things that my friends decided to do after graduation that I didn’t fully agree with. Some of them are doing okay now, but if they would have avoided these 5 blunders after graduation, their lives could have been a ton easier today.

1) Don’t Pursue Grad School Immediately After Your Bachelors Degree

I have had quite a few friends that had a little trouble finding a job immediately after their college graduation, so they just decided to get some more education. It could only help them find a job, right? Wrong. After they conquered grad school, they found themselves over-qualified for lower-level jobs and they lacked the experience for higher-level positions. Many of them are finding themselves in more debt and are having an even more difficult time finding their first job.

I busted my butt to find my first job, and while it didn’t pay amazingly well, I now have four solid years of corporate experience under my belt and my pay has increased to higher levels than my graduate friends.

2) Don’t Reward Yourself With a New Car

Congratulations… you graduated from college… just like all of your friends who have no guarantee of a successful future. You’ve worked so hard these past four years that you deserve to have a new car! I DON’T THINK SO. You have more than $20,000 racked up in student loans, you have no guarantee that you’ll do well in your new job, and you have no idea what the real world is even about yet! If you have a beater car, I suggest that you hold onto it for a while until you pay off your student loans.

3) Don’t Limit Your Job Search To Your Local Area

So many people want to find a job within 30 miles from their hometown, and I do understand the draw. I love the area I grew up in, and I love my family very much as well. But, you should never limit your job search to such a confined location, especially as a college graduate when there are thousands of kids hunting for a job just like you.

When I graduated, my friend and I moved down to Florida (from Michigan) and found decent jobs to kick-start our careers. Fast-forward three years and I’m back in my hometown! With my degree AND my three years experience, finding a job in my local area was a breeze! I would highly recommend that anyone follow the same path.

4) Don’t Take a Year to “Find Yourself”

If there’s one thing that employers notice on your resume, it’s holes in your schooling and your experience. If you graduated last year and you’re just now interviewing for your first job, your interviewer is going to ask what you’ve been up to. If you answer with, “I decided to explore Europe for a year before settling down in my career,” they are going to have bright red lights going off in their head and alarms sounding all around them. ‘WARNING, WARNING, this kid is a flake and won’t last in the working world for more than a few months before he decides to leave this job and try something new!’

Ideally, you should have a job lined up before you even graduate. It’s often easier to find a job while you’re still a student then if you try looking after graduation – especially if it’s years after…

5) Don’t Go Back To Your Old Part-Time Job

I know that sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to grow up, but if you head back to that part-time job after you graduate, you might be stuck there for longer than you think. The same way an interviewer would notice holes in your schooling and experience, they’ll also notice if you currently work at a job that’s unrelated to your degree.

Believe me, that old part-time job isn’t going to impress anybody, and it’s best to flee from it soon after graduation. If you can’t find a job in your field and you absolutely have to go back to your old job, then at least find an unpaid intership with some work that’s related to your degree. Then you’ll have something to talk about when you’re interviewing for that dream job.

Have you noticed any of your friends breaking one of these five principles? Would you add anything to the list?

Money

AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

27 Comments

  1. I agree with 2-5 but number 1 sounds a bit too personal. I know plenty of people who have gone from undergrad to grad school and have benefited from doing so. I think it is a subjective issue and needs to be clarified.

    • If they have had an internship before graduation, then I think a masters degree could be worth it, but with no experience, I’ll stick with my statement in the article.

      • For whatever it’s worth, though I wanted to go directly from my BA to a master’s degree, I think my years of working before I was accepted into a grad program strengthened my resolve for what I want to do with my life.

        • I’m sure they did! That’s what I’m doing right now and the experience I got in the work force was much more valuable than what an MBA would have been! Now that I have the experience, I’m going to start taking some classes toward my MBA – the best part is, my company is paying 100% of it! 🙂

        • Great point Bryan! Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders as well!

  2. I can’t agree with number one either, and I’m not in agreement on number 4.

    For #1, if like me, you’ve taken an extended period to get your bachelor there is no reason to not continue to get a graduate degree, as well. For a twentysomething who decided to get a bachelors starting at age 21,22,25, whatever… it makes perfect sense to continue as a grad (I’m not the only one, there are many of us) Presumably already having some work experience. I wouldn’t recommend doing highschool-bachelor-grad school fulltime just like that but for a part-timer like me… I’ll be 27/28 with years of work experience. There’s really no point in delaying grad school. I think to say it the way it is written here is to cut and dry.

    As well for number 4, while blank spaces can be red flags. I don’t think it is unreasonable to take some time to travel, especially while young and it has little or no reflection on work ethic, as an example again, myself. I love to travel, am selfemployed and have been working since 18. The company I was with before that I worked for for 5 years along with some temp jobs on the side. Ability to stick with a job is a reflection on character and being a good match for the company, it’s not just the character-lacking folks that traipse around the world. It’s people like me and if that’s a red flag on my resume, I find it awfully shortsighted of whoever has these assumptions while reading my resume. I don’t assume either when I look over resumes and do interviews with people, I ask them and hope to hear the truth.

    • Thanks for the comment Andrea! For #1, I was mainly talking about those students that just recently graduated, have loads of debt, and think that getting another degree is going to help them make loads of money. It’s simply not true.

      And, I’m still sticking with #4. While perhaps it won’t hurt you in some situations to have traveling blanks on your resume, it certainly won’t help you find a job.

  3. As well with number 5, while unpaid internships related to your field may look better on your resume. When it comes to putting food on the table, which is more important?

    • Obviously, if you can’t survive without work, do what you’ve got to do. But, why not find an unpaid internship that you can work while having another job? Sure, it’s going to suck for a while, but it’s going to look great on the resume.

  4. I can’t agree with you more! Many grad schools, particularly MBA programs require a couple years experience before you go there. I think it is invaluable even if it is not required.

    • Yep! Thanks for the comment krantcents!

  5. In most cases.#1 is a great rule.except if you are going for your CPA license. In most cases you need 150 credit hours and a 1 year msa will cover the requirement.

    Delay a new car for at least a year or two and then buy used d if it makes money sense.

    • Good point Lance. I’ll agree with you there. I’m glad you agree with me about the car – that’s an important one in my book

  6. Studies demonstrate that, on regular, only about ten% of higher education grads create a thank you upon an interview. So, would be wise to you? Totally! It is a impressive way to distinguish your self from the sea of other candidates, and it will benefit your particular person exclusive manufacturer stay memorable. In fact, if you are in the “it’s possible that” pile when you depart the interview, a well assumed-out thank you could very easily move you to the “certainly” pile.
    Santa Maria, Ca.

    • Another good tip for getting a dream job. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Wow, spot on! The friends I have with the most financial problems all did at least a couple of things off that list. The biggest ones were immediately buying a new car and limiting their job hunt to around where their family lives…

    • That new car can absolutely kill your finances! Tack on $20,000 of debt on top of your student loans and you’ll be in the hole for 7+ years after graduation!

  8. I agree with all of your points unless your first job would require a masters. I had to find a job within a 30 mile radius because my husband found a job first and is the breadwinner. I would like to eventually get my masters in nutrition but would rather have the company I work for pay for it! I do have two friends who splurged on a super nice car because they were working full time and single. I can’t stand the idea of losing all that money as soon as you drive it off the lot!

    • I don’t understand young people with new cars either. Sure, they look nice, but think about what it’s really costing them! Not only are they paying interest on the loan, but they’re also missing out on the profits they could be making on an investment. That $25,000 car could actually be costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of 20 years.

  9. In general all those tips are good. But are they right for everyone? What if you have no debt, then why not get a new car, especially if it is an economy one? And what better time to take a year and find yourself than before you get caught up in the “real world”? And what if getting a masters degree is important in your profession? So, good advice but there are exceptions…

    • Of course not all tips are right for everyone. There are always exceptions to the rule. Even if you have no debt though, I would still be leary about buying a new car. There are just much wiser purchases out there than buying a large depreciating asset.

  10. These are all great tips! I worked full-time while getting my MBA (graduate next month). Definitely a better experience than going straight from undergraduate school to graduate school with no experience.

    • I agree Michelle! And congrats on your upcoming graduation. Exciting!!

  11. I think these are pretty good tips in general.

    I just wanted to throw out another exception to #1, which is that in science it is very typical to go from a Bachelors degree straight to a PhD program. Especially if you want to stay in academia, there really isn’t any “work” experience better than grad school. You might benefit from working in industry or as a technician for a while if you don’t have a lot of lab experience, but otherwise grad school followed by a postdoc is really the relevant work experience.

    My husband and I did buy a new car after we graduated… not as a “reward” necessarily, but because we had NO car, and we were about to drive about 1500 miles when we moved for grad school. We’ve driven back home several times (and are about to again!), which is much cheaper than driving, so for us, the peace of mind that we have a new, well maintained car is worth it. Generally I’d agree with your suggestion, though, and if one of us had already owned a beater, I think we would have continued driving it for as long as possible. We plan to drive this car until it dies, though!

    • Yep, of course no advice is 100% correct for everyone, but I like these 5 for 95% of the people out there. As for your new car, I bet you could have found a vehicle that was 4 years old and just as dependable. It could have saved you 50-60% of your money. Slightly used is always better than new.


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