What You Need to Know About Your First Post-Grad Job
You completed your courses. You walked across the stage in your cap and gown. You graduated! Now what? Leaving the comforts of college life behind for official adulthood is an uncertain time, and those last few months of school come with a long list of question marks: Where do I want to live? How much will it cost me to get there? What should my first job out of college be, and how do I find it? How much am I going to get paid?
When you add the stress of living expenses and the impending end of your student loan grace period, succeeding as an entry-level professional can seem like an insurmountable task. But as the saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder.” To help you make a smart post-grad start, we put together a list of considerations, to-dos, and tips, because landing the right first job after college is more important than you might think.
A recent study found that four in 10 new grads were underemployed , holding first jobs that didn’t require their degree—or any degree.
And while it may seem innocuous to work as a barista for a few months while you decompress and look for a job in your field, grads who took that route were five times more likely than their career-focused counterparts to still be underemployed after five years. In contrast, the same study showed that 87% of new grads who started their career off in their field of study were able to maintain their career path over five years.
Underemployment can be especially damaging if your degree requires regular licensing or is in a field that changes rapidly, like technology, journalism or law. The longer you remain out of the industry, the harder it can be to break back in.
You’re Grown up, What Do You Want to Be?
The first step to finding a job out of college is to start before you’re out of college. Ask professors about career path options, complete as many internships as possible and work with your college career center on your resume, interview skills, and job listings.
Quick tip: Find out the specific job titles for entry-level positions in your field. Even the same position can be called different names from industry to industry.
A good deal of job hunting today is done online, but posting your résumé to huge job boards isn’t necessarily the best strategy due to competition and the anonymity of the internet. If you choose this route, it’s important to ensure that you focus in on the right positions and use keywords to help your résumé get past the automatic filters.
It’s also important to use another, more local avenue in conjunction with the large sites. Almost every metropolitan area in the United States has a Facebook or LinkedIn group posting local jobs, and boards are available by industry as well.
If you’re having trouble making your qualifications feel substantial without any full-time experience, consider hiring expert help. Be sure to customize your résumé and cover letter to each job application and focus on companies you’d like to work for.
Moving Expenses and Potential Write-Offs
Just as important as what you want to do is where you want to do it. Certain career paths can lead to success whether you live in New York City or a small town. But if you want to become a Wall Street trader or work for NASA, your location options are limited.
Young graduates have been relocating at lower frequency over the past decade, but even if you’re more likely to select “anywhere” on job-search filters, don’t jump blindly into an adventure.
First, check the cost of living for the places that offer enticing career opportunities, and remember that a high salary doesn’t necessarily equal affordable living, especially in larger cities.
Next, figure how much it will cost to get you to your new home. Moving can cost anywhere from $850 to $9,000 (or more), but there is good news.
Approximately 70% of employers offer some type of relocation package, and if you meet time and distance requirements, you may be able to write off moving expenses that aren’t covered by your new employer. Be sure to keep all of your receipts—rental vehicles, movers, cleaners, packing supplies, gas, meals, lodging while en route, plane tickets, and mileage.
Salary: What You’re Due vs. Paying Your Dues
An annual salary is likely to be one of the most stressful aspects of searching for your first job after college. Salary truly a mystery for many new grads, and it usually takes education and experience to transition your financial mindset. Throw in taxes, benefits, 401(k) contributions and other deductions, and someone unfamiliar with this new income may not even be able to grasp whether $30,000 a year is the big-time or minimum wage.
One easy way to make sense out of an annual salary is to break it down to terms that are more familiar to you. For example, a $30,000 a year job equals $2,500 a month pre-tax, or about $15 an hour. You can also reverse the process to figure out a target salary range.
The get an idea of where your starting salary is likely to fall, find out what similar jobs (or your exact job) pay in your area. Fortunately for new grads, the popularity of social job sites like Glassdoor have made this much easier than in years past. Don’t rely on just one source, though.
Cross-check a number of salary sites to find an average, and always search by location for the most realistic numbers. Having a ballpark figure in mind before you get to the interview stage is also important because many times, pay isn’t even discussed until you get close to an official offer.
Finally, one word of salary advice for the new grad: Remember that you are a new grad. Even if you’ve had internships or part-time jobs in your field, this is new territory. As a new entrant to the professional world, employers are more likely to look at your potential (as opposed to your experience) and their offers could reflect that. A good rule of thumb is to expect an entry-level job offer to come in at the low end of the scale, and prepare yourself to be ready for that. For further insights on forging your career path, feel free to reach out to a SoFi Career Coach for a personalized plan to stay on track.
Budgeting Tips and Tricks
Starting your career with an entry-level salary doesn’t mean you can’t afford to start. It just means you have to be smart about your money and live inexpensively however you can.
Consider a roommate (or two), especially in more expensive cities.
Splitting the rent and utilities can go a long way to getting ahead of the money game. And if those roommates are your parents, you’ll just be part of a growing trend to start your career while living at home.
Related: How Much Money Should I Save to Move Out?
Next, do what you can to avoid debt. Pay in cash, drive an affordable car, forgo the latest smartphone, shop at consignment stores, and pack your lunch. If it’s debt you can’t avoid, like your student loans, make smart decisions about how to pay it back.
Check your current interest rate, and talk to a friendly SoFi team member about refinancing your student loans. If you qualify, even a small drop in interest rates can significantly reduce your payments. And, in the event of a job loss that’s no fault of your own, we can work with you to pause your payments and even help you get back into the workplace.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice about bankruptcy.
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