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advice for uni graduates

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Don’t stress and be realistic.

Congratulations on your newly minted degrees, I hope you worked hard, had fun, and still have a fully functioning liver at the the end of your years of study. Welcome to real life - hectic, fast-paced and generally a whole lot of fun.

First things first. You don’t have to jump straight into full-blown adult life and money worries straight away. You don’t need to buy a flash new car, a house or an expensive wardrobe straight away. Think carefully about what you are actually planning to do in the next few months and budget accordingly.

If you haven’t acquired a job yet, fret not, research has shown that the vast majority of graduates obtain good employment within two years. That might sound like a lot of time to be doing less great stuff, but often you get the best jobs through the most unlikely beginnings. When we left uni, my best friend and flatmate temped for about 6 months, before walking into a job at one of the organisations that she was temping for. A job that she would never have got as a graduate with not the best classifcation (like gpa) in the world. Several of my other friends have done the same or similar and, with effort and application, it’s worked out for them.

If you don’t know what you want to do, What colour is your parachute? comes highly recommended. Another of my friends used it to great effect to determine that being an actuary would suit him, and indeed it does as he successfully passed all his exams very quickly. He now earns about twice as much as I do, but even more importantly - he really enjoys his job.

If you do know what you want, but it’s a competitive field - the best thing seem to be to get as much work experience in that area as possible and hope to get a break. This is working for people interested in media and graphic design and advertising.

Maybe you’re in the fortunate position that I was, having a good job lined up before graduating. In that case, celebrate, but don’t spend your pay packet before you get it. It’s a good idea to think about what you want to get out of this job, and to start as you mean to carry on. Keep a record of your achievements and what you’ve learnt, and keep copies of every piece of positive feedback that you get.

In any case mentally prepare yourself for the tiring prospect of full-time employment. Someone once told me that after a few months it became difficult to drag yourself out of bed to go to work, again, but that stage wears off. I thought it wouln’t happen to me, and that they’d underestimated the amount of working time that I’d put into my degree. It did happen - I think the realisation that you’re going to be doing this for a long time, together with the annoyance of keeping someone else’s hours causes it - the key is to keep going, because that stage wore off for me too.

About spending lots of money, don’t. Whatever income situation you’re in, you probably don’t have as much free money as you thought you might. Keep a tight grip on your finances until you become used to the amount of money that you do have.

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7 comments for “advice for uni graduates”

  1. I found the whole not having a job thing really stressful. Now when I think about the possibility, my brain goes to a temp agency (if it gets that far without finding something) and I feel a lot better. Lots of people have started out temping or temping-to-hire. It may not be ideal, but it helps you get your foot in the door and some professional experience that looks good on that college-job-filled resume.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | June 13, 2008, 9:26 pm
  2. Fantastic advice as usual.

    I’m struggling to find the right balance of saving and spending. It would be fantastic to sock away as much as possible during the next two years before graduate school, but there are a few luxuries like gasoline for trips home to see my parents that I’m not sure I’m willing to sacrifice. I suppose it’ll be easier to plan once I start getting a paycheck and see where the money goes.

    Posted by E.C. | June 15, 2008, 5:20 am
  3. This is good advice. Not digging yourself into a big hole of debt is easier than digging yourself out.

    Posted by Chad @ Sentient Money | June 17, 2008, 3:00 pm
  4. I guess that it is. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone actually find out for themselves. The only good thing about being in debt is that turning yourself around can give you the motivation to go on and be very comfortably well off. But I’m probably guilty of thinking that the grass is greener on the other side sometimes. I’m grateful not to be in debt, particularly as it means that I can sleep at night.

    Posted by plonkee | June 17, 2008, 7:44 pm

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