Valdosta Daily Times

Business

May 5, 2013

College is over . . . Congratulations, you’re now poor

VALDOSTA — I  would like to give a shout out to some newly graduated, fellow Blazers! You finally made it through four (or more) years of the wavering consistency of BlazeNet, walking in the rain to class only to get to the door to see a sign that says class is canceled despite the professor having access to your email, and the infuriating lack of parking that the multi-million dollar garage failed to solve. Congratulations.

I would like to tell you that life gets easier from here, but the truth is, after about six months you will be fondly looking back on the times when your biggest problem was forgetting those stupid blue test books for final exams and having your classmate bo-jangle you out of $10 for a 50 cent product in the hallway. P-Diddy was right, even in times of complete anguish, it’s always about the Benjamin’s baby.

But I digress . . . You should be happy and proud. What you have accomplished is grand. I mean, for the rest of your life you will have a cheap piece of $60,000 paper that says: “Hey, I went to college and darn it, I’m a genius.” Granted, it will only say that to the dust bunnies under your bed because God knows you don’t have an office to hang it in because you’re probably still working at Starbucks, but nevertheless, you know you’re loosely qualified for employment and that’s all that really matters.

So where do you go from here? Well, that’s a decision only you can make, but as a self-proclaimed expert on everything (Google me, I dare you), here is my advice of what not to do after you graduate college. Keep in mind; I know these things to be true, because I’ve done almost all of them.

1. Don’t mistake your degree for a job qualification.

Many of you are in this delusional haze where you think your degree actually means something. Unfortunately, in reality, it means you can’t work with your hands and you have a weak grasp on our country because everything you know is from Howard Zinn. When you are choosing colleges, you go to all these fancy orientations that convince you that once you have a degree, your salary is going to be $45,000 and you are going to be valuable to so many employers. Well, they lied. You graduated at the worst possible time because there really aren’t that many jobs out there, and the jobs that are out there are filled by qualified people who got laid off from their last job due to budget cuts.

I’m not telling you this to undermine your accomplishment. I’m telling you this to knock that chip off your shoulder because even though you went to college, you are still the bottom of the barrel and you are going to have to work to get to a job that you feel is acceptable for yourself. I’ve been out of college for three years and I just now got to a job where I actually have my own office and where my paycheck doesn’t make me cry.

Being cocky is the biggest mistake most new college graduates make, and honestly, you are crazy crazy if you think someone is going to beg you to work for them. Be humble, and find an honest, professional job that will allow you to gain some valuable work experience. I know you have a friend that you graduated with that has some awesome job as an entrepreneur in Atlanta making tons and tons of money. Well, I have a secret to tell you. New entrepreneur is code for unemployed and they are probably living in their parents basement.

2. Don’t waste money on graduate school just because you don’t know what you want to do with your life.

Graduate school is wonderful . . . If you go into it with a plan. In this horrible economy, so many new college graduates are getting advanced degrees just to avoid loan repayment for the next two years. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that putting yourself into more debt isn’t the solution. Sure, if you have career path that requires a master’s degree, it makes perfect sense. But why go for another degree when you have no idea what you want to do with your life? Go get a job and through work and trial and error, find what you’re passionate about. Don’t be Van Wilder.

3. So you just realized your student loans weren’t free money . . .

When I was in school, I never even thought about having to re-pay my loans. It was always in the distant future. Well, that future hit me like a speeding truck when I got my first bill. Chances are, most of you have already made this mistake and unfortunately, you can’t go back and change your frivolous spending. However, you can begin controlling your financial future. Get rid of Netflix and Hulu Plus, get rid of that $200 satellite dish package, stop eating out every night and set up a savings account. When you first start trying to pay your loans back, it’s overwhelming and you’re going to probably have months where things are really tight. Trust me, it makes life so much easier when you know you have a little money in a savings account to help you buy groceries. In short, learn to live within your own means . . . Not your parent’s means.

4. When you finally get a job, your first paycheck will almost entirely be going to someone else.

When I got my first “real” job, I was so excited to get my first check. I was thinking about all the nice clothes I would finally be able to afford, that is, until I realized I couldn’t afford anything. Make a chart of all your bills. Know how much your loans are going to be every month, even if you haven’t started paying them yet. Like a ninja, you need to be mentally prepared for everything that’s coming your way. That way, you won’t be crying in the bathtub like me when your remaining balance was $3 after you paid all your bills the first time.

Some of you lucky budgeteers may be saying: “But Brittany, I have no student loan debt as a new graduate.” Maybe your parents saved up for your college, or maybe you had a full scholarship, and trust me, I have wise words for you too. I just can’t publish them in this paper.

Many new graduates are reading this and rolling their eyes, but soon, you will be Googling this to remember everything I’m telling you. It’s the truth. Life is going to be hard and finding a job is not going to be easy. You’re going to be broke for a while, you’re going to still have to ask your parents for money, and you will somehow find yourself more poor at a full-time job than when you were full-time in college. It stinks, but I don’t make the rules, I only curse them.

 In the mean time, like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanyDenneyMcClure and follow me on Twitter @VDT_Brittany.

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