The Smart College Roadmap
Part 3. Easing The Post-College Job Hunt
Welcome to Part 3 of this three-part series of The Smart College Roadmap!
In the last article, College Without Debt. Yes, You Can!, we discussed the importance of paying for college without debt. Leaving college without debt is going to reduce the amount of stress you'll have when you start the job hunt and is one step that can help prevent you from getting stuck in a job that doesn't apply to your newly obtained education. After all, you went to college to finance your roadmap while doing what you love to do! Let's see what we can do to avoid the job hunt crunch after graduating and put the ball in your court.
Most people leave college with large amounts of student debt and haven't put any additional work into preparing for the next step in their roadmap. This leaves a lot of graduates stressed out with a limited amount of time to find their career before settling for less. Some college students even go back to school for an unnecessary higher degree to put off student loan paybacks. Too many college graduates are scared out of their minds when it’s time to find a job in the real world.
Don't let the fear consume you, there are many things that you can do to prepare for a stress-free job search.
Building Your Dream Job Resume
Aside from your college degree, there is a lot you can do to start building your resume for the job application process.
Of course, the best thing aside from education is experience in the field. Finding a job while in college related to your field is ideal so that you can simultaneously pay for your tuition and gain relevant experience. However, if you have to work in an unrelated job to pay for college, hopefully the last semester or two is already paid for and you can begin to transition to a job in the field. Or, you could dedicate time to an internship to gain experience; even if it's volunteer experience, the knowledge you'll gain in the workplace will put you ahead of your peers in the interview process.
Start building a professional network. Reach out to professionals on LinkedIn or on other social media platforms to gauge the job market and ask for guidance in your next steps. Talking to people that are active in the industry and know the latest trends can save you from wasting time and they may even be able to send job offers your way. Find out about additional certifications you could obtain, projects you could help with, or organize projects on your own to add to your portfolio.
Learn From My Story
Sometimes college curriculum can't keep up with the fast pace of the markets. When I completed my minor in computer science, I was still required to take classes in the C++ and Java programming languages, even though I knew I wouldn't be using them in my profession. Yes, I learned some basic programming principles that can be applied to all languages, but not without a lot of low-level language-specific instruction that I have never put to use in my career as a software engineer.
Luckily, I was already working in the field and active in the community, so I understood what programming languages I needed to focus on. This is why contacting a professional is important for those who don’t work in their fields before graduating. I would happily talk to any student that had questions and needed some advice. We were all there at one point.
Search for or start a local user group focused around the profession so that you can start interacting with other professionals. Attend job fairs and industry conferences to identify the key players in the market. Maybe there's a way you can volunteer for events, or find an employer that could use some free or low-paid work in exchange for an internship or a professional reference. Caring about and building a community in the industry goes a long way on your resume. Sometimes it's about who you know.
Learn From My Story
My professional network and flood of job opportunities did not kick off until I became active in the community. I attended local user groups and eventually started to lead some and organize industry conferences. The connections I gained from the community are priceless and I know that if I ever let someone know that I was looking for a job, I'd have people reaching out to me in no time from the awesome contacts and friends I've gained in the community. Everyone from recruiters, peers, evangelists, students, managers and teachers.
The Job Search
The earlier you start your job search, the longer you have to hunt and the more critical you can be of your job selections to try and find the perfect job. You want a company that wants you for you and a job that can be a key contributor to your future roadmap. I recommend starting to search at the beginning of your last semester before you graduate. The job hiring process takes time and you may be ahead of those waiting until graduation.
I highly recommend getting in touch with recruiters, who may be searching for people like you and have knowledge of opportunities outside of your own job search. Think about the locations you'd be willing to work in and start building relationships with recruiters in those areas. Be up front about what you're looking for and what you'll accept. Recruiters can give you insight on the job market and let you know if your requirements are realistic. Some recruiters are only responsible to fill certain jobs, so it's good to be in touch with many of them to cast a wider net. There's usually no cost and it just takes a few phone calls and maybe a lunch meeting here and there to build a recruiting army that works for you.
Take advantage of university resources that will help you prepare your resume and find jobs with you. Most schools have career centers and host career fairs to help students get their foot in the door. In some cases, you may be put in contact with alumni who work in the field and are willing to provide advice.
Outside of updating your resume, you should create profiles on the major online job search websites, as well as a LinkedIn account. These sites will not only display current openings you can apply for, but will also help potential employers and recruiters find you.
Learn From My Story
I get between 3-6 job offers a day from my LinkedIn profile alone—anywhere from short-term contracts, to full-time lucrative positions at large corporations. In my experience, LinkedIn has provided the most opportunities for potential career shifts.
It never hurts to consider new opportunities. Even if you already have a job, that's sometimes the best time to be looking for a new one. Pay attention to the job offers that come into your inbox and reach out every once in a while to see if they can take your dream job one step further. I always say that I'm not looking for opportunities but I am most certainly open to them. I can draw up my own terms since I already have a job and if it doesn't work out, oh well.
Not all positions are available to recruiters or listed on the major online job search websites. Many times, you must do the work of thinking about potential employers you would like to work for and then manually browse their websites for open positions. Many people fall short of finding great opportunities because they forget this step. Sometimes it can be a grueling process to create profiles on every site, but it could be well worth the effort.
Lastly, don't forget to make everyone you know aware that you're looking for a job. Let your friends, family and colleagues all know that you're looking because they'll start talking with people and give you ideas that you possibly haven't thought of yet. Look for online communities and forums in the industry where you could let people know that you're looking. You may not only get offers, but you could also learn valuable skills that can improve your job hunt.
Preparing For Your Expenses
Usually the largest factor in rushing a job search is due to not having enough money in the buffer to hold you off while you look around. Many times, graduates end up settling for a job outside of their passions due to financial commitments they already have in place that need to be paid. Unfortunately, many in this situation get stuck because they don't have the ability to move from an entry-level position to the position they truly desire from. You may have to be an intern or work part-time to get into the field you desire. This is why it's important to understand your roadmap and how to prepare yourself financially to get there.
While in college, especially before graduating, it is important to focus your savings on building the cash buffer you'll need to perform a job search without financial stress. Rather than having to save money to pay for future years of college, the money you save during your last year of college can buy you the most precious thing in life—time.
To make the cash buffer last, it's important to reduce your expenses and not take on debt. Many college graduates tend to increase spending because they have extra time on their hands and find themselves buying new toys they can't afford. A very common scenario is leasing or financing a new car, sometimes without even starting a new career yet. First off, leasing a car is a horrible idea for your wallet and like any large purchase, you should save up for it. It's easy to find a car in great condition that’s 3-5 years old and coming off a lease that some other sucker got tricked into leasing.
You may have the desire to be an entrepreneur and start your own business, which, if successful, can be much more lucrative than being an employee. If you learn to live a frugal lifestyle along with having the cash buffer you've hopefully built, you can use the freedom to explore creating your ideas before joining the workforce as a backup plan if things don't work out. Having a small footprint of expenses and some savings in the bank is a powerful position to be in to allow your creative juices to flow without financial fear getting in the way.
Learn From My Story
I have hundreds of business ideas written down and I have tried to execute a few over the years without success. I've learned that they take a lot of time and energy, which is hard to come by with only a few spare hours here and there outside of a full-time job and taking care of a family. My heart desires to be a full-time entrepreneur and start solving problems in my own life, but the expenses I have built up over the years will not allow me to leave the workforce. Startups have a very high failure rate and it can be a long time before a new business can start making money. As the primary income generator for my family, remaining an employee is important to meet my family's financial obligations.
Fortunately, I am working in a field that I really enjoy and I have the opportunity to learn skills that can carry into my entrepreneur world when I'm ready to take the leap. This is how I came to setting my life up for early retirement. Early retirement is my backup plan to cover my expenses from passive investment income so that I can be an entrepreneur full time without placing a financial burden on my family. Once I learned that it was possible to retire in my 30s with investments funding my expenses for the rest of my life, I made the changes in our family to get us there as fast as possible.
Even though I love what I do as an employee, I know at some point I'll be ready for the next step. Many people say that they never want to retire, but when I ask them if they're in the same position they were five years ago, they usually say no. When I look back, I see when I loved what I was doing, and then got bored and was ready for the next thing—it's human nature. Financial freedom, and specifically early retirement, will give me the flexibility to make changes in my life with little to no risk. Even though I'll be working on my own ideas when I leave the workforce, I'll still consider myself retired. After all, the definition of retired is withdrawn from or no longer occupied with one's business or profession. My schedule will no longer be occupied by strict work hours, deadlines, meetings and limited vacation days. Working on my business ideas will be no different from learning how to play a new instrument or hiking with some friends. The three letters J-O-B will be replaced by F-U-N.
Aside from building a quality resume for the jobs you apply for, having financial security to buy you the time needed to find the perfect job can ease the job hunt crunch. It's very common for people to get stuck in jobs unrelated to their degree or passions because of financial obligations they've added to their lives with families, pets and debt.
But saving money doesn't stop after finding the perfect job. Building financial security is still equally important in case you need a buffer to help ease switching jobs in the future. Sometimes job changes are required from circumstances out of our hands like an injury, being laid off or other obstacles.
Are there ideas you want to create or things you want to do, but you're stuck in your job? Are the times you get to enjoy life limited to the same crowded nights and weekends of every other working family? This is why I wrote the Early Retirement Roadmap as the next step to achieving financial freedom faster after entering the workforce. It's my backup plan to retire early and start a company with little risk, knowing that my living expenses for my family are covered. I really hope I can also help you retire earlier than you're expecting to now.
Thank you for your precious time. I wish you great success!