This article is part of a series called Graduating? which focuses on personal finance advice for fresh college grads. This particular article is a guest post written by Pamela Grundy.
Remember that scene in the movie “The Graduate” in which a bewildered Dustin Hoffman is poked in the chest by a martini-wielding know-it-all uncle who has just one word for him? Plastics! What I mean is, “Plastics!” is the word the obnoxious uncle has for Dustin Hoffman in that movie.
Just that one word.
OK, so you don’t remember that. Of course you don’t. “The Graduate” came out in 1967, and if you are just now graduating from high school, college, or even graduate school; chances are you weren’t even a gleam in your father’s eye in 1967. Probably you remember 1967 as the year your Mom’s hot Swedish masseuse Ilsa was born. So fine, forget it. Just never mind about any of that ancient history, what you need to be watching right now is your future, (with or without Ilse).
So, with that in mind, I’m going to give you way more than one crummy word of advice. No plastics for you. I’m giving you ten words here, and they’re all free:
10) Save. Almost certainly there are tons of things you need to buy right now, and even more thing s you want to buy. Don’t buy them yet. Save as much money as you can, while you can. If you can mooch off the folks while you wait for inspiration or a real job, save every drop you make from the temporary one you take while waiting for your ship to come in.
9) Work. If you don’t find an entry level professional job right away, take some kind of job. If you can’t get a paid job, volunteer for something you care about and work hard. Education is great, but in corporate America people are more interested in what you have done, not what you have learned. So start doing some things right away.
8 ) Write. You probably did more writing in school than you wanted to do, so now that you’re out, do some more! Set up your own website and blog, and make it all quite excellent, something your friends and family can read, but something you wouldn’t mind if a prospective employer read either. If you have an idiotic or offensive MySpace or FaceBook page, get rid of it and put up something that makes you sound less like Bart Simpson and more like Steve Jobs.
7) Freelance. Go to www.elance.com, www.guru.com, or www.odesk.com and bid on some freelance projects in web design, programming, artwork, writing, advertising, or sales. Then, when you get a project, do your very best on it and then bid all over again on another one. Pretty soon if you keep at it you will have enough material to create a…
6) Portfolio. Build one online then create a portable one to take on interviews. Touch up your resume to include all the fascinating things you’ve been doing since graduation, and make sure it looks visually compatible and terrific alongside your portfolio.
5) Network. Drop your name and stories of your interesting post-graduate life everywhere, and when someone responds by mentioning so-and-so who is soooo very into the same exact thing, get so-and-so’s number and an introduction from that person you just met and follow up by calling and asking if you can have a few minutes of time to ask for some advice. Everybody likes to be asked for advice. You’ll meet some new people and you might even find a job. If you get good at this, you’ll need some…
4) Business Cards. You should have a good idea of what makes you cool by now, so blow $50 on some incredible cards that announce to the world who you are, where your web-site is, and how you can be reached by e-mail, phone, or cell. Don’t be too flippant but do be classy and creative.
3) Read. Graphic novels are great, but pick up a New York Times once in awhile and subscribe to something your parents read like The Atlantic or The New Yorker so you will have conversational material to use when surrounded by grownups.
2) Cook. I mean cook real food, not Kraft macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles with peanut butter. If you are a guy, this skill is one of only two will you need to meet great, gorgeous girls, so learn at least four or five fabulous impressive dishes that will make any girl think you are Uber-Euro-Man. If you are already a great, gorgeous girl, do not underestimate the power of food. You know the old joke about how to make a man happy? It’s true! Show up naked. Bring food.
1) Get a Great Dog. Listen, life is hard, and it is going to make you cry, a lot. You will sometimes be broke for no good reason. You will be rejected when you deserved better, you will be treated unfairly, you will even be lonely once in awhile. A dog will get you through all of this, and more. A fabulous dog will make sure you get your exercise and never eat alone. Oh, and remember those two things guaranteed to get you great, gorgeous girls? A dog is the other thing (besides cooking).
Take your dog for a walk in the park. Dress nicely. Be clean. Be confident. Make sure you have the makings of a great meal at home for the great girl (guy) you will meet while walking your adorable dog. Carry some of your cards in your shirt pocket. Smile.
Life can be hard, yes it can. Living well, however, is easy!
And one more thing: Congratulations!
This is a guest post by Pamela Grundy, writer for Personal FInance Analyst. Personal Finance Analyst is an online community of bloggers dedicated to taking the mystery out of money and helping you to live a happier, more successful life with the money you have.
Emily @ Taking Charge says
While I absolutely LOVE dogs, I would NOT recommend getting one to a fresh college graduate. I got a dog during senior year of college who is one of my most favorite things in the whole world, but I was not prepared for how expensive it would be. My first job out of school hardly paid anything and had no benefits, and I had to pay for flea medicine, dog food, treats, leash and collar, puppy pads, vet appts, etc. A few times she had random things happen like an eye infection that cost me several hundred dollars per visit. So while I am a huge dog-lover and can totally appreciate what you said about them providing excellent companionship, they can be wildly expensive. I would NOT recommend this to someone right out of college. Wait until you have a steady salary and have figured out your budget before you do that. Or, you can do what I did before I adopted my dog, and foster through a rescue program. That way you get to spend lots of time with a dog, but once they are adopted, you have a break before the next one — and the rescue groups usually pay for all the expenses, such as medication, vet visits, etc.
Emily @ Taking Charge’s last blog post..Fed moves to close ‘timing’ loophole in credit card payments
@Emily – I think you’re absolutely right. I don’t think MOST people are ready for the expense of a dog, actually (even some people that have owned dogs in the past!).
Most estimates put owning a dog at $600 a year or more – I’d definitely say it’s higher than that (based on my experience with my black lab!). Getting a dog is a big commitment, and I would suggest adding it to that list of major purchases that people should not make during the first 6-8 months after graduation.
Pamela Grundy says
Good points about the cost and responsibility of owning a dog. As a dog owner myself I guess I’m a bit biased. Maybe I should have suggested a houseplant instead–although, I seem to kill houseplants, whereas my dog is my friend for life. Points well taken though, thanks!
Brix at College Gifts says
These are undoubtedly useful tips.
Although college graduates have been honed and trained to take on the real world, they still need to know some more when it comes to money and finances.
Brix at College Gifts’s last blog post..Visa Gift Cards As College Graduation Gifts
This is quite helpful for our new grads. Well actually, even for us who graduated years ago : )
I agree with Nick. Well done, and I hope to see more articles like this one.
Zen’s last blog post..80 Things That Make Me Happy