This time of year, I always like to say something positive to the new entries into “the real world”. New college grads have always had challenges transitioning from the college world into a world of work, bills and responsibilities. In today’s economy these grads face as many challenges as ever. Many have large amounts of debt from school and may be surprised that earning more than they did during their summer jobs at the beach or restaurant may be hard to do.
So let’s start with the obvious. Stay within your means financially. Do not run up credit card debt and do not agree to move out of the house without a good sustainable income plan to pay for those costs. An exception may be a guaranteed subsidy from a parent or other gratuitous family member. Sorry Dad.
Next is what to do with your newfound free time. The obvious answer is to do something productive. That could be work, education, or pursuing your passion.
As for work, there are two ways to look at it in the short term. You are either laser focused on a career in something or you are not. The short answer would be to be great at what you do; you owe it to yourself to make the most out of your chosen profession. That doesn’t mean you are married to that job or profession for life, but you must be great at it to discover what you don’t like about it and how you may alter your career path toward greater satisfaction. This type of thinking will steer you right throughout your career in whatever it is.
If you are not laser focused on your career, look at a job search from the bottom up. The first bottom up is how much you need to earn to support your desired lifestyle. If you’re not a numbers person, don’t lose sleep over this exercise, just ask a nerdy friend to break out an excel spreadsheet and help you figure it out.
The second bottom up is from the bottom of your heart. Take this opportunity to think about the things that you absolutely love to do; the things that you could do all day long and make you feel happiest. Not discounting the need to support your lifestyle, spending time to pursue your passion at this early stage may also be your best investment. Many of today’s most successful entrepreneurs have worked with their passion to build very unique and valuable enterprises. Beyond the remote possibility that you’ve got the next Google or Facebook idea, working or furthering your studies in an area that you find completely captivating may lead you to your big idea if you are open to it.
Trust yourself and learn to be bold. You will find failures in your professional life. Your job is to learn how to turn negatives into positives. From these failures, ask what you may have done differently to obtain the desired outcome. Make this a way of life, and your classmates may look back on you in 20 years and ask how you did it.
John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST is Founder and Chairman of Napier Financial in Braintree, MA. Visit napierfinancial.com for more information. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Investment and financial planning advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor.