If college graduation bells are ringing for you, I’d like to suggest a reply: “Hold on! I’m coming!”
Yes, those are contradictory statements — and the title of a great song — but that’s intentional.
For most students, college is a wonderful experience, maybe the most fun you’ll have at any point in your life. The combination of people, events, opportunities — and the freedom to experience them all at whatever level you wish — is going to be very difficult to match.
So hold on! Take some time to walk around campus and remember where you were and who you were with when you did something, learned something, succeeded or failed at something.
Get in touch with the classmates, professors, office personnel, coaches or bartenders who contributed to your college experience, and thank them. Do it in person. If they really made a difference, bring them lunch or a beverage and ask if you can keep in touch.
That will help them remember you as much as you will remember them. If you haven’t discovered it yet, “who” you know is going to mean a lot more after college than “what” you know.
When that’s done, you can begin taking the serious steps needed to let the working world know “I’m coming!”
The Working World Needs You
Despite what you may have read or heard in whatever communication communities you visit, the working world wants you. A college degree is necessary for two-thirds of the jobs in America. You have one. Successful companies thrive on energy in the workplace. You bring some. Fresh ideas are gold currency for any company. You have some.
But, like everything, you have to prepare to succeed. There are small steps you need to take before you start your job search and running off to a full-time position.
Here are some suggestions, in no real order, of things that will help you prepare for life after college:
- · Clean up your social media. Your experience using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and every other social media platform is unmatched … and easily accessible. Doesn’t matter what job you apply for, the employer probably can find a history of who you are and how you communicate/behave online. All those warnings from Mom and Dad about posting pictures and rambling rants, are about to come true. It’s almost too easy for employers to eliminate candidates, just by seeing how they handle themselves in social media. Take whatever steps you can to make yourself look responsible in this forum.
- · Visit the financial aid office. The stats say that 60 percent of students borrow money to get their degree. The folks who loaned you that money, want it back. Your financial aid officer can help you find out how much you owe and what the repayment terms are going to be. Most loan programs give you six months to start paying them back, but if you can’t afford it, they want to know ahead of time so you can plan a repayment schedule. They won’t forget about it, but it will be bad news for you, if you do.
- · Check your credit report. This may not seem like a big deal, until you get out of school and try to buy a car, rent an apartment, buy a home or try to get a job. The guy on the other end of those deals is definitely going to run a credit check to determine whether it’s worth doing business with you. Go to annualcreditreport.com to get a free credit report. Sometimes, there are errors in the report that affect your score. Examine the report, and make sure it’s accurate. It could have a significant impact on your economic status.
- · Pay all your fees. Make sure your tuition, dorm, food, books, lab fees and any other bills you ran up at school, are all paid. I had a college roommate who refused to pay a parking ticket. The school refused to issue him a diploma or send his transcripts to anyone. He paid the parking ticket; they sent the diploma. Same thing could happen to you.
- · Line up recommendations. This can be part of your nostalgic swing around campus. What professors, advisers or college employers have to say about you could be very important in your next step in life. It can be the deciding factor in getting your first job or gaining entry to graduate school. Make sure they have something good to say, then ask them if they would mind putting it down on paper.
- · Rewrite your resume. There are 1,000 ways to write a resume, and they are all boring. All of them! Keep it short and simple. Tell the employer who you are, what you’ve done and what you want to do. Don’t try to answer all their questions. Give them a taste of what they’re getting. Don’t feed them a whole meal. You will have the opportunity to market yourself during a job interview. That’s what they’re for.
- · Define the job you want. You went to college for a reason (hopefully), and now it’s time to define that reason. Be specific. Do it in one sentence. “I want to teach English at a middle school or high school.” Or maybe: “I want to work in the accounting department at a large corporation.” People will help you with that. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing a student answer the question, “What are you going to do after graduation?” with the response: “Hopefully, find a job.” What kind of job? “I don’t know. I’ll take anything.” Guess what? You’re not going to get anything.
The last piece of advice I’d give is probably more important than anything I’ve written so far: Invite your parent(s) to dinner, and talk about your future.
Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Find a quiet room with no waitresses, roommates or siblings there to disturb the conversation. Just the two or three of you … talking about you.
Nobody wants you to succeed more than they do. They shared in the struggles that got you to this point, so let them share in the joy of your accomplishment. Whether they went to college or not, they have life-changing experiences – your birth being one – that gives them knowledge you will find useful. They would love to share it. You’ll benefit from hearing it.
When dinner’s over, take them out to a place with an old-time jukebox. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a copy of “Hold On, I’m Comin” by Sam & Dave. Fire it up. It’ll give everyone a reason to celebrate!
Bill Fay is a writer for Debt.org. Bill has worked for newspapers, magazines and for public officials.