Making It Between College and Your First Job

Young woman working at coffee shop
••• sturti/E+/Getty Images

Graduating from college is a huge accomplishment, but it can be a bit scary, especially if you do not have a job lined up as soon as you graduate from college. It can be even scarier if you graduate in the red. It is tough because if your parents have been helping you cover your expenses, they may not be willing to continue to fork money out each month.

You may find yourself responsible for all of your expenses and any student loans you took out while you were in school. It takes college graduates an average of about six months depending on their field and the current economic conditions, so how do you survive until you do find that job or have to choose between offers.

Create a Budget

You need to create a working budget for you to follow until you land your job. This budget will need to cover your daily expenses from your phone to your car payment to your rent, utilities, and food. Make sure that you have access to the Internet and your phone so you can make contacts while you look for a job. Purchase nice clothes to interview in. A good suit will go a long way in making the best impression on those you are interviewing with. Ask your parents how much help they are willing to give you while you look for a job.

They may be willing to cover your phone bill and car insurance until you land the position. It's important to have a guide to help you with your finances once you graduate.

  • Check that your student loans have the six-month grace period so that you do not need to make payments while looking for work.
  • Update all of your creditors when you move to prevent issues that may affect your credit score in the future.
  • Sticking to your budget can prevent you from running up additional debt. 

Keep Working

If you were working while you were in college, it is a good idea to hang onto that part-time job until you find a new one. You can stretch the money you are making out to help you cover your basic expenses. The time you would have spent studying for school should be spent looking for a job. It is always easier to find a job if you already have one. If you were not working while in school, you may consider applying for part-time or seasonal work while you are looking for the right job. You may not want to take on full-time hours because you should focus primarily on your job search, but you should work on having a source of income while you are looking.

  • You may consider an internship if you need to build job experience.
  • You may end up juggling more than one part-time while you are looking for work, but remember that interviews should take priority over your job.
  • Consider looking for work that pays more per hour through tips or specialized skills to free up more time to look for work. 

Widen Your Search

You can widen your job search if you are having a difficult time finding a job. Some people narrow their job search by looking in a specific city or state or for a specific type of position. Try widening the area that you are looking in to see if you can find an opportunity that works for you. Take advantage of any job fairs in your area. One of the areas you are narrowing down is going to be more important than the other for you, and you may try expanding just one area at first to see if you have better luck.

For example, if you want to live in a specific area of the country, you may need to look at jobs that are related to your degree, and not just the dream job that you want. If you really want to work in a specific job type, you may need to look at more locations to see if you can find a good job match. Be sure you are taking advantages of the job search resources offered by your college.

  • Use your contacts through school, and your parents' and friends' contacts to look for a job.
  • Look in both urban and rural areas for a job in your field. 

Moving in With Your Parents

Unfortunately, there has been a trend of college graduates moving back in with their parents because they are having a difficult time finding a job. This can be a frustrating experience for everyone involved. If you are considering moving back in, you should set up clear guidelines with a specific goal of moving out. Make sure you are applying to work every day and that you help around the house while you are home. You do not want to get sucked back into the old roles you played when you are about to become fully financially independent of your parents.

  • Go in with clear expectations for both you and your parents.
  • Make sure that you find ways to contribute to the household whether through chores, cooking or paying a small amount in rent.
  • Have a clear plan that will help you prepare to move out, and a timeline in place once you find a job. 

Wait Until You Find the Job

The best advice is to wait until you have found the job to make any major financial changes in your life. Do not move or sign a new lease until you have found a job. Do not purchase a new car or make other financial commitments until you have found a new job. Part of this is because you never know exactly where you are going to end up working or living.

The other part is that you do not want to take on more financial responsibility than you can handle. You will not know your annual salary until you have a job and so making financial commitments before you get it just does not make sense. Keep in mind that you will need to begin paying on your student loans six months after you graduate. Once you find that job, take the time to set up a budget and establish these financial habits to help you succeed.

  • Avoid using credit cards and running up a lot of debt while you are working.
  • Wait to purchase a new car or rent an apartment until you have landed a job. If you need to move for your job, you do not want to be trapped in a lease.
  • Buy your professional wardrobe once you have landed your job. The dress code can vary depending on where you land a job.
  • Be sure to create a financial plan for the first year after you graduate.