It’s no secret that recent college graduates have high expectations. Why shouldn’t they? The average grad will exit school with nearly $30,000 in debt and will spend at least a decade paying it off. Unfortunately, high expectations don’t necessarily equate to reality.
Susan Adams of Forbes wrote in 2013 about a study that essentially concluded that college graduates’ expectations are out of touch with reality. Many expect to earn a generous salary, be trained by their employers to advance in their careers, and want to work in entertainment, education and healthcare.
Fast forward to 2015, and the youth unemployment rate in the United States is in the mid-teens – it’s moved down by a percent each year since 2010. Despite the constant notion that the economy is recovering, millennials aren’t noticing it. With high levels of student debt, a soaring cost of living and a paucity of high-wage jobs, today’s generation of workers aren’t meeting their own expectations.
If you’re a recent graduate that has been sorely disappointed by the working world, then you may be asking yourself: what next? Well, here are five realistic options that graduates have next:
1. Learn a New (Tech) Skill
Usually, when a pundit talks about millennials, one of the most common lines is that they graduated with junk degrees that aren’t in demand, such as sociology, medieval history and existential philosophy. Despite the validity and authenticity of such a statement, every new graduate should consider adding a new skill to their arsenal, particularly something in the realm of tech.
Here are just a few skills that you should think about learning in order to make you more attractive to employers:
- Technical writing
- Cloud computing
- Big data
- Data visualization
2. Get a Part-Time Job to Pay Off Debt
Shackled to the chains of perpetual debt? If you’re paying the minimal, then be prepared to be stuck in limbo for a long time coming. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, you should take on a part-time job that is dedicated entirely to paying off your debt, whether consumer or student. You should do this even if you already have a full-time job.
Here are just a few part-time jobs you should mull over in order to pay off your debt faster:
- Survey interviewer
- Grocery store cashier
- Freelancer (writing, graphic design, translation)
- Social media strategist (forget being an expert)
3. Improve Your Overall Health
Let’s face it: after four years of college or university, you ate a lot of junk food, hardly got up from your desk and rarely garnered eight hours of sleep a night. Now that you’re out of school and have some more free time, you can better allocate your time to improving your overall health. This can include any number of things such as:
- Cooking better meals throughout your day
- Exercising in the morning or evening
- Getting some more sleep (seven to nine hours)
- Doing yoga, Pilates or meditation at home
- Going for long walks after dinner or on the weekend
4. Understand Your Money
Much like your health, you likely neglected money management and budgeting skills during your college days. Again, now that you have more free time, you can take a look at your personal finance. You can calculate how much debt you’re in, how much in assets you have, how much you earn, how much you spend and so on. Moreover, you can learn how to invest your money, how to save more and learn the difference between a mutual fund and a GIC.
5. Expand Your Professional Network
In college, you either spent your time at frat parties or you isolated yourself in front of your computer typing away. After postsecondary schooling, it’s time to start expanding your professional network. No, it’s not just LinkedIn where you can concentrate your time.
Here are a few tips to improve upon your professional network:
- Attend workshops, conferences and events related to your field.
- Clean up your social media profiles to make them more professional.
- Join professional organizations to gain more contacts.
- Participate in nonprofit organizations or charitable events, and show your skills.
A lot of millennial graduates can attest to this fact: it’s a mad, mad, mad world out there. The labor market is fierce, companies demand more for less and the globalized economy is making it more competitive than ever before. Graduates can succeed as long as they get their own houses in order. These tips will ensure you’re one step closer to achieving your dream life.