words of encouragement from an indebted graduate

It’s Thursday and you’re sitting at your corner office thinking about which student loan repay option would be best for you. The suggested monthly payment amount is $481.43. You think about how $481.43 is practically one week’s pay. There’s an option that allows you to input how much you can comfortably pay monthly. You type in $0.00.
You Google “deferment.” You Google “forbearance.” You don’t understand either term so you Google “deferment vs. forbearance.” You graduated from your big-name university six months ago and you’re currently struggling to stay afloat. You pay your rent on time. On the 15th of every month the payments for the car you only drive on the weekends, because you decided you wanted to work in New York City instead of being pragmatic, are taken out whether or not the funds are there. After paying for your Smartlink Card and half of your cable bill in hopes of keeping Comcast happy, you hope that you have enough money left over to go buy groceries. You’re living on a tight budget. Any event has the potential of being a costly event. Money is tight and the thought of having to pay $481.43 monthly to repay your education makes you regret ever getting an education.

To some, landing a job shortly after graduating sounds unrealistic. To others, landing a job [within your major] shortly after graduating is a blessing. You feel as though you have dodged the “9 months since I’ve graduated and I still can’t find a job” bullet.

You are defying all odds.

YOU MADE IT.

If you are like me, you were no stranger to the work force. One semester you handled 18 credits, two internships and two part-time jobs. If there is anything undergrad taught you, it is how to juggle life. What you didn’t foresee, however, is how complicated life would become shortly after graduation day. Once your “Congrats Grad!” balloons deflate, reality sets in. You are a 9 to 5 salaried worker. You have debt that triples your income.

So, what should you do?

Calm down!

Yes, calm down. Why? Because we live in the United States of America. Many of us become indebted in our pursuit of the glamorous American dream. You are not alone. Today perhaps you cannot afford to pay for guac at Chipotle — because, lets be serious, guac is a luxury — but your situation will improve. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by newfound financial responsibilities, focus on the things you can control.

If you knew better, you’d do better.

If your problem is a low paying job, perhaps it is time to update your resume and visit the “Jobs” section on Craigslist. Contrary to what economists say, there are jobs out there for those who seek; especially if you have a Bachelor’s degree. There are companies who seek college grads with minimal experience. There are employers who are willing to take a chance on a person who is eager to learn the trade. It is possible to find employment in whatever field you graduated in. You’ll never know this, however, unless you’re on the prowl. You won’t become privy to employment opportunities that align with your interests unless you go looking. Your ambitions should not be curtailed just because you are employed. Unless you plan on staying at your current position for the rest of your life, you need to take action.

Need experience to get a job. Need a job to get experience.

For those of you that have never had a job, there is hope. You just graduated! You are young. You are flexible. You are aware you lack experience but you are open to learning. You learned skills in your undergrad classes that you can apply in the work force. Remember those mandatory English classes you had to take that you hated? They taught you sentence structure. You learned how to become a better writer and how to properly analyze a work of writing. These are transferable skills that many employers value. (I onced interviewed with an attorney who was seeking a replacement for his secretary. The secretary had problems with spelling and grammar.) Think about all the classes you took as an undergrad. What did you learn? How can you apply these lessons in the real world?

Lack of work experience won’t impede you from getting hired. Market yourself a bit more vigorously in your cover letter; let the employer know you’re ready and able. Once that interview is scheduled, practice! Read up on your prospective employer. Learn about what XYZ company does and think about how you can contribute to that company’s success. Employers want to know how you can help them keep business booming. You’re there to help yourself and the company; let them know that. Most importantly, the day of your interview, ask a million and one questions. Smart questions (yes, there is a such thing as a dumb question). Walk into that interview with Kanye confidence. You got this.

. . .

Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t obsess over your student debt. Be proactive. Make things happen. There’s money to be made. There’s money to be made in whatever field you graduated in (Yes, my fellow English major, I’m talking to you. Don’t let people tell you otherwise). So, what are you waiting for? Go get this money. Slow feet don’t eat.

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