So…you graduated. What now?

If you’re a new graduate, you’ve heard that question a hundred times by now.
Graduation does represent a defining moment: a new beginning, a chance to make your own decisions and do things the way you think they should be done.

Exciting? Yes. Scary? Yes, that too. So many big questions: Did you choose the right major? Will you be able to find a job? Will you EVER pay off all those loans?

Naturally, there are no easy answers. But there are some likely possibilities, and nothing is ever as overwhelming as it seems before you start working on it. I’m sure you’ve been inundated with advice and instructions lately, so I’ll try and refrain from adding to the overload.

The fact is, you’ll never find true happiness in your work (or your life) if you’re not doing something that feels right for you. Don’t get stuck in the rut of doing what you think you should do, or what you think other people expect you to do. Do what you love.

What? Nobody wants to pay you to do that?

If you’re frustrated with the all the interviews with all the people who don’t seem to appreciate your unique talents and skills, if they’re all condescending and don’t want to even give you a chance, try changing your outlook. Remember, you can learn something from everyone you meet, and you need to get in a place where you can feel grateful for whatever you learn in every situation. Even if the take away is only, “Jeez! I never want to be THAT guy!”

Gratitude really is the cornerstone of happiness. When you just can’t deal with one more of “THOSE guys,” take a deep breath, close your eyes, and focus on the things you have to be grateful for. When you learn to consciously be grateful, your focus shifts from worrying about the things you don’t have, and you’ll soon have more things to feel grateful for.

One of them will be your job. Even if it’s not exactly the job you thought you’d have, if you can generate feelings of gratitude for the opportunity and do your best with what you have, it will lead to the next job, which will be closer to what you were aiming for. In any case, this new beginning is a chance to do things right – from the very start.

Now is the time to set yourself up with good habits that will last a lifetime. Starting with the direct deposit of your very first paycheck, have some of your money directed to a savings account. It’s easy to set up and it’s free, so there’s no reason not to. Can’t afford to save any money? Yes, you can. It really doesn’t have to be much. Save $10 out of each paycheck. That’s one day per pay period of taking a sandwich for lunch instead of going out.

Having some money saved up is always better than not having any money saved up. So:

  • Save some of your money in a savings account
  • Don’t buy anything that you can’t afford to pay for with cash
  • As soon as you’re eligible, enroll in your employer’s 401K retirement savings plan
    • Contribute enough to earn the company match.
    • The company match is FREE MONEY!
    • Do it now. The money in your 401K earns compound interest, so the sooner you start, the more money you’ll have when it’s time to retire. I guarantee that 20 years from now, you’ll be glad you did
  • Oh – and don’t ever be THAT guy!
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