Dear college grad: You might be feeling anxious right now. You may not know how your life will shake out in the next few months (let alone next few years). But even if you don’t have a decent-paying job lined up yet, you don’t have to move back in with your parents if you don’t want to.
No, really. You have a choice. And in fact, not moving could be the best thing you could do for your career.
I get it. I know how you’re feeling. This isn’t exactly how you imagined you’d feel right after you got your diploma. Maybe you have a part-time job lined up, but it’s not the big paycheck you’d been dreaming of. Maybe you’re considering whether or not you can afford to live on your own while you look for your dream job… And maybe Mom and Dad have already made up your bed at home, just in case you need a place to rest while you figure things out.
But despite that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, I’m here to say that there is hope.
And it is absolutely possible, even without a good job right after graduation, to not have to move back in with your parents.
The Big Graduation Question: Do I try to survive on my own or move back home?
I remember the moment that I walked across the stage at graduation: decked out in my bright red robe, gripping my diploma, smiling toward the flashing cameras in the audience. But behind that smile was a frantic thought: “What’s next?”
It was graduation day, and I hadn’t landed a decent-paying job yet. I’d lined up a nonprofit internship that paid minimum wage, but I had no clue how I was going to survive on just $1,000 a month in Boston. On the other hand, I had a very tempting “out”: my incredibly supportive family that was willing to welcome me back home if I needed a place to stay. But home was 3,500 miles away; I had spent the last 4 years in Boston and I wasn’t prepared to give up my new life. Even without the income, even without a plan, moving back home felt like I’d be admitting defeat.
In the moment that I grabbed my diploma, the countdown began: a ticking time bomb marking my days and hours of freedom before I ran out of money and I had to move back in with my parents.
I had to work fast.
My decisive moment: move back in with my parents or hustle my ass off
In the weeks and months that followed graduation day, I struggled. Hard.
I quickly spent down my measly savings. I cut back to the bare necessities and still had barely enough to pay my bills. I was still earning a steady paycheck, but it was only making minimum wage and I knew I wasn’t going to last much longer. A few months after graduation, I hit rock bottom. I only had $60 left in my bank account and had to choose between buying my bus pass or my medication… I ended up picking the bus pass.
Time was running out, so I kicked it up into high gear.
And I hustled like I’ve never hustled in my life.
There were plenty of nights that I went to bed in tears, wondering how I was going to make my money last just a few more weeks. But I used that pressure to fuel my mission: I was determined find a way to get a good job and avoid the move back in with my parents.
And don’t worry: the story has a happy ending 🙂
After months of living on minimum wage, I ended up finding a great job and I didn’t have to move back home to make it happen. In fact, living on my own with barely enough to keep me afloat was the best thing that could have happened for my career. It pushed me to get focused and be effective in my job search.
Here’s how I used my months on minimum wage to land a good job and avoided the “move of shame” back home with mom and dad:
5 steps to make sure you don’t have to move back in with your parents (if you don’t want to)
1. Use the fire that’s lit under your ass.
I knew my savings and my income were only going to last me a few months out of college before I had to move back in with my parents. That tight time frame pushed me to use every single moment (and dollar) I had to the maximum.
2. Get laser-specific with your job goals.
It’s impossible to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life after graduation – I certainly didn’t. But saying things like “I’ll pretty much take any job at this point,” or “I’m interested in a bunch of things” can be the nail in the coffin of your job hunt. Even if you’re not sure where you want to take your career, start somewhere. Pick one very specific area and go at it with all your fire power. As soon as I narrowed down my job search to nonprofit financial education and savings programs, I was able to target my approach.
3. Start building new experience and new skills.
I quickly learned that my college degree didn’t automatically qualify me for every job I wanted. I needed experience and skills… and fast. I spent hours at the library and became self-taught personal finance junkie. I also started teaching personal finance classes to refugees through my nonprofit internship. This wasn’t part of my original job description, but I’d taken the initiative to write my own class and my boss was willing to let me try it out. I could now say that I had the knowledge and the experience to help others with their money.
4. Market yourself with your laser-focus and your new experience.
Regardless of your degree, you have a powerful network of professors, peers and alumni that you can tap into. But your connections only work if you’re laser-specific with your goals. My focused job search helped me connect with the right people and build momentum, and my new experience helped me impress the pants off the people I talked to.
5. Keep a fire lit under your ass.
So maybe your story doesn’t turn out exactly like mine and you have to move back in with your parents. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with moving back home if you need to catch your breath. It’s not okay if you get complacent. Regardless of your money situation or where you end up living after college, find a way to keep a fire lit under your ass after graduation. Set a deadline. Kick yourself out of your parent’s house after a few months. Whatever it takes, create some pressure to fuel your drive for success.
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