For many generations, the pathway to the American dream started on a college campus. A four-year sabbatical from the real world (that many stretched into five or six years) would end with a diploma and a guarantee for higher earning power and success.
Then the Great Recession of 2008 hit.
The transition from college to career was no longer met with little resistance. College graduates faced a much different scenario: no one was hiring and their talent was no longer in demand.
Of the combined total college graduates in 2012 and 2013, only 46 percent reported in 2014 they had obtained a full-time job; and an additional thirteen percent have been unemployed since graduation. The pathway to success is now crowded and many are left trying to understand what to make of their stalled-before-started careers. The world has changed, and a four-year degree is no longer a guarantee of a great job and access to the American dream.
How can you give yourself the best chance for success as you transition into your career?
Avoid these five common mistakes made by many college students and graduates starting a new career.
1. Using student loans to finance your lifestyle
Taking on debt is always dangerous, but assuming debt to finance a lifestyle in college is just plain foolish. I’ve heard of students actually taking out loans to go on a big spring break trip. While it may be fun in the short run, the costs will always come back to haunt you.
Loan payments can stretch out for decades. The choices you make in college have a huge impact on your life when you need access to capital to purchase your first home or a new car, or have to cover unexpected expenses.
Being a poor college student is acceptable, and many have memories of living off ramen noodles to survive. But no one wants to be living the life of a pauper in their mid-thirties because they are still paying off student loans from a week in Cancun.
2. Taking on too much debt
The future may seem a long way away, but it comes quicker than you realize. Assuming you will immediately have a high-paying job to cover minimal debt payments is a big mistake. Early in your career you should stay as flexible as possible, and debt is a huge anchor that will limit your possibilities.
Do you know the return on investment (ROI) for your degree? Taking on $200,000 in debt at an Ivy League university to obtain a social work degree and a $30,000 base salary, would not be a wise investment. You could obtain the same degree from a local state university for much less and have a great ROI.
Think long term, have a plan for the future, and make sure the degree you are obtaining will really give you access to a better future.