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Getting a job after college takes at least two years

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Getting a job after college takes at least two years

One of the best professors that I ever had in college gave me on the first day of class some of the best advice I ever received. He told my class that getting a good job would take at least two years and that we needed to start immediately. I took that advice to heart.

Did I end up with my dream job? Honestly, no I didn’t. But I did end up with a good job that has provided me with a lot of experience and a decent loving for my family. Further, the steps I took while earning my undergrand and the experience I’ve had since graduating has led me to being accepted to some top ranked MBA programs.

I’m going to walk through some of the important steps that you should be taking while an undergrad. I will also explain why each step matters as I go along. Also, if you have any advice, please leave it in the comments section.

Happy Employees

Very first – get to know the people in your career services center

Most undergraduate programs or universities offer career services. These individuals should be your best friends. They know when recruiters are coming to campus, what you need to do to apply and often have connections that otherwise would not be available to you.

Spend some time in your career services center learning about the process of getting a job in your industry. Ask lots of questions. As you progress through your undergrad, stop back by and make sure that you are on track to getting a good job.

Complete a summer internship between your junior and senior year

You may have multiple opportunities to complete internships (take them!). But at a minimum, you need to complete an internship during the summer before your senior year.

  • First, internships often lead to a job with the same company. I had the opportunity to intern at Kohl’s corporate office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two days after completing the internship, I was offered a full time job starting upon graduation.
  • Apply early. If you wait to apply for internships, then you may miss the deadline to apply. Honestly, you should start looking at who will be recruiting at your university about week two of the Fall semester. Doing your research well in advance will also help you know what courses you may need to take to qualify for specific internships.
  • Apply to a lot of different companies. You never know where you will be accepted and you might be surprised at what you end up choosing/liking. When I first applied for the internship with Kohl’s, I did so because I had some friends that had enjoyed their internship there. During the application and interview process, I became very excited about the opportunity and placed Kohl’s at the top of my list. Also, the old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” comes to mind.
  • Be willing to work for free. I know that you are an undergrad and that money is probably tight. But getting good experience on your resume will help you in getting a good job after graduation. Most companies won’t ask you to work for free, but some will. If the company or experience is good, then be willing to work for free.

I can’t say enough about preparing early, applying to multiple companies and completing a summer internship or two.

Third, excel in school

I skipped a lot of classes in high school. I was almost on a first name basis with everyone who worked at McDonald’s during my second hour class. That attitude all changed once I started college. I realized that I was now choosing and paying to be in school. So if I was going to be there, I might as well get everything I can out of it. I only missed 2-3 classes total each semester. I intentionally took hard classes and pushed myself. There were nights when I was cursing at the homework assignments because I just didn’t get it. But by the end, I was almost always at the top of my class. Developing a habit of hard work and dedication has served me both in getting what I want in life as well as keeping what I want.

Put the time in now for a few years and you will reap benefits for decades. I’m not saying to lock yourself up. I still socialized and dated quite a bit. I even got married and had a kid before I graduated. So if I could find the time to study and work hard, so can you.

Last, apply for jobs early and often

Very much like applying for internships, you need to start early. Here’s what I recommend.

  • Target specific companies two years before you graduate. Know who you want to work for and what it will take to get a job offer. And it’s okay to change your list as you learn more about your industry and those companies. The point is to have a plan of attack.
  • Use your network to get interviews. Upper-class men who have already had internships or have job offers can help you with everything from basic questions to getting interviews. Make friends with students that are older than you.
  • Don’t let rejection bother you. Let me be the first to tell you that you will be rejected, maybe a lot. That’s fine. Just keep working towards your goals. Where you end up may surprise you, but I bet you will be satisfied.

If you aren’t working hard towards a good job, your classmates who are will beat you out.

For more information about financial planning and careers, follow Rabbit Funds on Twitter. Also, this post was featured in the 340th edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted at Young Adult Finances.

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Graduate from college debt free, I did and so can you

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Graduate from college debt free, I did and so can you

I have had a number of conversations lately with friends who took me by surprise when they told me how much student debt they have – years after graduating. Some of them have student loans and others have credit card debt from living expenses. I guess I have taken for granted how lucky my wife and I were for graduating with four year degrees without a penny in debt.

College Graduation

Since I firmly believe that you can also graduate debt free, I want to share some suggestions based on what we did. Also, share anything you did to avoid debt in college in the comments below.

If you are still in high school, get good grades

I’m sure that you are sick of hearing this, I know I was. Actually, it’s unfortunate that teenagers have to make decisions (like studying instead of playing) that will last a lifetime when their ability to make decisions is probably at the lowest point in their lives.

Let me put this in teenager terms. All of the people that you think are cool in high school will not matter the day after graduation. That girl/guy that is so cute is most likely going to marry someone else. Your social life will not end if you miss this party. If you earn good grades now, you will get into a better college. Better colleges mean better jobs, more money, more toys and more playing later in life. Good grades can lead to scholarships, leaving you with more money in college to date and have fun.

Some self-discipline now means getting to do more of what you want later.

Evaluate schools based on value for dollars

One of the biggest reasons that I was able to graduate debt free is because I went to a great private university with a small tuition. Tuition cost around $1800 a semester and yet the business school was ranked #7 in the nation by BusinessWeek. I paid little but got a lot. Before applying and selecting a school, spend some time researching the value (cost as compared to career prospects). Here are some links to help you research colleges:

Work through college

I worked three jobs while in college. The first was as a night time custodian (though, I never cleaned a toilet). My hours were from 9PM – 2AM Sunday through Thursday. I had Friday and Saturday off. I usually had to take classes that started after 9AM so that I could get enough sleep. And the hours definitely cut into my social life since 8PM is about the time everyone starts to hang out and do stuff on weekdays. However, I was able to pay for all of my bills.

My next job was as an accounting clerk in the university’s budget office. A big improvement. But I had day time hours that again affected my ability to sign-up for the classes I wanted. The last job was as a research assistant for the company where I now work as the Marketing Director.

The two direct benefits from working five days a week throughout my entire college experience was the income that helped me to avoid debt and the experience that led directly to the job I now have. I don’t want to get into a political discussion or make sweeping generalizations, but one of my biggest frustrations with the Occupy Wall Street movement* is the number of people who went to school, took out huge loans, didn’t work and are now angry because they have debt.

*As a side note, I visited Occupy Wall Street and conducted my own interviews in order to form my opinion on the movement. Watch my Occupy Wall Street interviews on YouTube.

Apply for grants and scholarships while in college

Some people may not realize that many scholarships are still available even after you have started school. I was denied a scholarship when I was first accepted. However, after two years, I was able to show through my grades that I deserved a scholarship. I was awarded a half scholarship. But I had to apply for it, which involved writing essays, etc.

The other avenue to explore are Pell Grants, which is free money from the government. Rather, free money to you. Someone else is certainly paying for it in the form of higher taxes. I didn’t qualify for a Pell Grant until I got married, which was near the end of the four years. Here’s some more info on Pell Grants.

It sucks, but ask family for help

I’m a proud guy and I believe in taking responsibility for myself. But when I just didn’t have enough money, I swallowed my pride and reached out to family members that I knew could help. I am forever grateful for that assistance. Also, I spent any money that I received for Christmas or my birthday on school books. At times, I was frustrated when I saw my siblings getting to “play” with their Christmas money while I headed to the Campus Bookstore to buy Economics 110.

My last piece of advice doesn’t come from experience

I didn’t have any money saved up for college. I wish I would have. But that is not a choice that I made. If you have the opportunity to save money before going to college, then do it! You will never look back and say, “Man, I wish I would have graduated from college with some debt. Living debt free has been a real strain on me.”

Though as you can see from me, I still graduated debt free from college despite not having any savings. It just took a lot of hard work.

If you like what you read today, then follow Rabbit Funds on Twitter or Like us on Facebook for regular updates on great, new articles. Also, this article was featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted at Afford Anything.

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5 Reasons why Dave Ramsey is wrong about MBA school

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5 Reasons why Dave Ramsey is wrong about MBA school

Dave Ramsey and Credit Cards

Dear Dave,

You are a pretty good guy, and I definitely agree with a lot of what you preach. However, sometimes you are just wrong. When you said that an MBA was unnecessary and basically a waste of money, well, that was pretty bad tunnel vision.

Just because you don’t require an MBA to hire someone, doesn’t mean that an MBA is pointless. Let me give you some reasons why I believe an MBA may be a smart decision for some people.

Career change

For many MBA students, school is the opportunity to change careers. I’m not talking about just a job change but a career change. For example, I may be working as an assembly line superviser but what I really want to do is be a brand manager. An MBA is a way to leave my current job, learn new skills, and be offered opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise been afforded me.

So an MBA is an exit strategy for some people. I expect that you’ll now make the debt argument and tell me that there are other ways to change careers. Earning a good MBA doesn’t always mean paying $100k. There are good, inexpensive schools as well as financial assistance. So yes, I’ll incur some debt, but the years of higher pay afterwords certainly overcompensate for the debt.

As per other options for changing careers, you are right. There are other options. What I recommend people considering graduate school do is create a list on the left side of a paper outlining each goal they hope to accomplish by going to graduate school. On the right hand side, make a list of ways you can accomplish the same goals without attending graduate school. At the end of this exercise, you may find that graduate school isn’t the right option. Though, you may find that it is still the right path.

The point is, an MBA is sometimes the best way to get out of a bad or dead-end situation.

Job requirement

Certain jobs or positions require having a graduate degree. You may not like it or agree with it, but that’s just the world we live in. For example, to get past mid-level management in many large corporations, you simply have to have an MBA.

One of the jobs that I am interested in pursuing requires an MBA to get in. What you have to understand with a good MBA degree is that it combines work experience with knowledge. This combination is what a lot of employers look for in job applicants.

And I really don’t care whether you think the job I want is worth having or not, because I want it – and that means getting an MBA.

Better pay

I already alluded to better pay earlier. Nothing is a sure thing in life and you therefore aren’t guaranteed better pay by obtaining an MBA. However, the odds are in your favor. Statistically, people with MBAs make more money. If you have reached a salary cap, then an MBA can help you get a raise with your current employer or switch to a different firm that will pay more.

There isn’t much more to say about this point.

Unemployment rate

A lot of people are very concerned about the current unemployment rate in the US, as well they should be. However, the unemployment issue does not evenly affect all sectors of society. If you look at the 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’ll find that the unemployment rate is noticeable lower for the more educated.

Unemployment Rates for 2010

So not only do you earn more money, but you are much more likely to be employed. If you want to get into more specific detail, then you can check out the numbers by clicking here.

The point is, Dave, that getting a graduate degree pays in more way than one, including job security.

More sex

This last point may be the most important for some people, despite me putting it last on the list. Studies have shown that your IQ will increase with each year of graduate school. It has also been proven that people with higher IQs have more sex. So if you feel that your love life is lacking, then grad school may be a good investment.

Though, it will be a delayed benefit since another study showed that frequency of intercourse drops during grad school (probably due to work load). So this benefit, like the others, comes after you graduate.

Closing thought

What I’m saying is that you can’t make a blanket statement opposing grad school. Earning an MBA makes a lot of sense for some people and no sense for others. So be a little more open minded.

Still a fan,

Adam Williams

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5 Simple ways for college students to start financial planning

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5 Simple ways for college students to start financial planning

A neighbor, who is currently in college, had an assignment in her journalism class to create a investigative report on financial planning and students at her college. I happily offered some thoughts and suggestions on the piece.

College StudentsAfter chatting for awhile, she asked if I would “officially” answer some questions as an expert (I think that term was used liberally). One of her questions was, “Can you give 5 tips or suggestions I can include in my article?”

I started jotting down thoughts beginning with a budget and so on. After a minute or so, I realized the gravity of what I was writing. Here I was limited to five ways a college student could improve his or her financial situation. Thoughts of my college experience started coming back (I’m sorry to everyone that was involved in that duck incident).

So here is my list of the top 5 suggestions for college students

No. 1 – Take responsibility for your money by creating and living by a budget. Sites like Mint.com or MoneyDesktop.com make it very easy to do. Also, remove or reduce as many fixed payments (subscriptions, cable bills, car payments, etc) as possible.

No. 2 – Pay off debt using techniques such as the debt snowball.

No. 3 – Have an emergency fund of at least $1000 and preferably enough to cover 3-6 months worth of expenses.

No. 4 – Start saving for retirement with the goal to save 20% of all your pre-tax income.

No. 5 – Give generously. You will probably receive more dividends from your generosity than any other investment. Also, if you can give when you are poor, it will be easier to give when you are rich.

All of the ideas listed above are widely talked about, but…

I’m not sure many college students fully grasp the fundamental nature of each one.

Let me give you an example. I have a coworker who is a pretty sharp guy. He graduated with a minor in Economics and worked at Goldman Sachs. He can explain credit default swaps and have in-depth macro-economics discussions with you. But he is lost when it comes to simple personal financial planning.

Maybe that’s why Wall Street is having so many problems.

So if you are a college student, take some time to understand how to create and use a budget. Stay out of debt and learn how to put together a portfolio of index funds in a 401k or Roth IRA. If your college offers a financial planning course, take it. I’ll bet you a shiny nickel that you will use that course more than the capstone course in your major.

So what advice would you offer college students?

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