Adventurous Kate’s Advice for Recent College Graduates

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I celebrated my five-year anniversary of graduating Fairfield University this past May.  Those five years have varied quite a bit, but ultimately average out to being pretty fantastic.

When I graduated, I got advice…but you know what?  There’s not a lot of good advice out there for recent college graduates.  Most of the advice I got was about how to discreetly figure out which fork to use at a fancy business dinner…and I don’t know any recent grads who have ended up in a situation even REMOTELY like that.

So I put together a list of advice that worked for me, made my early twenties memorable, and helped me get to this incredibly sweet place where I am right now.

Here goes:

Don’t move out until you’re ready.

I couldn’t wait to move out of my house.  But I couldn’t right away.  I was in a temp-to-perm job and couldn’t handle a Boston rent.  But the minute I got hired permanently and my salary went up to a livable wage, I was on Craigslist — and got a nice $500 a month (EXTREMELY reasonable for Boston) shared apartment in Davis Square, Somerville, 20 minutes from downtown Boston by subway.

This was an apartment I could afford, and I had a lot of good times there.  But I was shocked at my coworkers who got super expensive apartments and were either living off their parents or eating ramen noodles every night.

You’re 22.  You don’t need a one-bedroom apartment with exposed brick in a trendy neighborhood.  Live in a big house with three roommates in a neighborhood that isn’t the fanciest, but has a lot of cool bars and people in their twenties.

Start your travel savings account NOW.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you want to go or when.  Take a set amount from each paycheck and immediately deposit it in a high-interest savings account (or as high an interest rate as you can find — I use HSBC).  Now, this is the important part: DON’T TOUCH IT.

Being a gung-ho worker in my first post-college job, I didn’t take a day off for seven months — and then exploded, flying to Texas, road tripping to Quebec City, gallivanting in Vegas.

So whether you decide on bachelorette parties in Las Vegas or holidays to Barbados, a weekend getaway or yearlong trip around the world, when the time comes to book, you’ll be ready.

Find a social workplace.

I didn’t pick my companies based on the social atmosphere — but it turned out to be a blessing.  My first two post-college jobs had great, friendly employees and socializing was an integral part of both companies.

Having lots of friends at work made it so much easier to get through a stressful day, and since I had moved to Boston from my suburban hometown, it gave me my first dose of big-city social life.  We went out for drinks all the time, had parties, and some of these first friends are still close friends of mine.

I didn’t realize this until my third post-college job, which had no social atmosphere whatsoever.  It was incredibly depressing by comparison, and that misery hung like a black cloud over the office building.  

Don’t get stuck in a “general marketing” career.

Everyone wants to work in marketing — and by that, I mean that everyone who wants to work in marketing wants a sexy advertising or PR or event planning job.

As a result, many employers play themselves up as sexy marketing workplaces.  I’ve seen call centers call themselves marketing firms and Dunder Mifflin-esque paper product companies boast their networks…with office supply stores.

Because “marketing” is such a broad term, they can get away with it.

It is so hard to move on from jobs like these because there are so many people in the same position, stuck in shapeless jobs in “marketing.”

My advice?  Find a specialty within marketing.  For me, it was search engine marketing, and that gave me career definition for the first time since graduation.

Network, network, network.

Here’s a secret: unless the job requires a specific technical background or certification, most people can do most entry-to-mid-level jobs.

There’s no better example than how I got my second post-college job.  At the time, I was writing a personal blog and knew a handful of bloggers in the Boston area.  One of them, The Missus, offered me a chance to come in to work for her.

Her reasoning?  “Anyone can learn SEO.  I need someone who can write, and I know you can do that.”

Nurture every relationship you make, and don’t burn any bridges.  You never know where they could lead you.

Save for retirement.

I’m no finance guru, so I’ll spare you the spiel that you’ve probably already heard and implore you to start saving in your twenties.  You’ll save so much more that way.

Have some party years.

If not now, WHEN?!

I’m not saying you should do anything destructive or illegal.  But take some time to get to know half the bartenders in your neighborhood, dance on tables, and occasionally go out until 4:00 AM on a work night.

This is the time.

Date around — a lot!

The more you date, the more you learn about what works for you.  It’s not about figuring out whether you like blondes or brunettes.  It’s about figuring out which values are important to you in a long-term partner.

The more you date, the easier it is to realize when something is right — and when something is very, very wrong.

Go to Vegas.

Vegas is one of the greatest party destinations in the world, and it’s especially great for twenty-somethings.

Chances are you’ll end up in Vegas sometime.  My suggestion?  Do it while you’re in your prime.  Much better than doing it when you’re in your fifties with your spouse or friends.

And most importantly: Don’t let anybody tell you that these years are awful.

When I was in college, recent grads would come back to Fairfield and bemoan their lives, saying, “Stay in college as long as possible — the real world sucks!”

Frankly, these years are AWESOME.  Living on your own, having few obligations, finally having enough money to travel or buy nice things, going out all the time — THESE are the good years.  You’ll love them.

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