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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34 thoughts on “Adventurous Kate’s Advice for Recent College Graduates”

  1. Yes! THESE YEARS ARE AWESOME! And full of uncertainty and doubt and a whole lot of being broke, but those people who come back to college and are totally spooked by their contact with “the big bad real world” are just full of it. And Adventurous Kate’s readers are definitely not going to fall into that trap. Amirite or amirite.

    1. I feel like the people who were saying that these years sucked were people for whom the greatest happiness is sitting around doing nothing all day. That ended with college for them!

  2. I think the saving for retirement advice is the best one. Put aside a lot – and don’t touch it. You will be amazed at how much it adds up quickly over the years. You will get used to living on a smaller amount. I’ve been working for a few years and completely forget that amount is even taken out of my check.

    As for the rest of these, some I agree with and some I don’t. I think a lot of this depends on who you are as a person. Being simple, frugal, and saving – great advice. Dating others is also a good idea as well as networking.

    However, I disagree about Vegas. Not everyone needs to go to Vegas. I’ve never been and have no desire to. Also, not everyone gets a job in marketing! 🙂

    Overall good advice. I would have to say my 30s have been better than my 20s although both were good (and much much better than my teens!).

    1. I hear you, Jeremy. I think Vegas is more of a symbol than anything else — go to YOUR Vegas, whatever that may be — Montreal, Prague, Whistler, Malia, or, for you, perhaps Tahoe!

  3. Great advice! As a recent college graduate, I definitely agree with finding your niche. I work in fashion, which is extremely competitive, but I have been able to get jobs by specializing in a certain skill. My friends that just apply for general marketing jobs have a way harder time getting interviews or even liking the job once they have it.

  4. Nice post, Kate.

    Unfortunately, for many of us recent college grads, we’re simply not making enough to do a lot of this. I barely make enough to pay my bills every month – forget about saving for travel or retirement! If I wasn’t making a little extra money from my blog, I would be sitting at home on my couch every weekend.

    I clearly picked the wrong major. Lol.

  5. Great post. I’ve been working out of college with a decent paying job in Silicon Valley while staying at home and saving up for travel. I’ve also completed my MBA from UMASS while working. Now it’s really time to reward myself w/ a RTW trip! But yes, college grads should network and sign up for LinkedIn and start making connections with fellow students and professors.

  6. As a mother of 2 in their early 20’s I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestions! It is great advice and should be thought about by all in that age range. Now is the time to do it! But Vegas, really? I agree that most people will visit at least once but . . .

    Sound, sound advice on saving and dating. . . I may send this one to my daughter 🙂

  7. Excellent advice! I couldn’t agree more – would give the same advice to every graduate. I followed almost all of it during my 20’s, and I am glad I did. And YES, Vegas should totally be on that list! 😉

  8. Great post Kate! Love the advice 🙂

    Can I add “Don’t be afraid to be yourself”?

    I spent a lot of time in my early twenties worrying about what people thought of me and not having the confidence to be myself. I wanted to just be liked, as everyone does at Uni. Now I’m 26 and, maybe it’s because I’ve been traveling for a while now, but I’m so much less afraid to be different to other people. If that makes any sort of sense?! 🙂


  9. LOVE this. I’ve basically been following this to a T, and am VERY happy with the result! When it comes to savings, automatic transfers are the key! I save heaps without realizing it because the money just automatically transfers every month–I have it set up for my 401K too!

  10. This is fun to read, Kate, especially since so many people in our travel blogging world is anti-office job kinda thing. I agree with everything!

  11. Excellent advice! I definitely agree on start saving immediately. I started saving to move to NYC almost immediately with my first job, and then decided to spend all that instead on traveling a few years later down the road.

    Also – find a social workplace. That’s an absolute must.

  12. Great advice, and not just for recent college grads. I left high school and worked for seen years before deciding to go back to school. Things like starting a travel and retirement saving account were things I should have done like back in High School.

  13. Agreed….those years are nowhere near awful. They are fun, exciting, new and a whole new level up from college. But PS-I went to Vegas with my spouse and it was still loads of fun. I’m not 50 though, just 30. 🙂

  14. Awesome post! I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree about dating around — a lot! I’m only 26 and feel like I’m that awkward single friend, yet at the same time I can’t imagine settling down anytime soon–there’s still so much to see and do! This also can add to the overall experience of your travels (remind me sometime to tell you about Fiji…)

    The other fantastic thing about being single is that there is no one holding you back from traveling! 🙂

  15. These are great tips! I would have done quite a few things differently back in college (such as exchanges abroad) but I’ve actually lived my life exactly the way I’ve wanted since that time having been overseas for 6 consecutive years.

  16. Nice post great advice! I know I still have a lot of friends that are living miserably because they are living for someone else. have your party years and understand you are still you and most and importantly if you have to work find something you enjoy doing even if it doesn’t pay will at first. As you gain knowledge and experience you may find yourself in a job you love making the money you want.

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