Top Job Tips for College Grads

It’s an annual rite of Spring; College graduation. These days however, with an increasingly tough job market, college graduates need to do as much as possible to make themselves employable.

Today’s blog will help them to do just that, with some top job tips for recent college grads. Congratulations, and enjoy.

Tip 1: Take a few weeks to volunteer and make contacts. Any type of volunteer experience is a great way to network, especially if you can volunteer with an organization that has some sort of relationship to your respective career plans.

Tip 2: Attend as many hiring events as you can. Sure, the Internet is a great way to look for jobs and apply for them as well, but the best way to get hired is to meet hiring agents face-to-face.

Tip 3: Employment agencies can be helpful. Many employers look for part time people to fill in for short term projects and, when they do, they turn to staffing agencies for help. Sure, it’s only a temporary job but it’s a great way to get experience and possibly make the contact that you need to get a full-time position.

Tip 4: Before you leave campus, connect with your career center. Most colleges have a career center, as well as a job board and other services, that are extremely helpful. Even after you leave campus you can sometimes connect remotely, and get the help you need to find your first job.

Tip 5: Ask family and family friends if they know of any job openings at their business, especially if they own it. Desperate?. Not at all. The fact is, they say it’s not what you know, but who. If a family member or friend owns a business or has a position high enough in a company that they can put in a good word for you, why not take advantage of that?

Tip 6: Put your resume and information on more than one job board. There are literally hundreds of job boards on the Internet, so don’t limit yourself to just one. Also, depending on what your preferred occupation and industry are, there will likely be a few job boards that focus on those, so make sure you put your resume on them as well.

Tip 7: Take any job you can find until one you like better comes along.  Here’s the fact; you won’t find your perfect job on the first try. Heck, you might not even find a job you like, but if you’re offered one you should take it and get the work experience it offers. In fact, if you continue to look for a better job while you’re employed, it sounds better to interviewers at your (possible) new job that you’re already working, rather than wasting time doing nothing.

Everything a College Grad needs to Know that they Weren’t Taught in College

As graduation day gets closer many college grads will be looking for their first ‘real’ job and setting out on their own financial path.  But here’s the thing; many of the basic concepts about finances, credit scores, IRAs and much more were never taught to them in school.  For many, that will lead to trouble ahead, financially-speaking.

This blog aims to correct this large college oversight.  Enjoy!

First and foremost, start saving for retirement NOW.  Yes, retirement seems like a million years away.  It’s not.  In fact, if you work for 40 years, it’s only 14,600 days away.  That’s not as long as you might think, meaning that, if you want to be financially prepared when retirement arrives, you’ve got to start planning for it today.  The power of compound interest is the best reason why.

What’s compound interest? Simply the easiest way to use time and your own money to your advantage, and make more money without having to do anything but wait. (If you need a more in-depth explanation, Google it.) The only way to take advantage of compound interest is to start putting money into an IRA, 401(k) or other investment or retirement account NOW, where it can start to do its magic.

Create a budget and stick to it starting TODAY. It’s likely that, throughout college, you had no budget whatsoever and lived hand-to-mouth or paycheck-to-paycheck. While you can survive for four years in college that way, it’s much more difficult to do the same in real life. In order to truly keep your finances in order you need to know what’s coming in, what’s going out, and be able to keep the latter number lower than the former. Creating and sticking to a budget is also the best way to build wealth.

Speaking of building wealth, it will be much easier if you get out from under your college loan debt quickly, so pay that off as fast as you possibly can. Even if that means scrimping for a few years, picking up an extra side job or living at home with mom and dad for a couple of extra years, do it. In the long run, paying your student debt down as quickly as possible will allow you to not only save thousands of dollars but also increase your wealth significantly.

Finally, even though you’ve just finished four years (or maybe longer) of education, continue to educate yourself about finances on a continuous basis. Talk to the people in the finance department at your first job, speak to older adults who have a good handle on their finances or simply do some online research occasionally. The education you receive will, in many ways, be even more valuable then the college degree you now have.

8 Tactics For Breaking Your Lease Without Losing Money

breaking-your-leaseSigning a lease on an apartment definitely has its pros and cons. With the standard one-year lease, you’re guaranteed a place to live at a fixed rate for that period of time.  Simultaneously, you’re bound to that contract and can’t simply leave without financial repercussions. Fortunately, there are some ways to still have flexibility while under a lease and to limit the financial damage if you want or need to break that lease.  Here are some of the tips I’ve learned after dealing with several landlords.

1. Find out if you’ll be able to sublet your apartment.  Every lease that I’ve signed has said that tenants are not allowed to sublease the apartment, at least not without landlord approval.  However, I’ve found that subleasing is rarely a problem, as most landlords seem to be indifferent as long as they don’t lose any rental income.  If you’re unsure, ask the landlord before moving in what their policy is on subtenants.  If, for some crazy reason, they won’t allow subleases under any circumstances, you might want to consider renting elsewhere.  I don’t think this will be the case for most situations, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask the landlord ahead of time.

2. Figure out how sublettable your apartment will beI currently pay $400 a month to rent, which is on the low end for the city I live in. Since it’s a decent apartment for a cheap price, I’m confident that I’ll never have a problem subletting if I decide to leave. Subletting can be stressful and difficult, especially in places where there’s an abundance of rooms available.  However, marketing an inexpensive apartment in a highly-desirable neighborhood means that there will be much more interest should I decide to leave.

3. Lower rent to lower liability.  While we all obviously want to pay as little as possible for an apartment, an overlooked advantage of lower rent is that you’ll simply owe less if you move out early.  It merely comes down to simple math that paying rent owed for an apartment you don’t live in that’s $400 a month is much less painful than $800 a month.  If you’re moving somewhere that you’re not certain you will stay, consider a lower rent on a less-fancy apartment for this reason, too.

4. Negotiate the terms of your lease. If you know you want to be in a apartment less than a year, see if the landlord will accept a lease term shorter than 12 months. It never hurts to ask, and you’ll often be surprised how easily you can negotiate with very little time or effort on your part.

Also, try to negotiate as small of a deposit as possible.  I’m not saying this so you can trash the place and have as little money on the hook as possible (plus, you can still be taken to court for further damages).  But if you need to break your lease, for whatever reason, your landlord will have less of your money in their hands already.

5. Give plenty of notice. If you must leave, make sure to give your landlord as much notice as possible.  Many landlords are nice about this and will try to find a replacement to fill your unit.  Giving your landlord more notice gives them more time to advertise the apartment and find someone new.

6. Force landlords to mitigate your loss.  In many states, landlords are required to search for a replacement tenant to mitigate the tenants’ loses.  While some landlords may be good about this, they’re also still entitled to receive rent from you while they are searching.  I haven’t had any experience with this, but I would anticipate that not all landlords are inclined to put 100% effort into their search for a replacement tenant. Still, it’s their responsibility to do something about it and reminding them of law is a good idea for your own sake.

7. Carefully read the terms of your lease (and use them to your advantage).  If your landlord has violated terms of the lease, like invading your privacy, you may have grounds to terminate the contract.  If they’ve failed to properly maintain the property, that could be grounds for breaking a lease, too.  But just because you believe that the landlord has violated the lease doesn’t mean you can simply walk away.  Landlords aren’t likely to give in easily, so prepare for resistance and even legal action if you simply try to move out. At the very least, your security deposit is on the line.

8. Stop paying rent.  This applies only in the worst-case scenario where your landlord is awful and you have no other recourse. You’ll probably be evicted, which is not good when searching for new apartments.  In many states, you are allowed to leave if your apartment has become uninhabitable.  In either case, you’re probably going to have to fight to get your security deposit back.

Before making any choices related to breaking your lease, consider the ethics of your decision. While many of the tactics are favorable for tenants trying to escape a lease, I’m not advocating screwing over your landlord.  Whenever you can, be fair and honor your lease and try to come to an agreement with your landlord if you must leave.

Have you ever had to break a lease? How did you do it?

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photo by: seier+seier

Free Money After College Guide is Here!

Money-After-CollegeMy free new ebook, Money After College: Your Guide to Growing Wealth Right Out of School, has arrived! I’m stoked to finally be able to get this out to any college graduates that will be receiving their diplomas in the next few weeks (I’ll be walking at Tufts Commencement as well).  Of course, even if you’re not a college grad, you can still learn a lot from this guide.

Click here to download your free copy of the Money After College guide

Here’s the introduction Money After College:

I wrote this guide simply because it’s something I wish I had when I graduated college.  If you feel the same way as I did, you may be a little overwhelmed by all the “adult things” that you didn’t learn but are expected to know as you’re forced to “grow up.”  While becoming an expert on everything-adult isn’t necessary right after graduation, there are many important money matters that you need to learn, right away.

I’ve included some of the best info from Money Spruce, and I’ve done my best to link to other books and references that will be helpful to learn more on each of the topics.

Be sure to click here to get access to the guide right away!

13 Legit Money-Making Skills You Can Learn Online For Free

learn-skills-onlineSee what making money online did for me and read about how I increased my net worth by $400,000 in just 4 years!

I lost my job once during the economic downturn, so I know what it’s like looking for work. So if you are struggling to find a job and have some free time on your hands then listen up. These aren’t the usual suggestions of filling out endless surveys at Opinion Outpost, they are real ways to increase your earnings each month.  Two of my suggestions are to take a class and work on improving other skills. Here’s a list of exactly what I’m talking about – courses and skills you can learn online that will help you make money at a job or on your own.  I’ve included just the good stuff – you can put these skills on a resume or even base a freelance career on them.  I didn’t include things like “learn how to get organized” or “learn how to network.” I think we already know those things are floating around on the internet anyway.

The Skills

Business development – Courses for Success is a great way to develop your financial and business acumen online. Check out their offers here Financial Management Online Bundle, Includes 10 Courses. There are more than just finance courses too, so give it a look around. Another company offering online and reputable career development courses is Great Courses, check out Course Sets – Save More When You Buy 2 or More Courses Together!

Programming – This is an area I’ve been interested in improving my knowledge lately.  I came across this free course on learning Python for beginners to coding.  It comes with a lengthy guide and various lessons and drills to test out.  Since there are various programming languages that are open-source, there are tons of other free resources out there, too.

Web Development – Despite the fact I own 30 of my own sites in various niches, web development is a skill that long eluded me. I find sharpening my skills in this area to be more important than ever. Fortunately, there is a Peachpit – Learn By Video Series that offers informational tutorials for any level developer…novice to expert…but especially novice!

Graphic Design – Fortunately Peachpit is also a great source of information for graphic design as well. Visit Peachpit.com to see the resources available to sharpen your Photoshop and Adobe skills.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Given that its almost exclusively online, there are a ton of resources to learn search engine optimization.  The best guide I’ve found for beginners is SEO Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. This will take you through all the basic methodology as well as important concepts and terms to know.  Other great free online guides include SEO 101 from Search Engine Guide and Webconfs SEO Tutorial. I learned all of this, and more, from Sean Ogle’s 48 hour guide to becoming an SEO freelancer.

Languages – One of the best places to learn a language online is through downloadable Podcasts from the iTunes store.  There were at least 24 Podcasts in iTunes for the purpose of learning Spanish (not even counting Podcasts simply spoken in Spanish).  Each of these has hours of content, so it’s safe to say you could never run out of content to listen to. There were other podcasts in French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and more, too.

Aside from Podcasts, there are a lot of inexpensive websites and content out there to help learn a language.  There’s a reason why RosettaStone.com is still the most prominent language learning software out there. They have the largest selection of languages, online tutorials, and effective courses on the market.

Economics – UC Berkley offers courses in both Micro and Macroeconomics as podcasts through iTunesU, as well as an introduction course.  These aren’t simply some short, introductory material.  Each course offers over 30 hours of classroom content!  If you prefer to read over a course,  MIT again offers a long list of economics courses available for free.

PR/Social Networking – Social networking is everywhere now. Long gone are the days of Myspace versus Facebook. We now have Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, Vine, and even a resurgence of YouTube. Getting a package of Custom Social Analytics with Hootsuite Pro is vital if you want to make side money managing other peoples social media, or even the social media accounts for your own online endeavors. 

Law – Stanford offers podcasts that you can listen to through the iTunes store.  You can also take a Law and Society course from MIT or read selected lectures from the Supreme Court, Civil Liberties, and Civil Right course.

Mathematics – If you need to improve your math background, there’s resources out there for that, too.  One of the most useful subjects in mathematics, as it relates to jobs, is statistics.  Carnegie Mellon provides a couple statistics courses that are a great start to improving your knowledge of means, standard deviations, and confidence intervals.

Fine Arts – There are courses in fine arts out there, too.  You can find the Art of Color at MIT to take a look at the use of color in visual arts.  You can also learn about Masterpieces of Western Art in a Columbia University podcast or take in a Yale course on Roman Architecture.

Writing – Writing and blogging essentially go hand-in-hand. If you can’t create fresh original (Don’t Forget Interesting) content, then your site will struggle to attract and retain a loyal audience. If you want others to hire you to write for their sites the same rules apply. For the best tips and lessons on how to write great content in any niche or topic, then visit The Easy Way To Write.

Other Essential Software – This would be a giant list if I wanted to name all the software you can potentially learn online for free.  Microsoft Office, which is essential for just about any office job, is one that you should know.  Luckily, due to its popularity, there’s tons of free information on the web that will show you how to use any application of Microsoft Office for free. As an example, I’ll use Microsoft Access, since it’s something I’ve been wanting to learn.  I found this About.com guide to Access, which offers a start to finish guide to to build an Access database.  Microsoft offers its own Access guide, too.  The beauty of learning software (or, well, lots of things for that matter) is that Google will often answer any question that you may have about anything! Just from typing in “build a database with Access” on Google yields 243 million results.

Try this with just about any type of software you can imagine, and I’m certain you’ll get results.  Even if you don’t have the license for the software, there are many programs that offer a free trial version that you can get your hands on.

Free isn’t always best

Now if you really want to put all those skills to use above, then just start your own wordpress blog using this simple 4 step tutorial. Spend a few dollars registering a domain and buying 1 year of hosting, and you will be amazed at the money you could be making after just 12 short months. Heck, you might even monetize a lot quicker than that…that’s the beauty of blogging, everyone’s results are different!

What To Do If You Can’t Get the Job You Want

what-to-do-can't-get-job-you-wantThis post is part of an “after college” series for the launch of my upcoming free ebook “Money After College.”  You can sign up for my email list to receive your free copy when it’s released in early May.

The job market is still tough right now for college grads, meaning that you may not have your dream job lined up before finishing college. Even if you’re a great candidate, the companies you want to work for still might not be hiring.  But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and feel miserable while searching for the job you really want. Here are some great (and productive) alternatives to lounging on your parents’ couch while you can’t land the job you want.

1. Take a part time job, even if it’s something you’re not super excited about. You might feel that it’s beneath you to do this if you just earned your degree. But what good is sitting around and doing nothing? At least you’d earn money while continuing to apply to better job opportunities.  There are some decent part time options out there, too (I’m thinking Apple Store or Trader Joe’s). Word of caution: make sure that you still apply to jobs you want.  Don’t get stuck at this part-time job long-term; this is merely some way of earning money while you’re searching for a full-time job.

2. Take a class. I went with “take a class” instead of “attend graduate school” on purpose. Graduate school isn’t the best option if the main reason is difficulty of finding a job. Grad school school is a serious commitment of both time and money, and you should be certain that the graduate degree you’re seeking is something you’re devoted to and truly interested in.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a class in something your interested in or a topic that can increase your marketability as an employee. Community college classes are often inexpensive compared to a year of college tuition.  My local community college charges $450 per class, and costs vary based on where you are.  Perhaps there’s s class you didn’t get to take as an undergraduate that you’re interested in or, even better, something that will help improve your job prospects.  I’m looking into taking a course in computer programming or web design to improve my skills in those areas.  Often times these individual classes can be added to resumes to help bolster your skill set.

3. Work on other skills or interests.  Aside from taking classes there are numerous ways that you can improve your skills or increase your knowledge.  Spend time learning a language using free online resources and podcasts from iTunes. Check out personal finance books so that you know what to do with your money once you start earning it. There are many free sources of education out there that will help to improve your quality of life. Even if there’s no obvious professional benefit from learning these types of things, there can be a big impact on your personal life.

4. Intern at a company your can learn from. You might not be getting paid, but you can still gain a lot of valuable and rewarding experience.  Interning offers a great opportunity to learn valuable skills and make personal connections that pay off in the future.  Also, a barrier that college grads face when job searching is a lack of experience. Interning can definitely help grads overcome this.

5. Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to help others by giving back to the community.  It can be a resume builder, too, and will show future employers that you have the motivation to go out and do something even when you’re not employed. If there’s an opportunity in your community that you always wanted to get involved in, this is a great time to do it.

6. Start a small side business and find other ways to earn money. You don’t need to launch a Fortune 500 company here. There are a lot of things you can do to with only a small time or money investment to earn a decent amount of cash. With a wide array of freelance opportunities out there, such as writing for a local newspaper or online blog, you shouldn’t have trouble finding work based on your skills and strengths.  If you have a graphic design background, contact local business about designing a logo or other media they can use. You might not earn as much as you would at a full-time job, but freelancers can earn $15 per hour or more, depending on what the work is. Check out Elance or Craigslist for ideas of what freelance work is in demand.

If you can’t find a freelance gig, you can sell your college stuff on eBay and Craigslist.  Selling things is a great way to reduce clutter and earn extra money from things you don’t really need.

7. Travel. It’s a great time to do it if you’re able to afford it, and many college students travel after graduation, job or not. If you’re short on money, find some shorter trips you can take by car or bus. There are cheap ways to find accommodations. Camping is relatively cheap and can be a lot of fun, too. If you want to be a in more populated area, consider Couch Surfing and stay for free with a host.

All of these options can be done while you are simultaneously looking for the job that you really want. Doing unproductive things all day like playing video games or watching YouTube videos are about the worst thing you can be doing for your life. Find the motivation to do something of value while job searching and you’ll be a lot better off for it in life and maybe even for your career.

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photo by: The Consumerist

Free ‘Money After College’ Ebook on the Way!

As you may have seen in my post about spending after college on Monday, I will be releasing a new, free ebook in early May.  The working title is “Money After College” and it’s coming together as a nice guide for those graduating this May.  The idea: give grads an easy, introductory guide to follow right out of college. It’s something I wish I had, and I know others wish they did, too.  There will be plenty of great info in the guide for those who’ve been out of college for a few years (like me).

If you haven’t already, subscribe to the Money Spruce email list to get access as soon as it’s released.  I encourage you to share the link for the ebook to anyone that can use it, especially any college grads.  Forget cash and gift cards for graduation gifts this year.  Give the gift of a fianancial future instead by passing on “Money After College” when it’s released 🙂

Thanks ahead of time for all of your support.  If you have anything you think I should include in the book, please comment below.

After Graduation: Spending Your Newly-Pocketed Money Wisely

After graduationThis post is part of an “after college” series for the launch of my upcoming free ebook “Money After College.”  You can sign up for my email list to receive your free copy when it’s released in early May.

After graduation is an exciting time, emotionally and financially.  You (hopefully) already have a job lined up where you’ll earn more than you ever have in your life.  Perhaps you’ll also receive cash gifts as a graduation present from friends and family, too.  Life is great as you embark on a whole new journey in life. But, let’s come back to earth a bit before you go out right away and grab all the stuff you’ve worked your way through four years of college to get.  After all, you haven’t hit the big time yet.

I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of going out and spending right after finishing my first four years of college.  I bought a new HDTV and PlayStation 3, which cost me over $1,000 combined.  I also bought some new clothes and other things to “reward” myself.  Before I knew it, most of my graduation gift was gone.  Here’s some tips to avoid the same mistakes that I made.

Resisting big spending mistakes

Don’t spend money just because you can.  This little blip of income in your life is going to disappear quickly, especially if you start spending money before you’ve earned it.  Before you start spending wildly, realize that just because you’re earning a few hundred bucks a week doesn’t mean that’s all fun money.

Ask yourself “Would this purchase make sense if I was still in college?” If you were like most college students out there, you probably didn’t have too much money to go around.  You might have eaten ramen or drank Natty Ice (or both, simultaneously) and hope to never have to go down that path again.  Even though you might not want to live like like a pauper any more, you should try to maintain that lifestyle for as long as you can.  It will help greatly in your ability to pay down college debt and save for retirement.

Plan your purchases wisely. Don’t buy on impulse. I enjoyed my PlayStation for about a year before I got tired of it and ended up selling it (for about half of what I paid originally).  I regret that purchase and would much prefer to have that cash in my savings account right now instead.  If you are planning on making any large purchases (> $100), think about it for at least a few days before buying.

Don’t go out and buy the brand-new fancy car. Yep, this one gets it’s own section.  I’ve seen it so many times.  If you’re trying to recover from four years of loans (and potentially credit card debt), buying a new car is one of the worst decisions you can make.  If you do need a car, purchase something a few years older that will cost a lot less.  There are lots of benefits of owning a used car.  If you’re living in a metro area where there’s public transportation, Zipcar, or bike access, you might not need to own a car at all.

Allow yourself a few nice things that you’ve been waiting to buy.  I think all life victories deserve celebration.  Graduating college is probably your biggest accomplishment at age 22, so it’s certainly no exception.  Treat yourself to a nice night out for dinner, a DVD or two, and a book to further help you plan your finances (I recommend Ramit’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich).

Save some money and start paying down any debt.  Trust me, loan payments are coming at you fast and you’re not going to enjoy it.  If you don’t have loans, there’s going to be a time in the future when you need this money and can use it on something better. Save as much as you can, and you’re making a great decision.

3 Easy Steps to Start

In 3 steps, here’s what I’d do with the first $1,000 after graduation (gifted from family/friends or earned at a job):

1. Have fun with $200.  Do whatever you want with this.

2. Put $300 in the bank in an ING Savings account.  Save this for an emergency or some other important expense in the future.

3. Open a Roth IRA and deposit the final $500 in this account. Research index funds and start investing.

This is a fantastic foundation, which you can build on with a more sophisticated savings and investing strategy.

If you’re about to graduate, how do you plan to spend?  If you’re past graduation (like me), do you have any advice?

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photo by: Werwin15

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