Transitioning from college to employment isn’t easy for most young workers. First, colleges can’t fully prepare students for the professional world. In addition, few twenty-somethings are certain of where they want to go in their careers and may be experiencing internal conflicts about which career path to pursue. Finally, well-paying entry-level jobs with benefits are hard to find, even for the most qualified graduates. Luckily, there are a few ways to help ensure a secure career and financial future, despite the struggles and doubts you may face as a young professional.
It may seem crazy to even think of retirement when you’ve barely started your career, but the sooner you start saving, the more money you’ll have when the time finally comes to retire. Take full advantage of your company’s retirement program, since many employers match contributions to some extent. If your employer doesn’t offer retirement benefits, seek out independent options with the help of a qualified financial professional. Even if you can only save a small percentage of your salary, it will be better than nothing at all.
An emergency savings is crucial because so many unexpected expenses pop up, whether your car needs maintenance or you need a root canal. Savings can also help you get through periods of unemployment, which are likely to happen at some point in your career. The ideal amount of emergency savings is six months to one year of living expenses. For most entry-level workers this amount is not realistic, but as with retirement funding, a modest emergency fund is better than nothing at all.
Improving Soft and Technical Skills
Both soft skills, including communication skills, and technical skills are important for career advancement. College may not prepare you fully for the working world, so you’ll need to focus on developing the necessary skills to remain competitive both in your specific field and as a part of the general workforce.
Determining Long-Term Career Goals
You may not have it all figured out in your 20’s, but you can start setting some long-term career goals for yourself. The more experience you gain, the more you’ll learn about your career values, personality, and interests. What type of work environment suits you best? What type of responsibilities would you like to be given? What skills do you want to gain over the next five to ten years?
Building a Professional Network
Most good jobs are filled without ever being posted publicly. Therefore, a building professional network is important if you want access to the best jobs in your industry. Building a network isn’t as difficult as it sounds. You simply have to establish and maintain relationships with coworkers, supervisors, and former classmates. Friends and relatives can also be part of your career network as long as they are aware of your professional skills and career goals.
For more career guidance for young workers, read Getting from College to Career Rev Ed: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World