Updated: Jan 31
To start this article, Imma take it back to 2016 for a second... While doing research for my Debt or in Jail project I learned that student loan debt was the ONLY debt that couldn’t be wiped away by claiming bankruptcy 🤨😮. So, when I graduated college in May 2016 I had one overarching goal: pay off my student loans as soon as possible because aside from all of my other personal and/or career goals, “financial freedom” is still the ultimate goal.
For the most part, I’ve always been responsible and mindful with my money. So, for the last few years I’ve had this goal in mind and have made moves that have inched me closer and closer to accomplishing this sooooooooo I am happy to announce that I have officially paid off my student loan debt!!!
Now… This does not mean that I have reached any other financial goal, but what it does mean a couple of things:
I no longer have a government-issued debt attached to my name
All the money I set aside from now on will go to ME
I proved to myself that if I set a goal I can accomplish it, no matter how long it takes
This article is not going to be a pat on the back. It is going to be an attempt on my end to provide a roadmap for soon-to-be college grads, recent college grads, parents, and other young professionals that may have the same goals as me.
Here we go:
Before you do anything else, I think you should compile a list of everything you’ve done up to this point - we’ll call this the ‘job history list’. This list should include: internships, on-campus jobs, research positions, volunteer work, college organizations, retail jobs, conferences you’ve attended, etc… After you’ve created this list, do pro/con analysis of what you liked/didn’t like. Keep this list close by because it’s going to come in handy…
Next, take a test to see the type of job(s) you might like based on your interests such as: https://www.princetonreview.com/quiz/career-quiz. Not only can test like this help you figure out jobs that can accomodate your interests so that you don’t end up working a job that makes you wake up wondering “what is worst thing that would happen if I don’t show up to work today?” But it can open up your mind to jobs and career fields you may not even know exist. For example, I didn’t realize that being a curator was an actual career choice until I was a senior in college. [Keep these results handy].
Then I suggest talking to a few recent grads you know and get their advice and insight as to what post-grad life is really like. Think about Talking to your peers in the job force can truly be EYE OPENING.
Next, take your job history list, the results from this online test, and the insight you’ve gained from your peers, and really sit down and think about where you want to be in like 3-5 years… and be realistic. Does that mean you want to have a “steady” job? An apartment? Time/money to travel? Money to pay off student loans? Really stop and think about will be important to you in the long term versus the short term.
After you do this reflection, GO TO YOUR CAREER CENTER and talk to them about some early career options - use their database to see jobs other people don’t have access to. When I worked at certain places we ONLY submitted job asks to colleges because we didn’t want everyone to be able to apply. Your school has access to these sort of exclusive job searches, USE THEM.
**When you visit the career center make sure you are keeping that 3-5 year plan in mind. In order to reach your 3-5 year goals, your plans might not be what they seem. It might be taking a year to doing a year of service in AmeriCorps or PeaceCorps. It might be an internship that doesn’t pay much so you might have to work another job in retail or Uber/Lyft or babysitting. It might be living at home to stack up break because what you want to do in 3-5 years you might need to move to LA or Atlanta. Be open to seeing what it really out there. Or if you want to take a gap year or years and then go back to school for another degree, what might you want to do in the meantime?
See what you are “qualified” for on paper and other opportunities you might be able to put your transferable skills towards. Life is LONG. You DON’T have to do whatever you’ve majored in while in college for your entire life, BUT since you have majored in a particular field in college (and hopefully have gained some skills, been involved in some orgs, and/or done some jobs/internships that relate to that career field) it might be a good idea to go into that field straight outta college and collect some quick coins.
Compile like 10 or 15 jobs you think you’d be interested in... I remember while in college I applied to at least 20 jobs, got call backs from 7 or 8, made it to the 2nd round of interviews from 4 and ended up with 2 great job offers coming out of college.
Get your resume and cover letters ready: That means, writing down EVERYTHING you’ve done over the last 4+ years in college. Every organization, every accomplishment, every award, every scholarship, internship, study abroad program, jobs (paid or unpaid) volunteer work, etc… (Everything you’ve done can give you some cache and transferable skills somewhere). Then go to your career center and have them help you tune them up so that you’ll have everything you need to put your best foot forward when you apply places.
Then take a day or two during spring break and just apply apply apply! Each time you see a job you’d be interested in, submit a tailor-made version of your resume and cover letter to the job - you can pick and choose what you want to mention in your resume and cover letter depending on what the job requires.
Then I’d take a few days, monitor the responses, and be ready to do over the phone and in-person interviews. If you’re getting calls, great! Hopefully, you land something - if not… Don’t stop applying! The great thing about the world is now is that you have options from trade schools and getting licenses, certifications, and joining unions… You have a lot of options, but this is the time to focus your mind and really figure out the next step.
For many of us, up until now, everything has been planned out (to a certain degree). This is the first time we REALLY have to figure things out for ourselves and taking the first steps to our out-of-school plan towards happiness and success.
Lastly, I would just like to emphasize a couple of characteristics I feel are necessary to accomplish goals such as paying off student loan debt: patience and diligence. If you’ve read my first blog post here on the Urban Walls World platform you’d know that I am where I am now because of hard-work, persistence, and a lot of luck. So, even if your goals aren’t the same as mine, I hope that by reading this article you can take a couple things from it and apply it to your current situation. Let me know if you have any questions or just want to chop it up about young professional life. I’m always happy to talk.