Being a new graduate can be one of the most exciting yet stressful times of your life. The elation of graduating with a degree or diploma can be short-lived once you face the realities of job-hunting, rejection letters and ‘adulting’ in general.
Here is some money advice for new graduates:
Prepare your online profile: When last did you Google yourself? There is enormous power in your online profile, so make sure that anybody searching for you is impressed by what they see. Check the privacy settings on Facebook and Instagram accounts, and check through your Twitter feed. If you haven’t already done so, set up a Linkedin profile and start connecting.
Set up your online CV: Sites such as jobportal.co.za and leafly.com allow you to create an online CV which is universally accessible and makes it easier for companies to find talent. Spend time creating a powerful online CV that showcases your special skill set.
Don’t sit around waiting for a job: Job-hunting is tough and being rejected is emotionally draining. Finding a job is going to require tenacity, resourcefulness, resilience and a never-say-die attitude. While you’re out their job-hunting, focus also on finding a side hustle that can generate some extra income.
Practice being interviewed: To avoid being overwhelmed during job interviews, get some practice ahead of time. Ask your parents, a mentor, lecturer or family friend to go through a ‘dummy interview’ with you so that you get a feel for the type of questions you will be asked and how to construct succinct, insightful responses.
Develop an introductory email: When emailing your CV through to a prospective company, include a short, sharp and well-written introduction in the body of the email that entices the reader to open your CV. Make sure your grammar and punctuation are flawless.
Get a driver’s licence: If you don’t yet have your driver’s licence, do it now. Most employers want an employee who is independently mobile. You also don’t want to place yourself in a position where you are not considered for a job because you are not a licensed driver.
Further your education while still young: If you are contemplating studying further, bear in mind that it is easier to do this while you are young, unmarried and do not have financial dependents. Whether you choose to do so full-time or part-time, consider doing it sooner rather than later.
Register as a voter: While not strictly financial, part of being a responsible citizen is to register as a voter and to exercise this right at the polls.
Register as a taxpayer: In order for an employer to pay you, you will need a tax number. To do this, you will need to go to your nearest Sars office with your official identification and proof of address.
Check your medical aid: Depending on the rules of the medical scheme, you may be required to move off your parents’ medical aid. If this is the case, do not allow your membership to lapse and ensure a smooth transition into your own medical scheme.
Understand the repayments on your student loan: If you’ve funded your studies through a student loan, check the terms of your loan repayment and be sure to pay the right amount every month and on time as this will affect your credit record going forward.
Get mobile: Before buying a car, do your maths. Depending on where you live, work and how much travelling you are required to do, it may make financial sense to use e-hailing services while saving the difference so that you can pay cash for a car in the future.
Keep copies of important documentation: This includes both your secondary and tertiary qualifications, all references and reports, identity documents, passwords, driver’s licence, awards, certificates and extra courses. If possible, keep extra certified copies of all these documents as well as a high-quality colour scan of each.
Get as many references as possible: Don’t be afraid to ask people for a reference if you have done work for them. Whether you’ve worked as a waiter, au pair, babysitter or receptionist, ask for a written reference to keep on file.
Have an account or utility bill in your own name: If you want to buy a vehicle, open a bank account or get a credit card, you will need to provide proof of address. Ensure that you have an account – bank, utility, cellphone, investment or other – that reflects your name and address, as this will make things much easier for you.
Manage your bank account well: Make sure that you manage your bank account responsibly as this will affect your ability to apply for credit or finance in the future. Generally, when purchasing a vehicle, renting a property or applying for a credit card, you will be required to submit three months’ worth of bank statements.
Sign a living will: Tragedies do happen and one of the kindest things you can do for your loved ones is to have a living will. A living will communicates your wishes to your medical practitioner and family in the event you are being kept alive artificially and where there is no hope of your recovery. At the same time, register as an organ donor and let your loved ones know about your wishes.
Read up on personal finance: Commit to reading about personal financial management, budgeting, investing, income tax and responsible money management. Buy a book, find an online resource, read the newspaper or subscribe to a personal finance magazine. You are going to be managing your finances for the rest of your life, so get educated and stay educated.
Spend money on life experiences: Learn the value of buying experiences as opposed to material possessions and find friends who share the same values. Experiences create life-long memories and are priceless.
Higher paying jobs aren’t always the best: Although you might be tempted to accept the highest paying offer, don’t allow money to be the deciding factor. Different jobs have different growth and earning trajectories, so don’t be swayed by the size of your first paycheque. Research the company, its ethos and values, and how it treats its people. Check its customer service history and online customer reviews. Ask questions about growth opportunities, training, education and career potential. Quiz them about their social and environmental impact, their leave and work hour policies, and how they give back to others.
Compare job offers and learn to negotiate: If you receive a job offer, insist on it being in writing and then do your research. Know your worth and establish whether the offer is fair and market-related. If it’s not, learn how to negotiate while remaining professional at all times.
Understand employee benefits and what the mean for you: Establish what the cost-to-company value of the offer is by understanding what employee benefits are included. Check whether the offer includes medical aid, travel and cellphone allowances, retirement funding and overtime pay.
Find a budget app that works for you: Regardless of how much you are earning or how small your monthly expenses are, find a budgeting app that works for you and use it. Get into the habit of tracking your expenses, checking your balance and keeping tabs on your money so that this becomes a life-long habit.
Set up a savings account and automate it: It doesn’t matter if you start off with R100 per month, just set up a debit order to a savings account and get into the habit of putting some money away every month. Saving is a habit.
Create an emergency fund: Set aside some money into a separate account earmarked for emergencies. This will stand you in good stead if you need quick access to money and will prevent you from having to borrow money if you are suddenly faced with a large expense.