Mistakes graduates make
May 22nd, 2012
12:17 PM ET

Mistakes graduates make

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) Graduates at both the high school and college levels can easily get lost in the complexities of money management, planning and work ethic. But let’s start with the big one. When it comes to common slip-ups by recent graduates, social media are a virtual black hole.

Social media missteps

By now, seniors have heard the warnings – that what they post online is rarely, completely private. You know how you wouldn’t want embarrassing photos or information about your last breakup appearing in a school yearbook? Well, think of Facebook and Twitter as a yearbook for the entire world. And if you're a college graduate whose profile picture reveals a funnel, a frothy drink, and the Jersey Shore (or Lake Havasu…or Daytona Beach…or a Caribbean cruise), there’s a possibility that the company you want to work for will see it.

But while some Facebook pictures and wall posts can be taken down, students won’t get the chance to take down their public tweets. They’re exactly that – public – and they’re now scheduled to stay that way forever.

The Library of Congress is keeping a Twitter archive for posterity. And no matter who you are, how old you are, or what you’ve ever written about in 140 characters or less, every single public tweet EVER is being archived. Does that mean that a potential employer/spouse/child/admissions officer will be able to read what you wrote back in 2009? Yes. Can you take your tweets back? No. The only thing you can do is make your future tweets private – a setting that will keep them from being archived. But everything that’s ever been publicly shared will stay that way.

Summer slacking

Social media aren’t the only danger zones for graduates, of course. Another potential stumbling block is the coveted summer break. Between the ninth and tenth grades, you might've kicked back, relaxed, worked only when needed (or convenient), and ruled the pool. But recent college graduates who stay in that pattern are almost certain to lose whatever jobs are available to those who started their search before they even donned a cap and gown.

And if you’re leaving high school for higher education, you don’t want to be lost when you land on campus. You’ll have to learn how to register for class. Larger campuses will have bus routes you won’t know, and there’s a lot of stuff in your bedroom and your bathroom at home that won’t be included in a dorm. So taking some time to get the lay of the land at college, to do some shopping in advance, or just to work up a transition plan will pay off – and give you more time to go to ice-cream mixers while your dormmates go to Target.

Mishandling money

Got a few bucks? Save it. Any college student can tell you that you go through cash faster than you plan to. From laundry, for which many students will have to pay for the first time in their lives, to late-night snacks when the dining halls are closed, you’re going to need funds. And you don’t want to rack up credit card debt in addition to student loans.

In fact, if you can get out of college without any credit card debt, you'll be ahead of the curve. One mistake graduates make right out of college is diving into debt they may not need. Even if they're fortunate enough to land a job right out of school, a bad idea is to buy a new car that's not needed. Why? Because having a car payment in addition to rent is like having two rents.

A good idea before you buy or rent or lease anything: Understand your income. A starting salary of $36,000 does not mean you’re going to get a check for $3,000 a month. Uncle Sam’s gonna take a chunk of that; your state may take a cut as well; your employer will probably need you to kick in part of your health insurance coverage. So plan on getting a roommate or two and cycling through a few paychecks so you have a sense of what you can afford before you actually go shopping.

Unwillingness to work

And don’t rule out taking an internship or a position with a low, entry-level salary. With the economy where it is, graduates often have to temper their expectations. “Your first job should give you knowledge and experience that will serve as a building block to your dream job,” writes Scott Sholtes of AlumniAgent.com. Don’t think your education is wasted because you can’t start off at $60,000; you just have to be patient – and often do some grunt work – to get there.

And speaking of grunt work, be ready to do it. Whether the next step is college, trade school, or entering the workforce, there are going to be more people and more competition. Students who are ready to take on the world may also have to take on the cleaning or the scheduling or the sorting or the researching. One of our news anchors got her start in journalism by emptying trash cans at a radio station. A couple others scrolled a TelePrompTer and handed scripts to producers. Aspiring private pilots often wash airplanes; aspiring park rangers often collect tolls. It’s not glamorous, but it helps folks get where they want to go.

In fact, glamour rarely factors in to life immediately after graduation. Sure, a tiny fraction of athletes may go pro, and a tiny fraction of performers may land a role somewhere. But for 99.9 percent of graduates, success comes later. Planning on that can go a long way in smoothing out the road after graduation, and it makes for a better success story anyway – make no mistake about that.

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Filed under: Carl Azuz • College • Graduation • Practice
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. chefdugan

    Are there any anglos left in that state? If you want to see the results of letting hispanics into the states just look at California. They are a sure recipe for disaster.

    June 5, 2012 at 9:44 am |
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    June 4, 2012 at 8:46 am |
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    June 4, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  5. TKO

    Two things: you should check out the syllabus, reading list and such–these "lightweight" classes are often very serious approaches to math, science, anthro, etc. dressed up to sound interesting. You get the students in, and, and then through teaching a popular subject, you are able to teach them something useful and rigorous. The other thing you should know is that because legislatures are cutting funding to Universities, instructors are forced to fill huge lecture halls in order tokeep their departments functioning. Oversall, you should really try to understand what you are talking about before you criticize–which is the point, really, of all university classes.

    June 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  6. Schuyler

    My current field of study is in International Studies comprising various disciplines. But I have an open mind to a set of clearer possibilities to how I want to spend my life. I have preferences, the "dream-job" or whatever, but as long as I'm happy with what I'm doing, that's the most important. My debt after undergrad will be minimal if at all, however law school will be very expensive. I even contemplated seminary, and maybe that is something I'm drawn to. But I have time to decide, learn and most importantly grow as a person. Careers are an outlet of a person's desires and strengths, not merely some shallow money-maker. The economy isn't nearly as important as the people who actually exist within it. We're always talking about job loss and gains, but not about the happiness of all these people. Life isn't about "making a living" but certainly just about living, and being happy. And happiness isn't so hard to achieve.

    May 29, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  7. julie

    Going to college when you have no idea what you want to do. Nobody wants to go here. But way back when college was affordable and fun and a way to extend high school. Now it's not affordable. Which makes it not fun. Unless you know the system. If you are already smart, intelligence will come with experience. Stay away from college campuses for a few years. You're probably more likely to get a job anyway.

    May 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Andrew

      What ridiculous advice you offer. Go to college and get your degree. It will only help you, and the education alone, for education's sake, is worthwhile. Not to mention that to be successful in today's age requires a Bachelor's degree. There are exceptions, but that is exactly what those are...exceptions. As in, not the norm. Everybody wants to think they are the exception, and you usually aren't. FYI.

      May 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
      • ..

        Just going to school isn't good enough for most employers though... because many don't hire new graduates, and many of those who do want to see relative experience from the students coming out of College. You can have every skill you need to do well in the job, and if you don't have the experience required, you aren't even considered. That is how a lot of hiring is done today.

        May 26, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • don't discourage college

      Julie, You are never to discourage higher learning. If given a choice between a college graduate and a noncollege graduate, I would hire the college grad. Many companies would agree.

      May 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  8. Absinthe

    Student loans are primarily a profit center. Buy and pay up front for only the education you can afford. And education should NEVER be confused with vocational training. If you can't afford an education (intellectual pursuit of what interests YOU) pursue a vocation (or profession) that points to money and do your self-improvement on your own dime later.
    I cherish what I learned earning my "useless" BA, and I've never been unemployed except by choice. "Who you know" is still key, focus on networking and remember that ultimately you can always be your own boss and be the one making those tough management decisions, and treat yourself as well or badly as you chose!

    May 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  9. Torrence

    #1 mistake...believing anything they were taught about the world is true. That they have to find out on their own.

    May 24, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  10. Joe Sixpack

    College is a huge waste of time and money. I didn't learn anything useful in college, and it didn't prepare me at all for a job. All I got out of it was a piece of paper that said I can read and a lot of debt.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • FirstAve

      Some people can't read, look where they are.

      May 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Noel Hollis

      That means YOU failed at learning, that's your responsibility in college. To choose an apropriate degree and learn skills that make you useful. Just because you're incapable of doing that doesn't mean college is useless, just that you are.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  11. rand

    Voting for Obama???

    May 22, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Yep voting for Obama

      Indeed I am voting for Obama

      May 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  12. El Jeffe

    Liberal arts? Are you serious? I see that on a resume and it goes straight into the trash.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • El Jeffe

      I'm curious to see what practical skills a liberal arts degree entails. Can you write code for a computer application? Can you design a building? I guess you can wait tables.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
      • NESCAT

        It's get's you a job in finance that pays 6 figures straight out of college.

        May 22, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
      • liberalArts

        Actually, I have a liberal arts degree and yes, I work in technology. I WAS an engineer, but I moved onto managing the engineering teams instead.

        May 22, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  13. billybob

    I will be a pastor and preach about Zeus almighty.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  14. thegeargeeks

    Good Like w/ the Liberal Arts Degree...how much in Student Loans do you owe?

    May 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • liberalArts

      Oh? I have a liberal arts degree. I make $120k per year. I had ~$40k in student loans, and I've paid it down to ~$7k of debt.

      Why? How much were your student loans?

      May 22, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  15. Recent Grad

    You may be correct that certain specialized degrees are practical and in high demand, but the student with a liberal arts degree has a broad basis of knowledge and skills that the 21st century employer is looking for. Sometimes it is better to be able to do it all.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Bill

      You poor thing. You have been lied to.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
      • Emily

        I graduated from a solid school with a degree in Anthropology and held many different internships in communications. I have now landed a great job at a reputable communications agency where I am told the fact that I have a "different" degree from PR, advertising, marketing, broadcast, etc... is great and makes me an asset to our teams. It is possible🙂

        May 22, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • bobo

      No sure who sold you that load, but your parents will be very disappointed if you stay much longer in the garage.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Real teacher

      It's sad that colleges and educators still get away with repeating that nonsense to children who want to believe it's true. I bought that line 45 years ago. I hope you wise up sooner than later. Your pen name really says it all.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  16. pinksock019

    Biggest mistake is going to college, willing to rack up 250k in debt without a clue as to what job you might want after graduation, or if the job you eventually will want will pay you enough to pay your student loans back in a reasonable time frame. 250k is a lot to pay for a 4-year beer party, with no job and a worthless sociology degree to show for it.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  17. Bill

    Go to college where you want to work after you graduate. That's where your college will have the best reputation, and local companies will be recruiting from there. That's where you're most likely to end up after graduating.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  18. Sharky

    When you graduate, nobody is going to care what your GPA was or where you went to school.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • John D

      Well, unless your GPA was good and you went to a good school.
      Or if your GPA was terrible and you didn't.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • pinksock019

      completely false.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • bobo

      That's not entirely true, I often discriminate a bit when hiring, some schools are just crap, in fact not having a degree can be better than one from a few state schools I can think of.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  19. Michael Sawyer

    What I cannot stand is #4, Unwillingness to work. And by that I mean work for free. Many employers think with this economy, they can abuse and use workers, and they get away with it because people think “well maybe if I work for free, or next to nothing, they will be impressed with me and like me”… no, they will have zero respect for you and continue to use and abuse you and your position.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • PokingBears

      Truth. I made that exact mistake. I worked my posterior off as an intern, double shifts, volunteering at every opportunity, making my self available at any hour, all it got me was stabbed in the back and used. At the end of the internship, the promised letter of recommendation disappeared. I found out years later that employers calling to verify I worked there were told my performance was average. Get everything in writing, and leave a paper trail a mile wide.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  20. Jim in Georgia

    I want to send this to my grandson. He starts "Real Life" next week.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  21. PokingBears

    Here is a great piece of advice that I always thought was a joke. "It is not what you know, it is who you know." This is the rule of law in the job world. Live by it, network, and never do more then you are required because it will ALWAYS go unnoticed. There are no friends, only acquaintances and co-workers, if you believe otherwise I hope you have a kevlar back.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • chicago7

      I second all of the above. I would add this: do what your boss asks you to do, not what you decide is right. If there's anything about an assignment that you think could be changed, take it up with your boss before you do the work to make sure you're both on the same page. And don't make a habit of second-guessing. Even if you mean well, you won't go anywhere. At all.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
      • Bill

        Good one. That was a hard one for me to learn. Even if your boss is an idiot, do it his way.

        May 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Bill

      Don't be bitter..

      May 22, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • billybob

      So much truth right here, I know guys that went above and beyond and all it got them was added stress and work and no additional pay. It also helps if you have a killer bod and huge rack.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Bonnie

      It's not "it's not WHAT you know but WHO you know" LOL. I found that "it's not WHO you know, but WHAT YOU DO WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE"

      May 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  22. Joe Six Pack

    When your college told you that you were going to get a job with any degree, they were wrong. Study business, accounting, science, or engineering, otherwise you just wasted a lot of money.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • boogiemanmovies

      The only thing in life I can guarantee is that people suffer. Accountants, bankers, nurses, clerks and people at all levels are not immune to lay-offs. I know dozens of people who got "practical" degrees and are now going back to school due to down-sizing or trying a second career because they are miserable. Do something you enjoy. I've been in TV for over 20 years, dig what I do and make a living.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  23. Johnny Orlando

    Take a few months off and enjoy the last time of your life you can breathe easy.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  24. Marilyn

    "Get A Life After College!" is a how-to guide for graduates about to launch life. Available at amazon.com

    May 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  25. jon

    Here's some more:

    Assuming a degree is the be all and end all for employers...it's not we want relevant experience even if it was as an intern.
    Assuming your going to land a job in a few months
    Neglecting to major in a field that is in demand
    Setting your goals higher than the market dictates
    Don't burn your bridges with your parents...you may be moving back in with them soon

    May 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  26. fisureking

    I'd add to that "Choosing an impractical major".

    Check the job market. Be confident that you are going into a profession that has a very healthy job market and a pay level that is going to allow you to live a comfortable life. Many majors do NOT have a job market. Many majors are in fields that have very few practicing professionals.

    The choices you make now may determine if you have a great career waiting for you, or if you instead end up with a degree hanging on the wall that isn't worth the paper its printed on and a job in the fast food industry.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • RickMeister

      ...what about pursuing what you really like and are good at? Dentists have an above average rate of suicide because it is a lucrative field to work in. Dentists make 4X what doctors make – according to my ENT. [ear,nose & throat]. But when you realize that you don't give a damn about fixing teeth – what then?

      May 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm |