Summer is a great time for undergraduates, but if you’re graduating from university, it basically marks the beginning of the next few decades of your life. It’s certainly an exciting time but the search for a job can also be a rather frustrating one. The job seeking process from applying to getting an offer can take you at least 2 months, especially for a management trainee role in top tier companies.
If you are graduating this year and embarking on the start of your career, here are five things you absolutely must do to ensure that you start your career on the right footing:
1. Make sure you have your budget in place before you start earning money
When you get your first real paycheck, you’ll probably have more money than you’ve ever had in your life. But there will also be new expenses which will hit you in the face like a sledgehammer. Figuring this out only after you start earning money is definitely not a good idea because once you get sucked into the cycle of spending what you previously didn’t have, it’s hard to get into the discipline of doing so.
Assuming you continue to live rent-free with your parents (and even if you don’t), like many Hong Kongers it’s likely you’ll be expected to contribute to household expenses or give your parents allowance. You’ll also have to factor in the cost of commuting to your workplace and having lunch outside of home every weekday.
All this means you’ll need to come up with a budget befitting of your newfound status as an adult. Resist the urge to skip this step, as you’ll soon discover that a grown-up salary is all too easy to squander.
So decide upfront how much you want to set aside each month, and how much you can afford to spend, and then stick to that budget. Transfer a portion of your salary into an untouchable savings account each month if you must.
2. Clean up your Internet presence
When you were in university, Facebook was a great way to meet new people and show off your carefree life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the same way for grown ups and some adjustment is in order. You’re not just graduating from university, but also graduating from a phase in life, and you better believe that phase will change significantly.
Throughout your university days, your Facebook and Instagram account might have served as a the display platform of photos of all your wildest exploits. But as an adult it is now something potential bosses will be Googling up before deciding whether or not to hire you. In more extreme cases, you might even get hired or fired because of something you’ve posted online.
So spend some time cleaning up all your social media accounts, blogs and websites, making sure you are not publishing things that you wouldn’t want people at work to see. We’re not just talking about inappropriate photos, but consider whether or not you might potentially end up working for more conservative companies that may not take too kindly to your extreme political views, for example.
3. Build up an emergency fund
As a working adult, you’re going to be on your own when it comes to expenses. If you get an eye infection and end up getting charged HK$200 by the hospital, that’s coming out of your pocket. If you go a little overboard with your credit cards and don’t manage them well, you’ll have to deal with the consequences of having to deal with paying off your bills with interest.
So start to build up an emergency fund right away. Your emergency fund should hold 3-6 months’ worth of your monthly expenses, depending on how much of your salary you spend each month and how stable your income is.
4. Start planning for retirement
Many young Hong Kongers don’t actually consider what they’ll need for retirement and how to get there until much later in their careers. The thing is you can save yourself from a huge headache later on if you start planning and saving early.
So don’t hesitate to jump into retirement planning as soon as you can. Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, and you can always change it later. The important thing is that you start to save and invest in some way as early as possible. That will put you light years ahead of your peers who only start decades later. Make use of the magic of compounding interest to start investing early, and you’ll reach the same number as people who start later even with investing a fraction of what they do on a monthly basis.
5. Buy medical insurance
This is something else that young working adults tend to avoid like the plague. The irony of this is that buying insurance when you are younger makes way more financial sense because the premiums are much lower.
Wait until you are above 30 years old and you will see how significantly premiums shoot up. Also, given that you won’t be earning as much in the early years of your career, it makes way more sense to “protect” your money should something unexpected happen to you. Heavy medical bills can potentially wipe out your savings and insurance is there not to make you rich (as some insurance agents might tell you) but to help make sure that you are well covered.
As a fresh grad, what are you doing to prepare yourself for the working world? Tell us in the comments!