Steve Punch, President & CEO

Congratulations – you’ve earned your degree and that’s a lifetime accomplishment.  You’re starting out on your own and it’s time to determine the next step.  As a CEO (and a Dad), I’m sometimes asked what new graduates should do now?


We are seeing some signs that the economy is improving, but it’s not recovered yet.  The under 25 crowd still makes up the largest percentage of unemployed, almost twice the national average.


If you’re lucky, you have a job lined up, but if not, consider taking a postgraduate internship.  I know an internship may seem like a disappointing first start; however, many companies offer internships as a stepping stone toward full-time employment.  You’ll gain real world experience to compliment your degree.  Better yet, you’ll get a better sense if the industry or job is suited for you.


You should also put the word out to your network.  Don’t underestimate the reach that you have at your fingertips.  Put together a gentle, professional email to your friends, family and former teachers or professors to let them know that you’re looking for opportunities and you’d appreciate any referrals or advice.  Include a well thought out and constructed resume if you have one, relevant courses and what type of jobs most interest you.  Keep realistic expectations about income and focus on getting your foot in the door.


Pay off debt and budget.
Graduates often are saddled with debt after graduation.  Student loans typically have very high default rates, meaning many graduates are unable to repay their loan obligation.  To avoid missing payments and damaging your credit, take charge of the situation right away with planning and budgeting.


Keep track of where you spend your money and control your costs.  Cut the fancy coffee, too many nights out and music downloads.  Most importantly, avoid taking on more debt.  To get control of your finances, you need to make regular monthly payments on your debt obligations.


It’s important to be realistic.  Can you afford to rent an apartment?  Or, does it make more sense to move back in with mom and dad?  Is buying a car in your immediate future?  Or, is public transportation more your speed?


Finally, get help if you need it.  Ask a parent or family member to help you get your budget started or speak with a free credit counselor through your school or county.


Don’t forget to save!  If you’re fortunate enough to find a job, try to stash 5-10% of your income for emergencies, goal-based expenditures or a rainy day.


Back to School.
Many recent grads are continuing their education because of the difficulty of finding a job in this market.  This may be a good option for you.


Before you make your decision, however, carefully consider the additional cost associated with more school and whether your intended career warrants further education.  Will another degree or an advanced degree give you a leg up on a job or higher pay?  If not, there’s always time for more school, so don’t be pressured to continue straight through.  Plus, being in the workforce could change your professional direction.  Most of us didn’t start out thinking we’d be doing what we’re doing now.  Especially me.


Graduating college is an excellent first step toward a bright future.  You’ve done well and I wish you continued success.