Career Advice to the New Graduate

What career advice would you give to a new college graduate today? If you were that graduate, would you take that advice?

Our daughter graduated from college this summer and is uncertain about the direction her life will head. Overall, she has a good head on her shoulders and graduated with a very nice grade point average. She is conservative in her spending and has a healthy bank balance from last year's summer job. Her credit card has been used minimally, just to build credit. There are no student loans or debt from going to school as we paid it in full. This past year's friendships have her realizing that people bring more happiness than things.

However, she isn't sure about what type of career to head into. My husband has one philosophy and I have another. Though both are colored by our own personal experiences at our age now, not at age 21, ironically, my husband's advice mirrors what he thought when we graduated from college.

Option 1: Get a corporate job, earn and save lots of money, then find something else when you are burned out. The pros of this path include channeling the energy and drive you have when you are young to amass large sums of money that will serve you later in life. The cons of this include a career that will burn you out and no guarantee that you will find a decent job when you are burned out.

Option 2: Find a job/career that brings you happiness in that it meets some of your dreams about life. The pros of this path include being interested in what you are doing, living the life you want now, instead of when you retire/burn out, and hopefully less stress in your life with more enjoyment. The cons of this include low pay and often scorn from society who can't believe you would take such a job.

My husband favors option 1, a path we both followed right through the burnout and finding something else. Although I have returned to corporate life, it is actually a position that is less stressful than my time teaching. He feels it is important to start out young and strong, and earn money. I favor option 2 - finding something you enjoy even if it means starting at a low paying job and economizing on life. She has dreams to travel and there are some jobs that will allow this possibility.

Our daughter is conflicted. She is currently applying for both types of jobs and sees value in each. I have been talking with her about trying to live a simple life with less stuff, and not working to sustain a life full of things. Ultimately, she needs to find her own way and hopefully happiness.

What would your advice be and would you accept it if you were a recent college graduate?

Update: She chose the corporate job that is close to home for now, with plans to travel/move overseas next year.

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