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  • Writer's pictureisabelleclausen

I’ve Graduated College and Have Started My First Job… Now what?

In today’s blog post, we are starting the “Now What?” series!

In this series, we will be answering the following questions:

  • I’ve graduated college and have started my first job... Now what?

  • I’ve paid off my student loans... Now what?

  • I’ve received my first promotion... Now what?

  • I’ve gotten engaged... Now what?

  • I’ve purchased my first home... Now what?

  • I’ve maxed out my 401k contributions... Now what?

  • I’ve had my first child... Now What?

These “Now What?” questions will be the main topics of our blog content for the next several weeks. I will also be diving deeper into each of these topics in my podcast. So click here to check out my podcast, the Financial Wealth and Health Podcast to learn more.

In this specific blog post, we are answering the question: “I’ve graduated college and have started my first job, now what?”

I will be breaking this down into 3 answers.

1. Assess your values and goals.

2. Learn about your employee-benefits package

3. Have a life outside of work

1. Assess your values and goals

The reason why I have this point as the first answer is because it is the first thing you should do. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long. Just grab a pen and paper and take 5 minutes to write down your top three values in life, and then attach a couple of goals to each value.

For example, for me personally, I my three main values are Faith, Family, and Health. The goals I have that are lined up with Family are financial stability (which, for me, means to have a stable emergency fund and minimal debt), having a calm and warm home (this means keeping my current home in order, and also purchasing a home one day), and creating experiences with loved ones (this means saving up for vacations and experiences).

As you can see, under just one value, I have a handful of goals that I then take a step further to attach a financial goal to. By doing this simple values and goals exercise, you’re able to easily map out how your income you will be receiving in your new job can directly align with your values and goals.

Oftentimes, when people start their first official job where they are making a salary or a higher income than usual, it is very very easy and tempting to start spending money left and right on things that don’t directly line up with their values. But this simple action of writing a couple things down can direct your focus on what you really want to spend your hard-earned money on.

On this note, make sure to update your budget. In this stage of life, you’re probably finding a new apartment, your income is obviously changing, you may have different expenses that you didn’t have before, and you have new savings goals. So putting time into your budget is important!

If you want to learn a little more about budgeting, please check out my previous podcast episodes, specifically episodes #4, #8, and #10 to learn more.

2. Learn about your employee-benefits package

This step may sound boring and not that fun, but once you actually dive in to your package, it is super interesting!

Take a moment to see what percentage your employer will match on your 401k (or if you have a different type of plan, still check the percentage match). Look at your health insurance and take note of the premium (which is the cost of the insurance), your deductible, and your out-of-pocket maximum amount.

Check to see what insurance policies your company may offer you such as life insurance or disability insurance. Also, make sure to learn if there are bonuses or stock plans in place to offer you more compensation.

There are so many elements to look at in your employee benefits plan. If you have a financial advisor, ask them to take a look at all of these elements to that they can add it to your plan.

3. Have a life outside of work

Many people burnt out at their first job. It’s a new environment with new expectations, new people, and a new schedule. It can be easy to make work all-consuming and feel like you’re living for the weekend.

But one aspect of financial health is to have a healthy work-life balance. Of course, it is important to work hard while you’re young so that you can grow your wealth, pay off debt, and make a name for yourself, but if work isn’t sustainable, it won’t be fulfilling in the long run.

So how can you have a life outside of work?

To answer this question, I will share a great article from the Harvard Business Review titled: “Do You Have a Life Outside of Work?”

I just wanted to share a couple of quotes from the article that really stuck out to me. The author, a man named Rob Cross, opened up the article with a story about his friend who was successful but burnt out.

The article shares that the burnout out friend said:

“I had a business trip cancelled and free time out of nowhere. I went home on a beautiful summer day and as I pulled into my driveway realized my family was scattered doing their things and that I had no friends to reach out to or hobbies that I had once loved. I sat in the car for more than an hour thinking about how I had gotten to that point.”

The author, Rob Cross went on to explain in his article:

“This comment from a well-regarded software executive reflects a pattern I’ve seen in my work with hundreds of successful executives. Leaving college with a range of interests and friends they choose a career that optimizes money, status, and sometimes a sense of impact. Work ramps up quickly to 12+ hour days, commute and travel result in less exercise fewer social events, and a general narrowing of their world to work and a few select friends. Buying a home and starting a family follows, further limiting social interaction and increasing financial pressures, thus making work even more central. At this point, these executives double down and move to a bigger home, better neighborhood, or into a school district that feels like a natural extension of what good providers do. Sometimes they upgrade twice. In any case, this is the step that leads them into an echo chamber, where there’s no time for friends (sometimes family) and work defines their entire existence for 5-8 years. They fall out of the final groups and activities that helped them cope with the stress they’ve put themselves under.”

I know that was a long excerpt from the article, but to me it was so impactful because it paints the picture of how so many successful people live their lives: on the outside, they are successful and thriving, but on the inside they are exhausted and empty.

So how do young people starting their careers work to avoid this burnout?

This Harvard Business Review article shares three main ideas:

“Shift just one activity to create diverse purpose-generating interactions.”

“Be intentional in small moments.”

“Boldly lean into times of transition.”

Let me tell you, I have been developing my career for a couple of years, and I have to agree that those three tips are so helpful. These three tips have the common denominators of trust, courage, and grace. You need to trust the process, have courage to take a step into the uncomfortable transition, and have grace with yourself when you don’t live up to your own expectations.

Being financially healthy is more than just saving and spending well. It also means taking care of your mental health and choosing to have a life outside of work.

Thank you all for checking out this blog post about what to do when you’ve graduated college. If you want to learn more, please check out the podcast episode on the Financial Wealth and Health Podcast. Click here to listen!


Securities and Advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC. Desert Wealth Management and LPL Financial are separate entities.

LPL Financial and Desert Wealth Management do not provide tax or legal advice. Clients should consult with their personal tax and/or legal advisors regarding their circumstances.

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