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Tips for 2020 Graduates Entering the Job Market

June 10, 2020

While your last semester may have been online, you’ve graduated nonetheless, and you’re finally ready to head out into the world and face the job market. After graduating amidst a global pandemic, you may feel a bit uncertain about your job prospects coming out of college. The fact is you’re entering the job market at a somewhat inopportune time – job openings on Glassdoor have dropped 20.5% after all, and articles are published weekly on the status of the 2020 graduate. However, there’s no need to panic. We’re here to tell you that you’re more prepared than you think, and there are still jobs out there for you. But just in case you feel uncertain, we’ve compiled 5 tips to help you seamlessly enter the job market.

 

Be Practical

It’s no secret that the economy is on somewhat shaky footing, making it a little more difficult than usual to get that perfect job. Obviously, that perfect job is the ideal, but now is the time to be practical and expand your job search. Look in areas that you may not have considered before or in fields other than your major. These may be lower-paying than you’d hope for, but the work experience is still valuable, and stepping out of your comfort zone won’t go unnoticed when pursuing future opportunities. Search on job sites like Indeed for entry-level jobs and work from there. Your college also likely has a career center that can help you find employment. Reach out to them to see what help they can offer. Many colleges have partnered with platforms like Handshake that serve to link students with employers.

 

Acquire Skills

If you want to hold out for a job in your chosen field, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Now is the perfect time to acquire skills that your employers will find valuable and that will benefit you in the long run. You might take this time to practice job interviews to improve your interview skills. The more interviews you do, the more comfortable you will be during them. As such, never turn one down, even if you aren’t interested. It’s still worth gaining the experience. As for skills that will make you more appealing to prospective employers, sites like Linkedin Learning can help you brush up on things you know or help you pick up new skills. Online classes can also serve as a way to pass the time while acquiring new skills. While building new skills doesn’t bring in immediate income, these skills will serve to make you more valuable to a prospective employer and could improve your income in the future.

 

Polish What Employers Will See

Employers see a wide variety of things when looking at a prospective candidate. The resume is perhaps one of the most important. Now is the time to perfect your resume. Add in any relevant work experience you may have forgotten to add. Do some research on what employers are looking for on a resume. This should be an ongoing process. Your resume should be constantly evolving as you acquire new skills and experiences. Likewise, this is the perfect time to get your social media profiles polished. Many employers use social media as a vetting tool for prospective employees. Remove any material that could hinder you from being hired, and, in particular, get your Linkedin profile as professional and complete as possible. Employers love Linkedin, and as more and more of the hiring process is moved online, it has become an invaluable tool for them to look at prospective hires. Thus, it is important for your Linkedin to be filled out and representative of you and your workplace skills

 

Expand Your Circle

As important as your skills, networking is essential is you are in the job market. Particularly in these uncertain times, an effective network can mean the difference between being employed and not. Reach out to people in your field via Linkedin or other social media outlets. Ask questions and demonstrate your interest. You may be able to get an interview with them. Even if a job doesn’t come of it, your demonstrated interest will place you in the back of their minds as well as provide you with valuable interview experience. Similarly, interacting with people within your prospective field on any of your social media platforms is beneficial to you. Employers want to see that you are engaged within the wider community of the field. Also, be sure to attend virtual industry meetups and conventions. The importance of becoming involved cannot be understated.

 

Persevere

It’s important to treat your job search as a job because, for a time, it is your job. Stay at it, and constantly be reaching out to prospective employers. It can be hard to stay motivated in the job search, but remember that this is necessary. Plan out your job search and keep track of the contacts you make. They could be useful later on. Make sure to take breaks when necessary. Like any job, the job search is tiring and can lead to burnout, so make sure that you rest between sending out those surges of applications. Eventually, you will make it.

 

Congratulations on graduating. Now for your next challenge. It would be a lie to claim this as a great time to enter the job market, and it is certainly an unfortunate time for you to graduate. The job search will be difficult, but by working hard and following these five tips, you could certainly still succeed. You can do it. If you’re looking for more post-graduation tips, we’ve got you covered. Check out this article on saving money after graduation.

 


 

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Graduate student sitting in class
2020-11-19
The Differences Between Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans

If you are thinking about getting a graduate degree and you have undergraduate student loans, you probably have some familiarity with borrowing student loans for school. However, when you are deciding how to pay for graduate school, there are some key differences you should know that can help you save some money.   

Federal Graduate Student Loan Considerations

Interest Rates

Federal graduate student loans often have higher interest rates than federal undergraduate student loans. A higher interest rate results in more interest costs, meaning you are paying more money to borrow the loan. Interest rates can change annually, so it’s important to know the current rates when you’re considering taking out student loans.   The difference in interest rates can add up to thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. When borrowing federal graduate student loans you want to be cognizant of only borrowing the amount you actually need since you will be paying a much higher interest rate on the loan.    

FAFSA

When applying for Federal Student Aid, you are required to fill out the FAFSA form, as you likely did for your undergraduate degree. The major difference is graduate students are considered independent students as opposed to dependent students, and therefore, your parent’s financial information is not needed. In addition, as an independent student, you may earn less than your parents, which could make additional financial aid available.   

Higher Borrowing Limits 

Federal graduate student loans have higher borrowing limits to cover the higher cost of tuition. For undergraduates, the maximum that can be borrowed depends on your year in school and whether you are a dependent or independent student, with limits ranging from $9,500 to $12,500 per year. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per year in direct unsubsidized loans. There is no limit to how much can be borrowed in Grad PLUS loans, except for the cost of attendance.    These higher limits can be helpful when you need to cover all the expenses related to graduate school. However, this can lead to borrowing large loans at high interest rates that may be difficult to repay. Since graduate loans can be used to pay living expenses it is important to continue living on a budget and only borrowing the amount necessary.    

No Subsidized Loans 

With subsidized loans, interest does not accrue while you are in school. Unfortunately, that option is not available for federal graduate student loans. Your graduate student loan options include Direct Unsubsidized loans and Direct PLUS loans, which both begin accruing interest as soon as they are disbursed.   To avoid accruing more interest than necessary, be sure to minimize your graduate school expenses and loans. Also, if you are able to pay at least the interest costs while you are in school this will prevent you from having a larger total to pay back after graduation.   If you find yourself in need of greater financial flexibility, then consider student loan refinancing with a private lender after graduation. This option could decrease your interest rate and monthly student loan payment.  

Additional Graduate Student Loan Considerations

Financial Aid More Limited 

Undergraduates have several financial aid options based on need, such as the Federal Pell Grant, which in many cases does not have to be repaid.   Although grants and other forms of financial aid are sometimes available to graduate students, these options are more limited. Some financial aid options that may be available for graduate school include grants, scholarships, fellowships and federal and private student loans.  

Loan Fees

You may pay higher origination fees for federal graduate student loans versus undergraduate student loans. The origination fees are a percentage of the total loan amount you borrow. This fee will be taken out of your loan disbursement which lowers the actual amount you will receive, but the full amount of the loan is required to be paid back.    Some private lenders, like ELFI, do not charge an origination fee for loans, so be sure to consider that when comparing loan options.   

The Benefit of Private Graduate Student Loans

Private student loans may be more beneficial for graduate school than undergraduate student loans. That's because you may be able to score a lower interest rate on a private student loan if you have an excellent credit history. Private student loan interest rates are based on your income and credit history, so if you are looking to return to school while you are still employed, they may be a good option for you.  

Refinancing Your Graduate Student Loans

If you already have undergraduate and graduate student loans, student loan refinancing could help you to save money on your monthly payment and on interest costs. Refinancing is when you obtain a new loan to pay off previous student loans. You can refinance both federal and private undergraduate and graduate student loans.  

The Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between undergraduate and graduate student loans can help you make an informed decision about the best way to fund your education. If you have significant student debt, student loan refinancing could help you to save money and pay down your loans more quickly.
Girl writing a scholarship essay
2020-11-17
6 Tips to Help Ace Your Scholarship Essay

College is expensive. The good news is that scholarships provide a fantastic way to make the college experience a less expensive and more manageable one. There are thousands of scholarships out there from merit-based scholarships to scholarships for those planning on going into very specific fields.   One thing that may feel intimidating when applying for scholarships is that many require completion of an essay. However, with a little preparation and hard work, the scholarship essay can be an easy way to show off your personality and explain why you deserve the scholarship. It’s one of your strongest tools to set you apart from other candidates. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of scholarship essay tips:  

Start Early

One of the best scholarship essay tips is to give yourself plenty of time to write and rewrite. Any writer will tell you that writing is a process of revision, and the best way to get ahead in that process is to start early.   Take a look at the essay prompts and requirements. Consider building out an outline. Write. Rewrite. Take your time. Since you’ve started so early, there’s no reason to worry about deadlines just yet.  

Be Passionate

The scholarship essay is your chance to really show who you are. They can’t tell what you are interested in and how spectacular you are from your paperwork and grades. The essay is the real test.   When you are choosing something to write about, another scholarship essay tip is to select a subject that you're passionate about. If you write about something that makes you happy, the reader is sure to understand that you feel strongly about the subject and enjoy your essay even more.   In addition, the essay readers don’t want to hear about something pessimistic or negative, so keep the tone positive or show how you turned a negative experience into a positive one. Even consider writing about a time where you learned from failure.  

Get Personal

Sometimes it can be hard to share emotions and personal details in your writing. These details, however, also give the essay readers a genuine sense of who you are.   Your experiences and feelings are totally unique, and sharing them in your essay will set you apart. Regardless of the seriousness of whatever story you tell, don’t be afraid to show your personality. It’s always better to, especially since your application already covers your academic and personal achievements.  

Edit

Because you started early, you’ll have plenty of time to edit your essay. A well-edited essay is one of the most important parts of any scholarship application. Far more important than having incredible stories of struggle and failure is the ability to write a cohesive and grammatically correct essay.   So when you’re writing, take the time to go back through your work and correct any grammar and spelling mistakes first. Then consider putting your essay into a tool like Grammarly which will check spelling, grammar and diction.   After that, it’s always worth giving your essay to someone to read. Ask your teachers, family, friends, anyone to trust to read over your essay and provide feedback. Remember, the more feedback the better.  

Have Fun

A scholarship essay tip you may not have considered is to enjoy the process of writing. Essays should have a hook, meaning something fun to engage the reader. Some humor (or pathos) can make your essay much more effective.   Understandably, with so much on the line, it’s easy to forget that the purpose of this essay is to show off your personality, but don’t forget to have some fun. Provide a nice balance of serious content and levity. Your readers will appreciate it, and you’ll be left with a stronger essay.  

Leave Some Things Out

Profanity

With all the talk of having fun and being yourself, you might get a little carried away. Be warned: there are some things you should leave out of your college essay, including profanity or inappropriate language. Simply put, it’s unprofessional, and it makes it seem that you aren’t taking the essay seriously.  

Cliches

Next to avoid would be cliches. It’s easy to churn out a cliche-ridden success story, especially when you’re following a common prompt, for example, learning from failure or overcoming adversity. Watch out for overused phrases in your writing, and avoid them when you can.  

Casual Writing

Finally and most importantly, write formally without losing your sense of personality. This means eliminating any text speak. No “LOLs” or emojis. It also means that you should keep your use of contractions to a minimum. They may be great for casual writing, but removing them from your essay will make it seem all the more polished.  

The Bottom Line

Writing a college scholarship essay doesn’t have to be intimidating. Follow the instructions and try your best to show off who you are in order to most effectively reach your readers. The fact is, regardless of whether or not you receive a scholarship right away, there are thousands ready to accept your application.   Best of all, since you’ve started early, you have plenty of time to work on dozens more essays and applications. By following these tips, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of scholarship success.   If despite your scholarships you still find yourself burdened by student debt, check out these great ways to pay off your student loans faster here.
Looking over different types of employee benefits
2020-11-11
Navigating Insurance and Benefits as a New Employee

Starting a new job can be an exciting experience. However, after you begin, there’s a good chance you’ll be confronted with a bunch of paperwork detailing types of employee benefits and asking you to make decisions about insurance and retirement plans.   Understanding job benefits is an important part of making sure that you get more from your employment. Here’s what you need to know about how to choose the right benefits for you.  

Retirement Plan

The first rule of employee benefits is to sign up for the
company retirement plan. Many workplaces offer a 401(k), but you might also see a 403(b) or 457(b) plan. Smaller workplaces might offer to help you contribute to an IRA.   No matter what this plan is called, however, a retirement plan is one of the most important types of employee benefits because it allows you to receive a tax benefit as you save for your future. Some employers offer a matching contribution. If your company will match a portion of your contribution, it often makes sense to adjust your paycheck so you get the maximum match.   For example, let’s say your company will match 100% of your contribution, up to 3% of your income. If that’s the case, you want to try to have 3% of your income withheld from your paycheck each month in order to take full advantage of this benefit. You can increase your contributions later, but if you’re just starting out, it can make sense to at least get your full match. As your finances improve, you can increase your retirement contributions or start investing in other ways.  

Health Insurance

When considering the importance of employee benefits, health insurance is at the top of the list. The cost of healthcare continues to rise, and a company that provides access to less-expensive health insurance can be very valuable.    Review your own health needs and situation as you look at different health plan options. When deciding how to choose the right benefits for healthcare, it has a lot to do with cost, as well as your individual needs. If you don’t have a lot of need for medications or a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment, you might be able to get a lower-cost plan with less coverage and higher out-of-pocket requirements.   On the other hand, if you have more healthcare needs, employer health insurance can help. You might need a more expensive plan, but it’s likely to be more affordable than trying to get coverage on your own.  

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

In recent years, more companies are offering health insurance plans that come with HSAs. An HSA allows you to save for health care costs over time. You can have some of your paycheck set aside in a special account that allows your money to grow tax-free. You do have to meet certain requirements to qualify — including a plan that has a high deductible. If you can afford to pay more out of pocket due to a high deductible, one of these plans can be useful.   For those who might not be able to get a high-deductible plan, a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) can be a good health-related benefit. It, too, comes with tax benefits. However, the main drawback to the FSA is that you might have to use the money or lose it, while HSA funds always roll over from year to year.  

Other Insurance

Some companies also offer other insurance benefits that can be valuable as an employee.   
  • Life insurance: If you’re looking for an affordable way to protect your income on behalf of your loved ones, life insurance can make sense. However, not everyone needs to get life insurance through work. Carefully consider your needs. There are many term life companies that offer low-cost plans that might meet your needs.
  • Disability insurance: Check to see if your company offers this employee benefit. If you’re hurt or have a long-standing illness, this type of insurance can help you pay your bills. This is different from Workers Compensation insurance, which covers you if your injury or illness is directly related to your job. Consider if you’ll be able to pay your bills if you’re temporarily or permanently unable to work.
  Look at your own needs. In some cases, you get a certain amount of coverage for free, so take advantage of that. Then, see if you need additional coverage on top of what’s already offered for free. Compare prices to see if it makes sense to buy additional coverage.  

Student Loan Benefit

An increasingly popular employer benefit is a student loan repayment benefit. While Congress has yet to provide a tax break for this type of employee benefit, it can still be valuable. If your company offers to help you pay a portion of your student loans, or offers a matching repayment option, you could end up getting rid of student debt a little bit faster. Having someone else help you pay off a portion of your student loans can be a big relief, and help you better position your finances for the future.   Just make sure that you weigh your matching retirement contribution against your student loan matching repayment benefit. In many cases, it might make more sense to get your full retirement match first and then put the remaining toward taking advantage of a matching student loan repayment benefit. Run the numbers to see what makes the most sense for you, keeping in mind the power of compounding returns on investments.  

Other Types of Employee Benefits

Finally, you might have access to other types of employee benefits that can be useful to you as you move forward, depending on your situation.   
  • Child care: Some employers offer to help you pay for child care, including a special Flexible Savings Account aimed at covering daycare and preschool costs.
  • Health stipend: In addition to health insurance, some employers offer a stipend for gym memberships, healthy meal delivery plans and more. Check to see if you can get help with these items through an extra benefit.
  • Education: You might have access to tuition reimbursement for continuing education or a stipend for courses or certain books.
  • Financial literacy: Some employers offer access to financial planning services that can help you navigate your benefits as well as make progress in other areas of your financial life.
  Speak with your human resources representative to help you with understanding job benefits, then take some time to think about your individual situation and needs so that you put together a job benefits package designed to work best for you.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no­­­ control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.