I’d do it differently

I entered college, fall 2003, a young and ambitious accounting major. I picked accounting because I  knew they made a lot of money and I was pretty bada$$ with a TI-83. While I did well in my first macroeconomics course, I quickly realized that “business” related subjects were of no interest to me. My introduction to psychology course, however, was a different story. I was fascinated by the content. I loved learning about the brain and how people work. I changed my major after my first semester, and eventually walked across the stage with a B.A. in Psych.

I don’t regret being a psych major for one minute. I loved my classes, LOVED my professors (I actually played tennis with them every Tuesday and Thursday morning), and just generally loved the whole psych department. That said, if I traveled back in time to 2003, I am 99% sure I would not graduate with a degree in psychology.

While I may have loved the content and the people in my major, I didn’t really love the career fields psych generally leads to (i.e. counseling). I almost feel like my degree limits my potential, especially when it comes to job hunting. My degree does very little to highlight my strengths. When a recruiter reviews my resume and sees a B.A. in Psychology, he is not going to know that I also took Organic Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, and Biochemistry (none of which were required by my major). While I could have taken “bowling”, “Intro to photography”, or some other class to satisfy the credits required to graduate, I decided to take challenging courses for my general electives.

Do I believe your major is the determining factor in one’s career potential? Absoultely not. But there are positions I would love to apply for, but can’t, simply because I don’t have a degree in business administration or the like. Take for example the Finance industry. It would be darn near impossible for me to land an interview for any kind of legitimate position in the financial sector… even though I may be more knowledgeable and capable than other applicants with business related degrees. Ten years down the road, I’m sure my education will become less of a factor with prospective employers, but when you are 24 years old, and have only a few years of work under your belt, you better believe your education is going to be HEAVILY considered.

That said, I refuse to let my degree be a limiting factor in my career growth. There are a million different means by which I can prove to my prospective employer that I really am the best candidate for the job, even if my degree is not specifically related to the field. And you better believe I will be highlighting each of those strengths during my next interview.

If I had the opportunity to do college again I would probably get my degree in Statistics or Math. And I would probably have gone to a state school instead of a private college (although I totally loved my school). Gosh, this makes me want to go punch a business major in the face (only kidding). Okay, I’m done dwelling on the past. Time to move forward.

What was your major in college?

If you could do college again, would you choose a different major?

If you didn’t go to college, do you wish you did?

Anyone out there that went to college, wish they hadn’t?

p.s. if you are wondering if you blew it when you picked your major, take a look at this chart of the ten “worst” college degrees…

College Degrees                Starting Salary

  1. Social Work                        $33,400
  2. Elementary Education         $33,000
  3. Theology                            $34,800
  4. Music                                 $34,000
  5. Spanish                              $35,600
  6. Horticulture                        $37,200
  7. Education                           $36,200
  8. Hospitality/Tourism           $37,000
  9. Fine Arts                            $35,800
  10. Drama                                $35,600

Help a young grad out :)

Got an email from a loyal PDITFer. Here’s what it said…

I have a bit of a decision to make and heard from a birdie that you are the man for financial/life questions…i kinda just need a wall to bounce ideas off of.  Here’s some background info first. I just graduated, have a great job lined up with the company I want to work for, doing what i want to do, and in the right ballpark money wise ($55-60k)…not a home run but definitely a solid single/double, and great benefits plus a 6% 401k match (great right).

Problem…just got some info on a possible job working in a different city as an entry level civil engineer for that city STARTING out at $70-$75k which could easily jump a year later. Now I don’t want to toot my own horn but I think I am a great candidate for the job and have better than a 50/50 chance of nailing it…not exactly the job i want to do though.  My questions are these, should I at the very least apply for it, take it if i get it, or stick to my guns (the job i already have lined up, since it is very much what i want to do and has a lucrative career path of its own)?

Ahhh, To be a whore to money, or not to be, that is the question. One that you already know the answer to. Being that you are a recent college student I am going to assume you were either not working, or only working part time while in school. This means you have been use to living a minimalist lifestyle (hopefully). Although making $70K/yr would be awesome, I think you’d find a $55-$60K salary will afford you virtually the same lifestyle. Heck I graduated college making $38K/yr and let me tell you, I felt like a millionaire.

Let’s look at two statements you made to describe these jobs. For the first position you said…

“I just graduated, have a great job lined up with the company I want to work for, doing what i want to do

And for the civil engineering position you said…

“…NOT exactly the job i want to do though”

That puts the nail in the coffin as far as I’m concerned. The lower (but still adequate) paying position sounds like a great gig, with great benefits, and great potential. The higher paying position sounds like the only thing it has going for it is the pay.

I personally made a commitment to myself to never work a job I didn’t love. I mean come on, we are WAAAAAY to young to be miserable in our respective careers. Not even money can make a crappy job fun. All it can do is make a crappy job a little less miserable. Besides, you can always find another miserable position down the road if you want, but the good jobs are few and far between.

Nonetheless, I would still encourage you to apply for the higher paying gig. If nothing else it will give you some more interviewing experience and a chance to learn more about the position. I’m totally convinced options are a good thing, so I say open as many doors as possible. But for now I’d stick with the job you’d enjoy doing. Oh and I need you to pinky promise me you will live well within your means, regardless of your pay?!

What would your advice be to our recent college grad? Would you sacrifice a great job, for a mediocre one that has better pay?

Do’s and Dont’s of college

Being that I am a semi recent college graduate (class of ’07), I figured I would throw in my two cents on the college experience, particularly in reference to one’s financial situation. I would say I had decent financial habits in college, but I was by no means perfect. Here are some “Do’s and Dont’s” to you get you through those four years unscathed…

Do look in to going to a public school. I made the decision to go private and man oh man did I pay for that choice. My school ran about $30k/yr, quite a bit different than the $5K-10k/yr public school options. Looking back I wish I would have considered going to the University of Washington. Heck, it’s probably a more prestigious school, and definitely better known, than my Alma mater. It’s okay though, I don’t regret my choice as I had the best four years of my life, but I SHOULD have explored public options more carefully.

Don’t drop out. Yeah that’s right. If you start college…finish. I can’t tell you how many kids I went to school with that didn’t come back after the first year. They paid $30K for that one year, and don’t have a degree to show for it. School can be hard, life happens, and money will be an issue, but you better do everything in your power to make sure you graduate from somewhere, even if it’s PDU (Punch Debt University).

Do work part time. I don’t care if you are working 5hrs/wk or 40hrs/wk, but try and make some money. I know, being a full time student can be stressful, but I bet part of that stress comes from being broke. You don’t need to be earning enough to contribute to a Roth IRA (although that would definitely be sexy), I just want you to be able to cover the majority of your personal expenses (food, clothes, school stuff, etc). It also will give you something to put on your resume come graduation time. Think about it, if you were on a hiring panel would you hire someone who graduated college with a 3.5 GPA and no work experience or someone with a 3.5 GPA who also had a job during those four years? I’m going with the latter.

Don’t use that fricken credit card you signed up for. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been watching you. Some dude at a booth said “Hey fill out an application for this credit card and we will give you this frisbee” and you filled it out didn’t you…DIDN’T YOU!? I too took advantage of a “free shirt” offer, but I actually lied on the application and input all fake info (which I think is actually a crime, but I didn’t know it at the time). Fortunately, I never accumulated a credit card balance while in school and you need to do the same. This is a non-negotiable. Credit cards can not be the means by which you provide yourself food and textbooks.

Do get good grades. Sounds like a no brainer right? But are you really applying yourself in all of your classes. I sure didn’t. In fact I got an A in Organic Chemistry, but a B in Art 101. I picked and chose which classes I wanted to succeed in and where I was okay falling short. I wish I could go back in time and try just a little bit harder. When you graduate your GPA is going to be a huge bartering tool for you. Yes, your college GPA will become less important as you establish yourself in the work place, but until that time comes, it is your most valuable asset. If you graduated with honors don’t be shy about telling your prospective employers about it during an interview. It shows that you are dedicated to working hard and doing well.

Don’t grow up too fast. If you are the typical 20-something college student you have a responsibility requirement to act like it. Have fun. Pull stupid pranks on your dorm mates. Stay up really late and watch movies. Once you graduate college, you have to enter the 9-5 world, and let me tell you… it ain’t pretty. Midnight burrito runs are a thing of the past. Enjoy the college lifestyle.

Do take advantage of EVERYTHING your school has to offer. I was heavily involved in various college activities. Sporting events, clubs, organizations, all at your fingertip. There are so many FREE programs available to college students, you would have to be stupid to not take advantage of them. You aren’t stupid, are you?

So there ya have it, some of my thoughts on the college experience. Take them with a grain of salt as they are only my opinions, and last time I checked, my opinion meant nothing.

I’d love to get some more input on today’s post (especially if you are still in college)

1) For those in school, what year are you and where do you go?

2) For those that have graduated, any other Do’s or Dont’s you would add to the list?

3) Any other advice, support, or comments you would like to mention?

Time for a quarter-life crisis

I’m hoping today’s post will be therapeutic, not so much for your benefit, but for mine (I know, I’m selfish). I was on a walk with Girl Ninja the other day and we grabbed some dinner at Subway. All three of the Subway employees appeared to be in their mid 20’s. I walked out slightly depressed that I didn’t work at Subway.

Yeah I know….I’m freakin’ crazy. I have a pretty awesome job, but sometimes I wish my job was kinda lame. Deep down inside I dream of working at Starbucks, McDonalds, or Costco. Why? Because they can all be part time and have flexible shifts. I went from immature college senior to special agent working for the government in just a couple months.

I thought it was an unwritten law: After college you must bum off mom and dad for a couple years, work a part time job, spend your free time hanging out with friends and backpack Europe (twice). After two years in the workforce, I’m feeling like McDonalds wouldn’t be so bad. Not because I hate my job, but I would love the freedom to have a completely fluid work schedule. 

I know, I shouldn’t be whining like a little school girl right now. There are a ton of college graduates out there that would love to do what I do. Heck, I love doing what I do, but sometimes I’m a little envious of the part-time lifestyle. I was blessed to get the job I did, and know it’s going to pay off huge in the long run, but the kid-ninja inside of me just wants to rap to Ludacris and play some video games, maybe even watch a little Spongebob.

Am I the only one suffering from a minor quarter-life crisis? Anyone else experience a little “Holy crap, I’m kind of an adult” moment? Will my passion to be part-time slowly fade? Or am I doomed to envy those that live on their parents couch forever?

I aint need no Kollege

After two years in the work force, I’m learning a lot about the way the world works. Particularly in reference to my college degree. It really is funny how much emphasis has been placed on the value of a bachelors. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re important, but to be perfectly honest…I don’t really need it for the job I’m doing.

I honestly didn’t take one class that is even remotely related to my career. I know, I know college is not necessarily about the degree you receive, but the work ethic necessary to reach graduation day. But why is a degree an ABSOLUTE requirement for most professional positions?

Take for example family physicians. They have to take all kinds of science and math classes as prerequisites for medical school. I’m sorry, but I don’t really remember the last time my doctor needed to know the formula for the inelastic collision of two objects. I’m pretty sure he just needs to know what my body temperature should be, how fast my heart should be beating, and other random stuff about my body. Why are physics and calculus a requirement for ALL doctors? I don’t care if my doc knows how to do integrals, I want to know if he can cure my gonnohrea cold. Best way to cure someone of their sickness is to be exposed to a million other people with that sickness, not take earth science.

Think about how different life would be without mechanics. We would all be screwed and have no way to get our cars fixed. I’m taking a shot in the dark, but I’m willing to bet most mechanics didn’t go to college. Instead, they shadow and work with mechanics day in and day out for years, and eventually (if they know their ‘ish) will get to work on cars without supervision. Why doesn’t that philosophy apply to more positions. A degree is required for my position, but I can tell you right now, I don’t think anything I do is beyond the intellectual capacity of an 18 year old, although it is above the maturity of most kids that age.

Some of you may be getting a little offended thinking I’m saying your degree is useless. Sorry, but it’s probably true. The primary reason a degree is valuable is because society says so. Be honest, is your degree absolutely essential to your position. Not meaning is it a requirement to get the job, but would you be a total waste of space at work without it? All I’m saying is I think “on the job” training is really what helps us be great employees, not a bland degree in business administration.

p.s. if you are a physician, thanks for suffering through o-chem and microbiology, my body appreciates it 🙂

Dear Sallie Mae

I’m sorry. I have called you some pretty mean names during the last 8 months of my blogging career. Whore bag, ho bag, douche bag, and just about any other kind of “bag” are some of the insults that come to mind. I have been rather harsh and feel that an apology is in order.

As you know, I currently owe you $17,500 in student loan debt. I’ve held a grudge against you, when in fact I am mad at myself. You didn’t force me to take out student loans and you didn’t force me to consolidate the loans I did take out. That was a choice I made on my own. In fact, if it student loans didn’t exist I would not have been able to attend the wonderful college I did.

Am I happy that I have debt? No. Am I grateful for four years of awesomeness. Hell yea. I would pay $17,500 today, if it meant I could go back and relive my college experience. I pretend to be mad at you for three reasons. First, I hate debt, and since you are the owner of my current debt, I am obligated to hate you as well. Secondly, you never informed me about the negatives associated with consolidating a student loan. Lastly, it’s fun. Who else can I call a douche bag that wont punch me in the face for doing so?

I have learned an expensive, but valuable lesson: You are more than happy to take my money. I regret to inform you, that I will be minimizing the the profit you can make from my debt. With the giant payments I have been making each month, our relationship will not last much longer. Consider this official notice, of my intent to break up with you.

While your death grip may currently be wrapped around my neck, I will survive. I’m sorry for all the terrible names I have called you, but please do not expect me to stop. You’re my number one whore girl 🙂

Respectfully,

College habits die hard

You remember the days of top ramen, hot pockets, wearing the same pair of jeans for two weeks in a row, and strategically planning your gas tank to be on empty when mom and dad came to visit? These were typical college experiences for many of us. I did some thinking over the weekend, and realized I still have some old college habits.

Although I like to think of myself as an “okay” cook, there is just something about a mother’s cooking that can’t be matched. I tutor a lot of high school kids and have become pretty good friends with them and their families over the years. One of the perks of knowing so many local families…they frequently invite me over for dinner. I definitely jump at any and all opportunities to score some free grub. In college, I stood outside of a Chiptole for two hours just to get a free burrito….frugal much?

Not only do I keep some of my old frugal food habits, but ya know I am still reppin’ the Target plastic storage bins with pride. You know the one’s, that you would slide underneath your college bunk to store unwanted junk (hehe that rhymed). Well, six years later, I still have those same bins. They have come in handy as sock and underwear drawers. Most people keep undergarments in a dresser, but the plastic bins have treated me fine and I have no intentions to upgrade any time soon.

Oh how about this one…I still order water just about every time I dine out. One of my favorite college maneuvers was the free glass of water at dinner. It easily saved me $3 bucks on my bill each time, as opposed to ordering a drink. I love water, but I realize whenever I go out to eat with my parental units (they pay of course) I almost always order a soda or lemonade. What does this mean? It’s means I’m a cheap bastard and never fork out for a “luxury” drink when I’m out with friends.

Lastly, sometimes I’m too cheap to buy toilet paper so I forgo wiping for a couple days. Just kidding, it’s Monday morning, so I thought I would throw that little curve ball in there just to wake ya’ll back up 🙂

I have some other awkward college habits that I never parted with, but I am far too embarrassed to disclose. Maybe I’ll save them for another day. Now it’s your turn to take a walk down memory lane, and share some of the habits you never let go of after you received your diploma. At what point should we give up the ramen noodles and plastic storage bins? I keep telling myself when I get married I will grow up 🙂

p.s. I promise I really do wipe every time (too much information?)