I always had a part-time job during high school and college. My parents instilled a strong work ethic in me and I always had at least one part-time job. In fact, one crazy summer, I had three. So I assumed I’d start working full-time immediately once I graduated from New York University. Earning my own money was a point of pride but also something I took seriously for my burgeoning career.
So I applied for jobs and went on interviews. But it turned out that entry-level positions for recent college students, even in New York City, were more competitive than I’d expected. I found myself quickly becoming discouraged and panicked. My paid internship during senior year had an end date and I had exactly zero savings. So I thought I had to take the first job that was offered to me: A newspaper reporter job in my Connecticut hometown that paid a salary of $21,000. My starting date was a mere week after graduation.
I still wonder what might have happened if I had given myself more time to job-hunt instead of hopping on the first position that I was offered. Would it have been so bad to waitress for a bit, bum around my parents’ house and keep sending out job applications? To be honest, I never even considered it. I refused to consider any other job after graduation than one working in journalism. I was too much of a control freak to “wait and see.” So even though I was qualified to do more, I was too scared to try. And so I settled for less.
I lived and worked in my suburban town, one of the wealthiest and most expensive places to live in the country, for a year-and-a-half. I moved back in with my parents because, of course, I couldn’t afford to rent my own place. (All the other reporters lived with their parents, too.) I kicked Mom and Dad money for rent as a symbolic gesture at first, but after paying for my own food, my phone, therapy appointments, medications, gas, car payments, and the student loans that began six-months after graduation, there wasn’t much money left. The nature of my beat reporter job, which had me covering political goings-on two, three, even four evenings a night, made it impossible for me to take on a part-time job on top of my full-time “career.”
I worked all the time, spent all my money on bills, and had no social life.
I got some good professional experience at the newspaper, to be sure, but financially, taking a job that underpaid me was one of the poorest decisions I’ve ever made. I wanted to work so badly that I didn’t realize a low-paying job in an expensive location was the worse decision in the long run. I spent just about all the money that I earned, paycheck after paycheck, and I saved so little during that time that it actually kept me further from achieving my goal of moving back to NYC (the media capital of the world, where all the jobs were).
It was only after two more slightly-better-paying jobs later and a $600 loan from my dad that I made it back to NYC—and jobs where I was finally earning what I was worth.
Sure, having a job is better than no job. I understand why 21-year-old me panicked! But I should have given myself more time to look for work. That’s why I don’t recommend you take the first job that’s thrown your way. It may sound like the right decision to make in the short term but it may end up hurting you in the long-term when you have no savings.
[recommended_reading link=”https://learn.stash.com/saving-vs-investing”] VIDEO: Saving vs. Investing [/recommended_reading]