By: Richard Partheymuller II
For a college graduate, the first six months of the “real world” are the slowest and sometimes most overwhelming parts to life. There’s no questioning that there is a looming pressure of finding a job, excelling at that job, liking that job, and somehow figuring out how to navigate monthly loan repayment plans. Because of those reasons, recent college graduates may feel like they’re walking a wire into the unknown. They reach that point in time when they now understand that graduation was the easy part. Then, they look at their other friends who graduated as well, and say “okay, so what now?”
Walking across that stage was easy. After you step off the stage, after you go to the restaurant with your family, after you send out thank you letters to all the people who helped you, that you’ll be staring the future in the eyes…it’s there that you begin to feel the pressure. We get that python called stress and it coils around us until we don’t know how we’re going to walk that wire anymore.
We felt safe in college, for the most part. Even though we had the late nights of studying different parts of the human heart, the principles needed for teaching preschoolers, or the architectural structure of bridges, we soon felt uncomfortable without the safety of college. The unknown towers over us as we walk down our own paths, but maybe we don’t have to be afraid. I set out to find out how true this is.
So, I reached out to a friend.
Enter Scott Royer.
Mr. Royer, 38, has been the athletic trainer and athletic coordinator for Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey for the past three years. Before that, Royer graduated with a Bachelor’s in Athletic Training from Rowan University in 2002 and received his Master in Educational Leadership, Management; Policy from Seton Hall University in 2004. Royer has worked in his field as an athletic trainer and physical education teacher at Lakeland Regional High School.
Royer also worked as the athletic trainer at the Jackson Township school district before ultimately coming to O.C.C. in 2014.
Those accomplishments seem to be knitted together, as if they were destined to happen. They didn’t come together overnight though. Royer still had to take that leap of faith out of college like everybody else, even with a stocked resume like his. That in mind, I decided to reach out to him, in an effort to seek wisdom, to see what advice he could give to recent college graduates.
A. How Does a College Graduate Handle the Transition into the Real World?
Q. I think that’s a question that has many layers. I think first and foremost, how do you define “the real world?” If the “real world” means they’re entering the workforce and putting their degree into use, you know, they have to find a job that meets their needs, challenges them, and brings them joy. You know the old saying is “if love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, I think that’s the first step is finding something that is really enriching. Then, doing the right thing with their money, you know, applying it to savings, or paying off debts, and putting down school loans, putting money away for to buy a home, or a slush fund that they can use for vacation, and things that they enjoy. You know, so I think that pretty much sums up all of the layers to it but I think there’s definitely multiple parts to the answer to that question.
Q. How Does a Graduate Decide Upon Which Wages to Aim For?
A. Well, I think a lot of degree programs already kind of spell that out for you while you’re in school. When you’re researching what you want to do for a living, you can look for all the statistics that relate to salary. They’re available to you. You pretty much can find the median salary for every profession out there. You know, even as it changes based off of geographic region and cost of living throughout the country. So, I think you kind of know already what you’re in for while you’re going through your degree program. Then, once you’re out and established, it’s really based on resume and experience. How well can you sell yourself? How well can you tell a potential employer “this I worth and this is why you should pay me this much. I mean, if you know how to sell yourself and you have a resume that exemplifies your skill set, then you’ll be in a good position to make the kind of money that you want to make. I also think you need to be realistic about it too. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere and experience is what will ultimately get you the salary that you’re looking for.
Q. When Do You Think is the Appropriate Time for a Graduate to Move Out of Their Parents’ Home?
A. I think when one week’s pay equals one month’s rent, you can afford to move out if you want a hard statistic. To expand upon that, I think everybody’s ready at different times. I think living in your parents house gives you the opportunity in many cases to save some money, to put some money away, so that way, you have a really good savings and you’re in a position to be financially independent. I think when you’re looking for a hard statistic, I think when one week’s pay equals one month’s rent, you can afford to move out.
Q. How Does a College Graduate Find the Balance Between Paying Off Loans and Doing Things That They Enjoy?
A. I think that’s the million dollar question, I think a lot of people struggle with that. All of a sudden they have all of this money in their pocket and they want to go out and enjoy themselves and spend it, and I think they should enjoy themselves. I just think you have to have a delicate balance. At the end of the day, you gotta pay your bills, and I think that has to come first. I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy yourself, but if you’re enjoying yourself and you’re living above your means, well, then that’s not really appropriate. I think basically, when you’re young and you don’t have that much overhead, you should be able to pay in cash for things. If you can’t pay cash for something, you really can’t afford to do it and you shouldn’t be doing it. So, I think that’s the best way to balance it. If don’t have the cash, don’t do it.
Q. What Are Some Common Pitfalls that You’ve Seen Graduates Fall Into?
A. Settling for jobs. Getting into jobs that they really don’t like, based on the idea that they didn’t really do their homework on what the job, the career was going to entail, maybe they just listened to what somebody told them what they think they should do, rather than actually research it themselves. Living above their means. Not knowing the value of a dollar. Living beyond what they’re capable of living in terms of fancy cars or maybe they move out too fast. They get into an apartment or a lease or something like that where the rent is just too high and they struggle that way. They end up spending a lot on credit cards and stuff like that, just digging a deeper debt for themselves. Again, a question with a lot of layers because there can be financial issues, there can be emotional issues. Obviously, the emotional issues of not liking a job or maybe you’re not getting the starting salary you’re looking for, so, that kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Going to work every day with a chip on your shoulder. I would say those are probably the biggest things.
Q. What Should Be a Graduate’s Mentality Be if They Have Yet to Find a Job Yet?
A. Just keep looking. Just keep searching. Broaden your search. Expand geographically, maybe you have to get out of dodge to find exactly what you’re looking for. Look out of state and really just keep your options open. The more flexibility you have, the better opportunities are going to be available to you.
Q. What Should Be a Graduate’s Mentality Be if They Are Employed but They Don’t Seem to Like it Anymore?
A. Always look, always keep your options open, and always look for something. Everybody has something that they like and if you have the opportunity to make money doing something that you like, you’re in a really, really good position. Always keep your options open and maybe you want to do something totally different. Maybe you have to go back to school to do that. You have to consider those options but you should always keep your options open and you should always be looking for something bigger and better. Never settle. Maybe you have to settle temporarily to pay the bills but that should just be a time where you’re holding down the fort until you find what you’re looking for.
Q. What Should a Graduate’s Attitude Be Toward a Big Job Offer Right Out College?
A. Big job, small job, good paying, low paying; does it meet your needs? What exactly are you looking for? Is it all about salary? Is it about a flexible schedule? Is it about assistance with tuition, to further your education? Is it assistance with paying your loans back? What are you looking for? It all depends on what that is. Some people are lucky enough to have a big, high-paying job, but with that comes a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility. Maybe you don’t have the learning curve you would if you started with more of an entry level position. You gotta do what you gotta do to stay ahead. You can’t chase the money and you can’t chase the title. All you need to do is put yourself into a position to be successful.
Q. How Should a Graduate Handle Stress and Anxiety?
A. In a healthy way. Exercise, eat right, talk to people, express yourself, be open minded. Listen. Listen to what people who’ve been there tell you. You don’t have to do it exactly like them, but they’ve been there, they have the experience. Don’t be afraid, if you’re really struggling, to go seek counseling. That’s what it’s there for. There are mental health professionals that have a business, it’s how they make a living, helping people who struggle like this, those are the people who you can’t be afraid to ask for help.
Q. Do You Have Any Closing Comments?
A. No, no. I just think you need to keep an open mind and be flexible. From what I’ve seen, dealing with young people these days is that everybody wants “now.” It’s instant gratification, they gotta have the best paying job and the great title. They have to have it now, they can’t wait their turn. They don’t want to put the work in. They don’t want to start at the bottom and work their way up. That’s what you have to do. Very very few people get to the top of their professions without having started way at the bottom. So, you have to resist the instant gratification and you have to take your time and be patient and let it come to you. You can’t chase it, you gotta let it come to you and it comes to everybody at different times. There are people who have high-level jobs in their 30s, and there are others who don’t get it until their 50s. It doesn’t mean the person in their 30s is better, it just means that was the path they took. You gotta let it come to you and you gotta take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself, but you can’t chase it. When you don’t get what you want, you’re only going to end up resentful. So, you gotta be patient and you just take your time, and take opportunity when it comes to you, and always, always, always keep your eyes open for other opportunities, because you should never settle.