So you have a degree in one hand, a CV in the other. You want to show off your best self – not just to potential employers, but to your current one, or even just to yourself. There are lots of ways to continue learning, save yourself some money, and increase your human capital.
1. Budget and manage your finances
One of the most important skills for a graduate to pick up – even before you claim your diploma – is how to make sure your money only goes to the places you want it going. Many of us don’t think about it during university or learn just the basics. But now is the perfect time to examine your monthly subscriptions, investments, and (perhaps expensive) lifestyle choices.
Luckily, for every person out there who wants to learn about finance, there are tens of sources for learning. I recommend the relatively new Financial Diet blog, which has an accompanying YouTube channel, or Money Crasher’s Top 5 Personal Finance Tips for College Grads. The University of York also offers free access to Blackbullion, a resource with modules that discuss budgeting, debt, credit scores, and more.
In a similar vein, learn how to identify your long-term financial goals – be it travel, a down payment on a house, or a new car – and plan for them. Work out how much it will likely cost for these big ticket items and a reasonable time frame to attain them. Follow the old business adage to ‘Pay yourself first.’ When you receive money, immediately put some of it aside in a separate account or in a sock under the mattress for the Going to Tahiti Fund. Even if it’s only a few pounds, these investments will pay off in the long run.
If you have another marketable skill, don’t be afraid to find ways to make a little money on the side. Play a few gigs at the local pub, sell two art pieces to friends for their anniversaries, offer to fix up someone’s website for a reasonable price. Your wallet will thank you later!
2. Learn basic coding skills
Certain computer skills will give you a leg up over other potential job/promotion-seeking candidates, and basic coding is definitely one of them. Even just understanding simple commands, such as how to change colours or font sizes, can be a helpful first step. The more you practice though, the more control you can have over a website you’re making, a statistical model you’re building, or an app you’re creating.
There are plenty of ways to learn different types of coding, and many of them are available for free. There’s Codecademy, where you can learn to make a website, an interactive website, Ruby, SQL, Java, and more. You can upgrade to a paid plan for more exclusive content.
Don’t forget to consider mastering other software too. Being the wizard who can use Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop, or Adobe Premiere is a good advantage to have on your side when negotiating your salary or job placement.
3. Basic people hacking
This skill might not sound as important as the coding above, but people like to work with people they like. Customers want to purchase your product and managers want to hire you if they see someone they like and respect when they look at you. That doesn’t mean that you need to be sugar and rainbows all the time, but it does mean knowing how to manage your interactions with people and invest in the relationships you have.
‘Investing in relationships’ means being willing to offer time and energy into paying attention to people. When are their birthdays, anniversaries? Do they like their tea with two sugars or just milk? Even remembering the name of a new person you’ve met can make a huge impact on their opinion of you.
But more than that, it’s about learning how to read a social atmosphere and react well to it. A few simple tips:
A classic book on teaching you the basics of this skill is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. You can usually find a copy of this book in your local library, but is solidly worth the investment if you want to purchase it for your personal collection.
Using the advice found here will make you seem like an easier person to trust. And when people trust you, you can be sure they’ll start asking your opinion, giving you more responsibilities, and wanting your input.
And that’s it! Just take some time to invest in basic budgeting, coding, and psychology for some worthwhile future returns.