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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

Amy Willard

Stay Connected to Mother So Dear

Stephen EdwardsStephen Edwards (’10), Office of Alumni Services Young Alumni Programs
edwardsj@nullwfu.edu / @stephenjedwards

Welcome to the Alumni Family, Class of 2014!

From the moment you enrolled at Wake Forest four years ago, you probably had little idea how much fun you would have, how hard you would work, and how you would feel at the end of your Demon Deacon career. While you may be having mixed emotions about leaving a place so special to us all, let me give you a piece of encouragement: the connection does not have to end here. 

Four years may seem like a long time, but if you eat your vegetables and take your vitamins, you may live to be 100! You have merely scratched the surface to what is a lifelong relationship with Mother So Dear, and leads to all sorts of wonderful friendships, experiences, and much more.

In order to make the most of your alumni experience, I want to encourage you in 5 specific ways that have made my four years as an alumnus that much greater:

1. Stay in Touch with Friends

You don’t need me to tell you that Wake Forest is special. Campus and it’s daily life has a certain mystique to it, that I would argue, is all about the people. If you had an experience at Wake like I did (and I hope you did!), you made some incredible friends along the way. Whether classmates, professors, mentors, coaches, or other colleagues, Wake Forest is filled with wonderful people that make this place so great. When you graduate and move to somewhere exciting for a job, graduate school, or other opportunity,  I encourage you to stay in touch with your fellow Deacs. Though at times it may be hard due to a new work and social schedule, or different life changes, it is a worthy investment. The relationships you have developed in these four years have come during some of your most formative years, and staying connected with these friends and mentors as you embark on the next stage in your journey, will serve you well.

2. Come Back and Visit Campus

Whether it is for Homecoming (which is September 19-20 this year), to visit underclassmen friends, take a stroll on The Quad, or dinner at Putter’s and a basketball game in the Joel, I encourage you to visit, and visit often! There are few things as fun as Homecoming festivities for alumni, and each visit back to Winston-Salem connects you, your family and friends, on an even deeper level, as you are reminded of what makes Wake Forest the school you chose to attend, and the alumni status you are increasingly proud of among your peers. When you visit, try to connect with those friends mentioned in point one; catch up with a favorite professor, grab a cup of coffee in Campus Grounds with a mentor, or coordinate with friends what time to meet at Shorty’s. No matter what brings you back, just know that we LOVE having our alumni family on campus.  

3. Utilize WFU Professional Resources

Now that you have graduated, you may think that your professional relationship with the University will be drastically different. It doesn’t have to be! Take advantage of the resources provided by your alma mater.

  • Alumni Office: Update your contact information, set up your Gmail account, use the alumni directory, and more
  • OPCD: Utilize the career coaches if you are looking for a job or graduate school placement
  • ZSR Library: Take advantage of free database resources whether you are in graduate school or as a tool in your industry
  • LinkedIn: Join the WFU Alumni Group and the 25+ alumni subgroups by industry and geography
  • Twitter, Instagram & Facebook: As always, stay connected with Wake Forest via social media for updates on news, events, and much more.

4. Get Connected with Your Local Alumni

When I moved to Dallas, TX after graduating four years ago, I knew no one in Texas… except for a few Demon Deacons! This connection runs deep, and I was able to really begin to meet people, make meaningful social and professional connections through this network, and I encourage you to do the same. There are nearly 50 local WFU Alumni clubs around the world, so wherever you are moving, more than likely, there is an active group of Deacs waiting for you to get connected with them! You can find the list here

Take advantage of the affinity we share as Wake Forest graduates; it allows you opportunities like meeting Deacs in the NBA following a local game, getting a book signed by author Emily Giffin at an event in NYC, hearing from a panel of experts within the tech industry in San Francisco, attending the symphony in Philadelphia, watching the Deacs play football at a Dallas restaurant, or serving at a food bank with a group of Miami Deacs.  Regardless of how you want to stay connected as an alum, the local clubs are a great way to deepen your relationship with other Deacs, and the University.

5. Be an Ambassador of Wake Forest

Lastly, I encourage you to look for opportunities to be an ambassador of Wake Forest, living out a spirit of “Pro Humanitate” the rest of your days. That may mean serving regularly with a community partner seeking to meet social services or make an impact on areas of injustice in your city, but it can also mean other things as well. Consider serving with the Admissions Office, as an alumni volunteer, partnering with the Alumni Office as a local club young alumni leader, or investing in the future of Wake Forest as best you can.

Most importantly, always share your love of Wake Forest with your family, friends, and local community, strengthening the ties to Wake Forest wherever you are from, or wherever you live now. 

All the best to each of you in your personal and professional endeavors. While graduation may seem like an ending of sorts, it is the beginning of an exciting journey! There is nothing like the Old Gold and Black. I look forward to staying connected with you.   


Before Summer Begins, Reflect.

Congratulations! You made it through the academic year. Finals are done. Take a deep breath and exhale. Whew! You did it. Many of you are headed in different directions this summer. You will be starting your first job after graduation or beginning an internship with a possible vacation sprinkled in with family and friends. But, before you get too far into the summer months, spend some time in reflection. What did you learn about yourself? What was challenging? What was rewarding? How did you develop personally and professionally? These are a few questions to ponder as you reflect upon this semester and year. Summer is a great time for respite and unplugging from reality. But, don’t rest on your laurels for too long. The answers you gather from reflection will help you set the intention and goals you want to accomplish this summer.

To help set the course for a meaningful and productive summer, follow these three simple steps:

1. Be Intentional. First, leave the past in the past. Move forward. Think about what you will do differently as a result of past failures. So, you accepted the offer for a new job or internship. What do you intend to learn and gain from the first few months on the job or the internship experience? What do you hope to gain? How are you going to be intentional in your skill development and network building? Consider answering these questions before getting too deep into the summer months. You will have a better grasp of what you intend to learn, develop, and accomplish.

2. Write SMART Goals. They will be your guide to the results you want by the end of the summer. Here are a few questions to consider before developing your SMART goals: What do you want to accomplish this summer? When you look back at the end of the summer, what do you want to be able to say that you have done or learned? Are there new skills you would like to develop such as delivering public presentations? I recommend setting 2-3 goals for the summer. Consider focusing on areas such as the skills you want to further develop, the project(s) you want to accomplish, and the people you want to meet and network with to learn more about the industry. Need help writing goals? Use the SMART goal worksheet as a guide. Share these goals with an advisor, counselor, or mentor so that s/he can help you develop a plan for achieving them.

3. Reflect. Spend some time reflecting on your courses, extracurricular activities, and experiences from the spring semester. Reflect upon your intention and goals set for these areas. To help guide the reflection process, print or download the reflection exercise worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your goals based on the information gathered about yourself, courses, and activities from the past semester. If needed, repeat step two and revise your goals. Goals do not have to be static. They can be modified as plans change.

Remember – Be intentional. Be goal-oriented. Be reflective.

Best wishes for a restful, productive summer!


What Do You Do for a Living?

“What do you do for a living?” or “What do you do?” are questions you will be asked at a networking event or any event when meeting new people. Also, it’s important to be able to answer these questions for your family and friends to better understand what you do. I don’t think my friends truly understand what I do. And I can’t count the number of times I have been asked, “What do you do?” I have fallen victim to the mundane of stating my name, job title, and place of work. It’s easy to do because we can simply state the answer without thought. Be intentional and craft an interesting pitch to the question. You never know who will be asking you the question. Use this opportunity to shine, create your brand, and give life to your work. No matter if it’s your first job, fifth job, or internship, be prepared to answer the question.

For several key tips on how best to answer “What do you do for a living?” or “What do you do?”, follow the story and instructions below:

How NOT to Sound Confusing or Bland at Your Next Networking Event

Orignally published on January 6, 2014 by Daniel Jordi on Jordico.

I recently wrote about the question “What do you do?” during my experience at the TEDxZurich 2013 conference.

In short, I was not able to properly answer this question so people outside of my industry would actually understand the full scope of what I do in one sentence. This made me think.

A lot of people get asked this question many times every week and most of them answer it in a way that is confusing or sounds like everybody else (including me until a few months ago).

In this blog post, I will show you how you can answer this question to make it crystal clear to people, even outside of your industry, what you do so they can remember and refer you to their friends.

So, What Do You Do For a Living?

This question always comes up at every single event you go to. No matter if it is an industry conference, social networking meetup, hiking trip, new years eve party or if you go to the cinema and your friend brings along somebody you have never met before. 

The question is usually coming up soon after you have introduced yourself with your name.

I’m a Partner at a Startup

Think about this situation for a moment. You are working at a startup as a partner and are responsible for the growth of the company. You are basically the business development guy.

Now, let’s say you go for Friday evening drinks in the city with some friends and they bring along some people you don’t know. You introduce each other and where you know your mutual friend from. 

Then, the question comes up “So, what do you do for a living?”.

You try to think of something sophisticated, something elegant, something impressive. What comes out is “I’m a partner at a startup and responsible for business development”. 

Not a very unique statement. Not even a statement that somebody can easily understand. What does partner at a startup mean exactly? What is business development anyway?

I’m a Banker

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you meet somebody and after asking the person what he does for a living, he says “I’m a banker”.

Let’s imagine that you are not an immense fan of banking after what happened in the past years in the banking industry. Let’s imagine your only real experience with banking is your knowledge of the insanely low interest rates of your bank account and the recent news articles about the extraordinarily high bonuses the bankers take home even when they screw up.

What is your first impression about that banker? How do you judge this person based on what he told you he does?

I don’t think this chat is going very far.

Maybe he is a really nice person, maybe he is somebody you would get along with great, but because of his extremely generic statement and your experience and beliefs about banking, the conversation ends here.

I’m a Consultant

One more example. Let’s say you are consulting with startups. Maybe you are doing something pretty complex and specific.

You go to an expat meetup in Zurich and introduce yourself as your name and with “I’m a consultant”.

What does that say about you? How much does the person you are talking to know about what you actually do?

I think this is one of the most confusing answers you can give. 

This does not only go for consultants. It goes for coaches, project managers and any type of job title that is so generic that nobody has a clue about what you do.

How to Answer the Question “What Do You Do?” Like a Rockstar

Let’s talk about how you can answer the question so people have a crystal clear idea about what you do and are easily able to refer you to their friends.

Part 1: Who Do You Serve?

This is the first part of the sentence. Who do you help?

Do you help biotech startups? Do you help social entrepreneurs? Do you help technology startups?

In other words, who is your target market? 

If you want to have a highly effective answer for any occasion, this is crucial. It does not matter if you are self-employed or an employee, you are serving somebody (a person or an organization), otherwise you are not a service professional.

Part 2: What Do You Help Them Achieve?

This is the second part to the equation. What is the result they get from working with you?

Do you help them reduce costs? Do you help them get more clients? Do you help them communicate more effectively?

This part needs to be in place to make a lasting and memorable impression. 

No matter what your profession or your background is, you are helping a person or organization achieve something, otherwise there is no rational reason why somebody would ever hire you.

No matter if you are self-employed or an employee, you need to force yourself into thinking like a business owner. If you want to succeed in today’s world, this is a must.

5 Example Answers to the Question “What Do You Do?”

“I help technology startups in Switzerland establish a company culture based on their core values”

“I help clean-tech startups in Switzerland raise more money for funding”

“I help social entrepreneurs in Switzerland implement a highly profitable business model”

“I help biotech startups in Switzerland implement highly efficient software systems”

“I help technology startups in Switzerland multiply their profits”

In my case, I help English speaking business professionals in Switzerland create a career on their own terms.

You Decide How You Are Known in the World

What you basically do with this exercise is create one part of your personal brand identity in the way that you define. You tell the people you meet how you want to be known in the world. They will remember you the way you want.

Also, if you use this simple formula, you help the people you meet remember you when they get an opportunity to refer you.

How to Get Referred by New Contacts

Let’s say you help technology startups in Switzerland to multiply their profits. Imagine you just met somebody at an event and he meets a startup founder two weeks later at the Startup Weekend in Zurich

The founder tells your contact that he is very excited about his new venture but even though revenue grows, the bottom line stays red since quite some time.

Do you think the chance that your new contact remembers you is higher if you answered the question “What do you do?” with ”I help technology startups in Switzerland multiply their profits” than with “I’m a business development director”?

Create Your Unique Statement Now

It’s time to get to work. It’s great to know all of what is mentioned above but if you don’t implement, there will be no results.

Take 15 minutes right now and write down your best answer to the following two questions:

1. Who Do You Serve?

2. What Do You Help Them Achieve?

Finding Meaning in Your Work

Finding meaning in your work is something most of us consider when we think about our careers. Individuals seek purpose and fulfillment in their work and lives. College students are not immune. I found the post below by Dr. Kate Brooks helpful in breaking down five facets of meaning based on Roman Krznaric’s dimensions of meaning in a career.  If you are starting a new job, internship, service-learning, or study abroad experience, you may be asking yourself – What is the purpose?  Why am I here?  I encourage you to ask those questions and read further about meaning in work.

Finding Meaning in Your Work
Can you construct a career that will enhance your life?

Originally published on February 25, 2014 by Katharine Brooks, Ed.D. in Career Transitions for Psychology Today

“What is your current work doing to you as a person – to your mind, character and relationships?”

This quote is from one of my favorite career books, How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric (The School of Life/PicadorUSA, 2013). There’s much to recommend here: I like the way he traces the history of career decision-making (including career counseling’s rather shady history and the failure of career testing) and offers insights as to why many of us struggle with career choices.

I also like his philosophy of “act-first, process-later”—too many people think about their ideal career occurring sometime in the future (if at all) without stopping to consider what they could do today to move toward it. And I especially like his emphasis on our “many selves”—a notion similar to the “Possible Lives” map and exercise I devoted a chapter to in my own book, You Majored in What?. I highly recommend Krznaric’s book for anyone going through or considering a career transition.

I think a particularly compelling element is Krznaric’s discussion of the dimensions of meaning in a career (Chapter 3- pp. 55-93).  After considering whether one has the luxury, in this day and age, of even considering meaning in a career (one does, he concludes), he lays out five dimensions of meaning:

  1. Earning money
  2. Achieving status
  3. Making a difference
  4. Following your passions (interests)
  5. Using your talents (skills)

Let’s break down these five dimensions and examine them. You might want to start by re-ordering the list based on your priorities. For example, while money might be a key driver for one individual, another might consider the use of his/her talents more important. As you consider these dimensions, consider how much of each dimension you need. How much money is enough? What percentage of time spent with interests or talents is enough?

Try considering each dimension in light of your current (or desired) work situation:

Money. Ever since the recession, money has been the primary driver of articles about “best careers.” Best career choices (not to mention college majors) are reduced to which fields will pay the most—”engineering good, social work bad” goes the common wisdom. This is not an illogical thinking process: one should consider future income when thinking about how much college debt to take on, for instance. But, at the same time, reducing career decisions simply to earning power can cause one to lose the broader perspective. How much income do you want/need? Are you setting your own monetary goals or complying with someone else’s? What is a comfortable living, and what careers might fulfill that? What career fields might suit you in other ways from which you could also earn a reasonable (from your perspective) salary? (See my earlier post on should we all become engineers.)

Status. How does status or respect fit into your definition of meaningful work? I like to think of this as a form of pride: do you take pride in what you do each day? Pride is subjective—you can be proud that you simply show up every day and do your job despite obstacles.  There is honor in that. There is also honor in teaching children, building a bridge, designing a building, writing a novel, or making a hamburger in a restaurant. Status as defined by others is compelling yet seductive—at what point did you select your current career to please someone else or meet someone else’s definition of status or success? How concerned are you with others’ definitions? As with money, it would be a mistake to rely solely on others’ perspectives: take some time to determine your proudest moments at work and in life. That may give you some perspective of what constitutes “status” to you. Does your current position provide you with the sense of pride and status you desire?

Making a difference is often relegated to the background in those “Top Ten Career” listings.  And yet this is a common desire in job-seekers. Treated sometimes as a naïve or youthful pipe-dream, making a difference, is in fact, an extremely important component of a job. What is your definition of “making a difference”? Making a difference isn’t always about saving the whales or other large humanitarian projects; you can also make a difference when you compile the payroll for your company. Teachers make a difference every day– but the results aren’t always seen immediately. What does “making a difference” mean to you?  Are you perhaps underplaying the difference you make in your current job—or would a different job provide more fulfillment for you in this area? Is making a difference important to you—or do other factors trump this desire? Only you can decide.

Following your passions is a long-running and oft-derided theme in career decision-making. The image that comes to mind is that of a musician or artist off “following their passions” but unable to pay for dinner that evening. (See my post on Can You Really Do What You Love These Days?) Like many things, the truth often lies in the middle. How important are your passions and interests? Have you investigated the variety of careers where your interests could be used? How have other people made a reasonable income out of their passions? Must you be a starving artist or are there other, perhaps better, models to follow? Once again, there are no hard and fast answers here.

Using your talents is closely related to following passions. Presumably many passions are also talents. But here’s where you look behind the passion to find the talents/skills that lie behind it.  For instance, you might be passionate about raising orchids, but careers directly related to that passion might be limited. So what talents are behind that passion? Could it be your patience?  Or attention to detail? Or the researching skills needed to learn how best to care for the orchids? Or your appreciation of beauty/aesthetics? Consider your top 5 skills or talents. When you are at your all-time best, what are you doing? And how can you find a job that lets you do more of that?

That’s the key to successful career transitioning: you take a job, figure out what you like best, and then look for a job that lets you do more of that.

Now that you’ve examined these dimensions, which is most important? Which is least? How much of each is “enough” in your work?

Let’s go back to Krznaric’s original question: “What is your current work doing to you as a person—to your mind, character and relationships?” Would making changes in these five dimensions change your life for the better? Is one area neglected at the expense of another? How can you fix that?

I am reminded of a quote from the wonderful movie, The Peaceful Warrior: “A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.” Would examining these five dimensions of career meaning help you find the love in what you do?

©2014 Katharine S. Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Navigating Student Loan Repayment

Tom BenzaStudent Financial Aid Expert Contributor – Tom Benza, Associate Director

Student loans are an important factor to consider when creating and managing a budget. Knowledge is power. Find out how much you owe (and the monthly payment), when you need to start repaying the loans, and what options you have for repayment (e.g. IBR – Income Based Repayment).

Here are 5 steps to take when entering student loan repayment:

Step 1: Student Award History Report. Stop by the Student Financial Aid office located in Room 4 of Reynolda Hall and request a copy of your Student Award History Report from the front desk counselor. This report details each grant, scholarship, work-study, and loan awarded to you while at Wake Forest. The report also includes contact information for Federal Stafford and Perkins loans, WFU administered student loans like the Denmark, Wallace, and Hutchins loans, and the Need-Based Private loan. If you have any questions about your award history, you can schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor.

Step 2: Log into NSLDS*.  The National Student Loan Data System, is the Department of Education’s central database for student aid.  NSLDS receives data from schools, guarantee agencies, the Direct Loan program, and the Department of ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV federal aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or grant data. This site will provide information on your federal loan balance, loan interest rates, and loan grace periods (grace periods vary from 1, 6, or 9 months after graduation depending on the loan).  

Step 3: Know your loan servicer. All federal Stafford loans are awarded through the Department of Education’s Direct Loan program, but when the loan enters repayment, Direct Loans uses loan servicers to administer repayment. Examples of loan servicers are Sallie Mae, Great Lakes, Fed Loan Services, etc. For more information on federal loan servicers, check out this site. For information on WFU administered loans such as Perkins, Denmark, Wallace, Hutchins, review your Student Award History report or contact Student Financial Aid: finaid@nullwfu.edu

Step 4: Understand Repayment Options: There are a myriad of repayment options available to federal student loan borrowers. This Federal Student Aid site on repayment gives a comprehensive breakdown of federal repayment plans as well as a good estimator to help calculate what your monthly repayments would be under different plans. If you’re interested in loan consolidation to take advantage of certain income based repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness, visit the Federal Direct Loan Consolidation site. 

Step 5: Communicate with your loan servicer. If you have a problem making your payments, do not ignore the problem. One of the biggest mistakes a student can make is not addressing repayment head on.  Federal student loans are flexible and there may be financial hardship programs that can help a student get through a rough patch. Ignoring mail or emails from your loan servicer is a recipe for disaster. The Student Financial Aid office can assist students with repayment questions after the student graduates. If you’re more comfortable speaking with a financial aid counselor you worked with while at Wake, reach out to the counselor with your questions. 

Twitter Q&A on Tuesday, April 29 @ 12pm 

Tweet student loan questions using #WFDebtFree and get real-time answers from Tom Benza, Associate Director, Student Financial Aid.  Follow @WFU_OPCD for details.


*The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the Direct Loan program, and other Department of ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or grant data.

Budgeting Your Expenses

Once you track your spending habits, you’ll be prepared to create a budget. Also, it provides clarity on your needs versus your wants. It is important to distinguish the two categories. Needs are rent, meals, and electricity (e.g. utilities). Wants are luxuries such as lunch at Chipotle. Are you spending too much on the wants or got-to-haves?

Whether living at home or on your own, a budget will help you stay on track. First, you need to know your monthly net income (amount received after taxes and deductions), scholarship or stipend amount. Second, think about your expected monthly expenses. For example, rent…This is a fixed expense; it doesn’t vary from month to month. Some expenses fluctuate, like groceries. These are called variable expenses. Third, research areas where you can spend less such as having a roommate to share the cost of rent, and taking your lunch to work as opposed to eating out. Buying lunch everyday can quickly add up, so can a Starbucks latte in the morning.

Here are 4 budgeting resources to help you stay on track:

1. CashCourse—A free online financial resource for Wake Forest students. Learn to manage money and financial literacy through a variety of fun interactive tools such as videos, calculators, and worksheets. Manage your budget using the budget wizard by tracking your expenses. The information will help you make informed financial decisions throughout your college years and into your professional life. Available when you want to manage your money!

2. Mint—See all your balances and transactions together, on the web or your phone. Mint automatically pulls all your financial information into one place, so you can finally get the entire picture. Mint automatically updates and categorizes your information, and suggests ways to help you save. Mint sends automatic alerts—like bill reminders—to your mobile phone or email. Set a budget and create a plan to reach your personal financial goals. You can track your progress online or stay up-to-date with monthly emails.

3. Bank RateA comprehensive, objective financial literacy site providing information on financial news, money management and calculators for budgeting.

Personal Finance—Budgeting Calculator

Student Loans—Student Loan Calculator

4. Hands on BankingAccess free online financial courses that are self-paced with information and tools, such as calculators, glossary, worksheets, money management tips, and helpful links. The program provides the essentials of financial education, real-world skills, and knowledge through interactive lessons based on age appropriate groups.

*Many financial institutions provide their own mobile apps for banking-on-the-go for either checking your account or watching your monthly budget/spending plan.

Not sure how to plan or budget for student loan repayment after graduation?

Visit next week for expert advice from Tom Benza, Associate Director of Student Financial Aid.


Tracking Your Spending Habits

Tracking your spending habits may seem like a daunting task. However, it is the first step in knowing where and how much you are spending daily, weekly and monthly. I challenge you to experiment for a week. You will be surprised on what and how much you spend your money. It is important to track every purchase even the small ones such as a pack of gum.

Here are 3 simple steps to follow:

1.  Save it. Keep your receipts. They will help you remember what you purchased from day to day. They will be useful references when tracking your purchases. Place the receipts into a folder, envelope or shoebox.

2.  Track it. Write down your purchases in a journal or log. Do not include your fixed expenses such as rent. If you prefer, input your expenses into a spreadsheet or online worksheet. Try Wells Fargo’s My Money Journal as a guide. Create your own using Excel.

3.  Calculate it. You want to review what you have spent each day. It is important to calculate your expenses. Total your expenditures at the end of  each day and week for a 7-day total.

What next? Come back next week for budgeting tips.

Celebrating National Financial Literacy Month

Are you fiscally fit? Do you know how much money you spend each week or month? Are you aware of your budget? Do you have a budget? How are you going to repay student loans?

It is wise to start thinking about tracking spending, creating a budget, and preparing for student loan repayment now. You may be surprised by how you easily could save or pay off debt with the money you’re spending.

Be frugal. It doesn’t mean you have to be tight with your money. Be intentional with your spending. Do you really need that Venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte (my favorite) from Starbucks? Probably not.

Be creative. Can you recreate your favorite coffees or teas at home for a fraction of the cost? You will save approximately 80% of your money. Instead of spending >$5.00 for a beverage, save $4 and spend only $1. Small purchases add up to a lot saved.

Experiment for a week. Track everything you purchase. Yes, even write down the pack of gum bought at the convenience store. You will find that you may be spending money freely without giving it much thought. Once you start tracking, you’ll notice a shift in how you make decisions on purchases. You will start asking yourself, “Do I really need that pack of gum?”

Don’t know where to start? Luckily, WFU offers CashCourse, a free and unbiased reallife money guide. Get started now, register for a free account. When you sign up, you will be registered to win a $50 VISA gift card.

Here’s what you get with CashCourse:

  • A Budget Wizard to build your own monthly budget with your real income and expenses
  • Videos offering quick lessons on financial basics 
  • Calculators to help you demystify your debt or set a savings goal
  • Worksheets to help you organize your life, build a budget, and master your student aid
  • Articles on real issues you’re dealing with now, as well as topics to prepare for your future
  • A Financial Experts Wall, where you can submit questions to CashCourse experts
  • Quizzes and courses to test what you know and show you where to go for more information

Want more? Follow the blog for tips on how to become more fiscally fit and build your financial muscle.

Finding Community

Allison McWilliamsOPCD Expert Contributor – Allison McWilliams, Ph.D., Director of Mentoring Resource Center & Alumni Personal and Professional Development

The Importance of Finding “Community”

You’ve gotten the job or the acceptance into graduate school. You’ve made the move to a new city. You’ve met your new colleagues (most of whom are much older than you) and received an orientation to your new role. You’re confident in your abilities to be successful or at least that you’ll be able to figure it out as you go. This is what you’ve been waiting for and working for, right? But for some reason, it doesn’t feel exactly like what you thought it would be. What’s missing? During all of these years of work and preparation to build a career, no one’s told you how, exactly, to build a life.

This is one of the most frequent topics I encounter when I talk to young alums, no matter where they have moved after graduation. How, they wonder, does one make friends? How do I fill my time? Often these concerns are more troubling than those more directly career-related, and they are certainly no less important. Indeed, it is critical that you find a way to build a community where you live, no matter where that is or how long you plan to be there. Your community is your support network, your go-to people in good times and bad. Your community is made up of people who fulfill you, challenge you, and align with your values. In fact, one of the great things about being a “grown up” is that, for the first time, you actually get to pick who these people are! But how do you do that? How do you make friends in the “real world”?

Here are some tips on a few steps you can take, starting right now.

1. Live where you are. Even if you are only moving somewhere for a short time, say a one-year fellowship or graduate school, don’t act like you are just visiting the place. Hang pictures on the walls. Put down roots. First, you never know what will happen. I moved to Athens, Georgia for graduate school after college, and stayed for 15 years. Life and plans change, often unexpectedly. Second, acting like you live in a place will change your attitude towards that place tremendously. Take advantage of what this new town has to offer you, while you are there.

2. Join a group. I will always remember, when I was in my first professional position following graduate school, my mother telling me that I needed to “join a group.” I dismissed this notion at the time, thinking that I’m not a joiner, and that it sounded hard. Well, you know what? It can be hard, especially for those of us who are more introverted. And, it’s important. In your first year in a new place, join anything and everything. Join civic organizations, social organizations, alumni groups, faith-based groups, anything and everything that is an organized gathering of people. You don’t have to stick with it all, and in fact I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you do. But take the time to check these groups out and figure out what works for you.

3. Say yes to everything. Again, just for the first year or so, do not turn down any invitation that comes your way. Someone invites you to coffee, say yes. Someone asks you to build a habitat house on the weekend, say yes. This is not the time to be picky. Not only will these activities fill your time with meaningful and enjoyable pursuits, they will have the added benefit of allowing you to get to know other people in a casual way. Just like with number 2, above, just because you say yes to a lot of people at first doesn’t mean you have to become best friends with these people and spend every waking moment with them. But you never know whom you might meet along the way.

4. Look for online groups. In the past few years quite a few resources have been developed for the expressed purpose of pulling people together. Why? Because a lot of other young people are in the exact same situation that you are. For example, Meetup.com is a forum for people with shared interests to connect around everything from business interests to outdoor pursuits to volunteering. And, if you don’t see something that interests you, you can create a group of your own. Chances are there is someone else out there who is interested in the same thing.

5. Think about what matters to you. For the first time, perhaps, there is nothing that you necessarily have to do. This is a great opportunity to assess what you value and how you want to spend your free time. You’re not going to be able to do everything, so what are those few things that you want to invest in? Time, in the adult world, is a precious commodity, as you will soon find out. Be thoughtful about how you give yours away.

6. Continue your education. For those of you in graduate school, you will have a slight advantage over those who are working, as graduate school provides a built-in group of like-minded people going through a similar experience together. But if you’re not in school, there are tons of great opportunities to further your education in formal and informal ways. Look for continuing education courses at the local community college. Finally learn that second language, how to knit, or how to write the great American novel. Seek out interesting speakers and cultural events hosted by book stores, libraries, and art centers. Not only will you continue to feed your intellectual side, you will have the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people.

7. Above all, have patience. It’s important to recognize that you have been in this place before, even if it didn’t look exactly the same, and all of the tools that you need are within you. When you came to Wake Forest you also had to figure out how to make friends and how you wanted to spend your time. It’s just that it’s been so long since freshman year that you’ve forgotten those first few awkward months when you had to grab someone you didn’t know and go to the Pit together. This is the same situation, with a slightly different look to it. And, it won’t be the last time, either. So be intentional and be reflective as you go through this important transition. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. And remember that life is long and this is all part of the adventure.


Apartment Hunting – The Decision

Selecting an apartment is an important decision. It will be your home for the next few years. You will be signing a lease agreement binding you to the property. Be confident it is affordable, the apartment you want, and the community you want to call home.

Here are 3 things to consider during phase 2 – The Decision:

1) Submit your application.

Once you find the place and it’s within your budget, apply. Most applications will ask for the following: personal information; employment history; current and previous residence (within the last five years); vehicle information, personal references; credit information (bank and credit); and general background information.

a. Gather documentation. You may be required to submit: photo identification; letter of employment verification (3 recent pay stubs, W2, or letter from the employer); verification of prior residency (addresses from the last five years); and recommendations/references.

b. Check your credit. Management companies will be checking your credit once you start applying. Before they check, you want to know if you have good credit or a few blemishes. Therefore, you will be prepared to explain your poor credit and ask a parent/relative to serve as a co-signer on a lease. Receive a free credit report from Annual Credit Report.

2) Understand your lease agreement.  

Read it carefully. Don’t just sign on the line. Your lease is a contract, so make sure you understand it. Your lease should clarify the rent, terms and duration of your agreement, the penalty for breaking the lease early, the policy for fixing issues with the apartment, how much notice you must give if you want to renew and the rules for getting your security deposit back. If you give a deposit, get a receipt. Often, if you have issues with certain points on the lease, you can alter or discuss them with the management company before signing.

3) Conduct a walk-through.

Thoroughly inspect the apartment before moving your belongings into the space. Take notes to document pre-existing problems you find, so that you are not held liable. Test everything – the stove, oven, faucets, refrigerator, lights, etc. If anything is amiss, write it down. If the management company needs to fix something, get it in writing. This is the best way to protect yourself, your future home, and your security deposit.

Once you are settled in the apartment, start building your community.

Visit the blog next week for tips on Finding Community in a new city.