Graduating from college is one of life’s major milestones. But once you walk across the stage and throw your hat in the air, the stark reality of adulthood strikes. How are you going to earn a living or become a productive member of society? These aren’t simple questions to answer. The good news is that the opportunities you have today are far broader than any other generation in history.
Instead of cubicle-dwelling and water cooler chat, younger people are turning to the virtual world to earn a living. Many graduates looking for remote work cite work-life balance, flexibility, and travel opportunities as their motivation for telework. Thankfully, employers are taking notice. As the number of virtual workers increases and employers aim to diversify their workforce, fresh graduates should find an abundance of new remote opportunities.
But there’s one problem: Is remote work the right path for you?
If you’re unsure whether to join the telecommuting workforce right out of college, weigh the pros and cons of remote positions. Once you’ve deciphered the good and the bad and how it applies to your specific situation, you can decide if you’re one of the successful graduates looking for remote work.
Pros of New Graduates Looking for Remote Work
Through the efforts of targeted marketing and Instagram influencers, you only have to bring up a social media app to get bombarded by the digital nomad opportunities and purported flexibility provided by remote work. These examples are often bloated and exaggerated, but they nevertheless raise the awareness and possibilities of remote work.
In reality, remote work opportunities function as traditional jobs. This comes complete with a managerial hierarchy, chances for promotion, and even friendships (albeit built online). But they do give you a few unique advantages and possibilities that normal work settings can’t provide. On top of the majestic pictures that remote workers post on the internet, remote work has some tremendous upsides.
Bachelor’s degree holders earn an average of $1 million more over their working life than high school graduates. But it doesn’t come without an upfront cost. With an average student loan debt of $35,359, recent graduates have a financial burden right after they graduate (although the $1 million in additional earnings is a great trade-off).
To save money to pay off student debt and get their own apartment, up to 50% of college graduates are moving back in with their parents. However, a remote job can increase savings and lessen the amount of time it takes each student to pay off debt and get out into the world on their own.
A lack of commute or a vehicle leads to some of the biggest cost savings for remote workers. Without the need for a vehicle, virtual workers don’t necessarily need to own a car, relying instead on public transit or a bicycle to run errands or attend social gatherings. They’ll also save on gas, insurance, maintenance, parking, or a car loan, which according to AAA, costs drivers $8,849 per year.
Depending on your profession or major, you also stand to save money on work clothes, especially in jobs where you’re required to wear a suit every day. If you’re not privy to cooking or packing a lunch, eating out can also cost you quite a bit—up to thousands of dollars each year. While remote work doesn’t mean you can’t order in, it puts you in a position to make your own food and save more money.
Opportunities to Improve Your Skills
Although some employers offer ample opportunities for career advancement and training, others put the onus entirely on the employee. The problem with this employment arrangement is that workers can get complacent or fail to learn the skills necessary to improve their financial and career situation.
Graduates looking for remote work don’t have to worry about similar situations if they’re able to manage their time. With proper efficiency and time management, many remote employees may find that they can complete their tasks in less time than they could at work. They can then reinvest this time in themselves by taking online courses, earning certifications, or building a portfolio.
The upside to this as a new college graduate is immense. You’re not tethered to your employer’s schedule with respect to what skills you can learn, and you can drastically improve your credibility or ability to be hired as a professional. All you need to do is use your extra time wisely.
According to a recent study, the average American worker spends 26.1 minutes on a one-way commute each day. While that may not seem like all that much with the aid of audiobooks, talk radio, or the latest hot tracks, this commute time adds up to nearly nine days. That’s a lot of idle time that’s essentially wasted, depending on how you look at it.
With no commute, you’ll certainly save money, but the extra time that you get is an added boon. You can start a workout regimen, spend extra time with the family, or do something else productive. As an added bonus, the lack of a commute doesn’t even factor in the extra time you need to get ready in the morning or wind down after work. Altogether, you stand to get about two weeks of time back. What you do with that time is up to you, but it’s certainly an added benefit over traditional job arrangements.
Improved Mental & Physical Health and Work-Life Balance
Perhaps the most often cited advantage of virtual work is work-life balance and improved mental and physical health. Healthy diets and physical routines are difficult to follow when you’re at work, but remote work can alleviate this problem. Both a healthier diet and regular workout routine can lead to reduced stress, increased happiness, and a better sense of overall well-being.
Telecommuting is also a proven way to work a schedule around your most productive hours. If you’re a night owl, your productivity may suffer from a regular 9-to-5 job. By tweaking your schedule to suit your abilities and schedule, you’re able to improve at your job, as well as create a flexible schedule to improve your social life and reduce constant fatigue.
Cons of New Graduates Looking for Remote Work
The upsides to remote work for new college graduates are compelling, but not every person will benefit from this type of employment. If you lack organizational skills, require human interaction, or just can’t find the motivation to do work outside of the office, you may falter in a remote role. To put this in perspective, here are some of the biggest for college graduates looking for remote work.
No Social Interaction with Co-Workers or Other Employees
A majority of new college graduates are part of the first fully digital generation, making them ostensibly more apt and open to working remotely. However, a shocking 90% of these graduates also want some form of the human element in their professional life. Unfortunately, face-to-face interactions in a digital format—at least regularly—aren’t always possible in remote positions.
While video chats are the norms for some remote businesses, others rely solely on online collaboration software to manage their staff. As a result, water cooler chats, day-to-day interactions, and even praise from employers can dry up. If you’re one of the new graduates looking for remote work who needs continual in-person communication, remote work may not be a viable option.
Lack of Separation Between Work and Social Life
The line between work and social life for traditional employees is easily distinguishable. For most people, work has defined hours that start and stop the moment they’re outside the office. Remote workers don’t have this luxury. They conduct both social life and work in the same confines. That’s regardless of whether it’s a home office, coworking space, or other location.
This can lead to some complications when it comes to work-life balance. Productivity can potentially soar as a remote worker, but you may also work hours that are well outside a normal 9-to-5 schedule. Sadly, this can lead to burnout.
Conversely, you may find that your productivity falls well below what you did in the office. The reasons for this may include a lack of organization, little management, and expanded social gatherings. You might allow little distractions that can snowball out of control, such as having guests over or running errands. In this facet, separating work and social life becomes mandatory, but sadly, not everyone can do it successfully. If you’re a recent graduate who procrastinates, you may find remote work difficult.
The Threat of Constant Distraction
Fresh graduates—especially those in Generation Z—are the most connected generation ever. Yet in a twist of irony, they’re also more prone to distractions and instant gratification than any other generation. Don’t get offended though, Gen Z reader. The instant gratification and distraction-heavy life you lead isn’t a product of laziness; it’s how you view convenience and the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B.
However, the threat of constant distraction is a major concern for employers. They’ve never had a generation of workers so ingrained in this type of position; it’s a foreign prospect for old-school hiring managers. That’s why—despite their online prowess—graduates looking for remote work have to prove to employers that they’re capable of remote work.
If you’re a person who couldn’t finish a term paper without getting side-tracked by YouTube or Instagram, you may want to reconsider a remote job, or at least temporarily. Having an onsite job straight out of college may give you the discipline and skills you need to excel at a remote position later in your career. Perhaps that’s just the motivation you need to find virtual employment while remaining a productive member of your team.
If the allure of working remotely steers your job search, you may have the resolve and discipline necessary to succeed. But just because you don’t have the ideal skill set now doesn’t necessarily you won’t in the future. Stay hungry, build your resume, and you might discover that the telework world is the next stop on your professional journey.
iStock image: RichVintage
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