Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to Avoid Your Own Career “Credit” Crisis – Part I

Here is the first of a two-part series by E. Chandlee Bryan, a certified professional resume writer and career counselor at She specializes in providing services and career advisement to emerging professionals, and she has worked in career services offices at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and served as director of career services at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. She has also worked "on the other side of the desk" as a recruiter.

Recently, the headlines on showcased “student loan fugitives” — or individuals who’ve fled overseas to escape student loan repayments. The subtitle reads like a worst case scenario: “When faced with monthly payments and relentless creditors, some see leaving the country as their only way out.”

As a career coach, I don’t recommend the asylum or escape approach to student loans. If you’ve chosen to move your career overseas, it should be because you want to go.

Prior to starting my own private practice, I spent over a decade connecting students with career opportunities. I worked in career services at three Ivy League schools (Dartmouth, Penn, and Columbia) and two liberal arts colleges (Colby-Sawyer and the University of Richmond).

In the process, I’ve gotten to talk to employers from all industry sectors — from investment banks and engineering firms to new media companies and non-profits. I’ve surveyed students and employers on starting salaries — and voraciously read up on national trends. Here are five recommendations with respect to financial aid:

1. Transparency, transparency, transparency

Don’t hide your debt statements under the mattress. Talk to a financial aid counselor — and get help of an external financial planner. What you pay or don’t pay down will affect your discretionary income as well as your ability to get credit. Know what you will owe.

2. Consider an outcomes-focused approach to education and your career

There are some career paths that have larger financial compensation then others. This should never be the determining factor in what you choose to do, but know that your salary may affect your lifestyle. Gauge starting salaries in fields of interest before you enroll. Sources of information include:

• Salary reports from the National Association of Colleges and Employers

• Statistics on on-campus recruiting and accepted offers (frequently available through career services offices on campus)

• Salary calculators from and general job search boards such as

Once you have an idea of what you can expect to earn, you can compare financial aid packages, earnings estimates, and school tuition fees. As you start out, you can establish a budget to maintain long-term debt avoidance —and make choices that help you accomplish your goals.

To be continued.

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