By Shaira Frias
My 26-year-old sister doesn’t want me to use her real name. So let’s call her Alice. She earned a Master’s degree in design from Parsons, part of the New School University, in 2011.
Alice graduated cum laude and she was ready to succeed in the real world. But a few little glitches stood in her way. She didn’t have a job. “I really thought that with a Masters degree I was pretty much guaranteed a job right after graduating, but I was painfully wrong,” she recalled.
She also didn’t have a place to live. Her stint as a resident assistant in the dorm was over and she worried that she might have to move back home with our parents. “I had been living on my own, whether it was in a dorm or renting an apartment with roommates, since I was 17, but I would soon have no way of continuing to pay my bills,” she said.
But Alice was lucky. She put off talking to our parents about returning home and her boyfriend, Anthony, also not his real name, suggested that they move in together and that he would foot the bill until they figured it out. “When Anthony graduated from Columbia University a couple of years earlier he had trouble finding work so he moved in with me for 3 months,” she explained.
Anthony was no stranger to being unemployed after graduation. He was part of “The Curse of the Class of 2009”, which The Wall Street Journal dubbed his graduating class.
They faced the toughest labor market in at least 25 years and Anthony was afraid he’d have to leave New York and move back home to live with his parents in San Diego. He said that a lot of people he knew did the same thing that year: “I had friends who had to move back home after graduation so I was well aware of that being a possibility for me,”
Although he had a bachelors degree in Political Science, he got a job as a server to make ends meet and stay in New York. “I had nowhere to live, so I rotated from couch to couch, until Alice suggested that I should move in with her,” he said. It turned out pretty well. He worked hard at networking and three months later found job as a production assistant at HBO.
So when Alice needed help, he was empathetic. He suggested that she look for a non-career oriented, short-term job to help pay bills and keep an eye out for her dream job. That’s exactly what she did. She found a job as a free-lance operations manager for a not-for-profit and worked as a gallery assistant at Christie’s. She cobbled together these jobs to remain independent and not have to return home.
It took years, but she just landed a great job at One Kings Lane, an online furniture and home accessories company, and she and Anthony moved to Beverly Hills. “It was worth being underemployed for two years,” Alice said. “Once you get a taste of what it’s like to be independent you would do anything not to return to home to your parents.”
But what if you do not have the support that Alice and Anthony found in each other? A lot of us do return home to the nest and some of us have worked out ways to deal with it. Here are tips to cope with moving back with your parents.
1. Have an exit plan.
Set a realistic deadline of when you want to move out. Don’t just think about it: write it down. It helps if you also tell your parents, so you can feel the pressure and commitment of a move-out date.
2. Establish ground rules with your parents.
- Good communication with your mom and dad is the key to successfully living together again. They may still not accept and fully process that you’re not a child anymore.
- Make sure to set boundaries before moving back.
- Talk about having privacy in your bedroom, late nights out or even sometimes not sleeping over, rules on having friends over, and the chores that you are expected to be responsible for.
- Be ready to compromise. It will make your stay a lot easier.
- Remember it’s their home.
3. Create blueprint for what you want to achieve.
- Think about the small things you can do to get where you want to go.
- Stay connected to your friends and networking contacts.
- Try an internship.
- Take a job outside of your field to earn money. Working as a server or sales associate can help to give you a much-needed job history.
- Save what you earn.
- Pay down your student loan and other debts.
- Don’t take on more debt.
Taking advantage of not having to pay all the bills that come with living on your own is a blessing. It’s okay to be underemployed, as long as you know it’s temporary. Prioritize and pay attention to where every dollar is going. And remember to live with a need versus want mentality.