It's graduation season. Whether your cap and gown is freshly ironed or has been stuffed in the back of your closet for a few years, we're living in a society where two things are very clear.

The first: student loan debt is a major problem. The nation's past and current students owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, and the average student's debt is approaching $30,000. We're at a point where it's taking people decades to get debt free.

The second: we are also in a time where your dream job is actually possible. Now more than ever we are encouraged to go for our goals. People are jumping into new careers and job positions all the time, trying to find the right fit. Others aren't waiting for an employer to hand their dream job to them--they are creating it on their own.

But how is this possible? How can we manage student debt and still achieve our ideal career? Some may think this is a total paradox, and that those who are in their dream jobs have long since dealt with their debt.

That's just not true. Here are three strategies to go for your dream job and still be able to pay off student loans:

1. Get your dream job--now.

Who ever said that you can't make money doing what you love? While it's not easy, it's a strategy to solve, not a pipe dream. When you are in the zone and in your dream job, you'll be much more motivated to get the work done, deliver fantastic results, and make more money. Your employers will see your enthusiasm and potential, and you'll be on the pipeline to promotions and professional development opportunities. When you are doing something you love, your earning potential skyrockets.

Don't know what your dream job is yet? This might just be the breakthrough you need to kick those loans out for good. Take time to observe how you work, how you feel, and what you're interested in. Soon you'll know that you've found your calling and can go for it at full speed.

2. Side hustle your way to a dream job.

You might be reluctant to go for your dream job because you're already in a job that offers great financial security. It helps you pay off your student loans, covers monthly rent, and still have a social life...but it doesn't tap into your true passions and talents.

Side-hustling is the new normal. During evenings and weekends, take up other projects, part-time work, and odd jobs that help you build the skills and experience to move into your dream job full time. You'll earn extra cash to pay off your loan even faster, and you'll be a superstar candidate for when your dream job comes along.

3. Keep your end-goal in mind, and cut the excess.

Don't lose sight of why you went to school anyway. You didn't get a degree so that you can accrue student debt. You got a degree so you can achieve your dreams and do work you love.

Make that a reality by making it a priority. Focus on whittling away your debt and making strategic steps toward your ideal career. Everything else? Think long and hard about whether they support your goals or hold you back.

Every time you make a purchase, ask yourself, "What's more important? This purchase, or paying off my debt?" Stop taking taxis when you could take the subway. Stop splurging on Starbucks when your office has a coffee maker. Take a walk with your friends instead of spending money at the movies.

The little things add up. Don't harm your future self by spoiling your current self.

Published on: Jun 15, 2015
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