Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, an online magazine for twenty-somethings that focuses on career, lifestyle, finance, and personal development. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. In her free time, you’ll find her planning her next great adventure or reading any book she can get her hands on.

What career advice do you have for those who have recently graduated college or started looking into new career paths?

Don’t shy away from hard work. Throw yourself into everything you do so that you can take away as much as possible from each experience, especially when you’re young and more flexible.

It’s okay to not know what exactly it is you want, but it’s not okay to be complacent. Put yourself out there, network every chance you get, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

What are your best tips for people who have debt?

First of all, you should make it a priority to stop adding to your debt. If you’re living above your means, that is an issue that needs to be addressed ASAP.

Secondly, in my experience it’s best to prioritize both debt repayment and savings (especially if you don’t have an emergency fund). The longer you let your debt sit and accrue interest, the more money you will have to pay back. Building your savings should be a priority, though. When unexpected expenses come up, it’s better to be able to pull from your savings than to accumulate more debt.

Once you’ve saved some money, you should do everything you can to pay off your debt as fast as possible. Lower your living expenses in any way you can. Moving in with roommates, meal planning, cutting out all unnecessary expenses, and truly prioritizing paying off your debt will all be worth the effort.

Can you offer some advice for people who carry student loan debt and are working toward repayment and trying to become financially stable?

To be completely honest, I didn’t make significant progress on paying down my loans until I double and tripled my payments every month. I was able to pay off my loans (nearly 25k) in less than 18 months after graduating by temporarily giving up things like traveling, excessive shopping, having a car, and eating out on a regular basis.

I’m not going to pretend it was easy. There were a lot of sacrifices made to be able to make such large payments, but it was worth every single one. I kept track of my debt with a spreadsheet and motivated myself by thinking about how awesome it would be to be able to put those loan payments directly into my savings.

When you’ve paid off your student loan debt, you will feel so free and in control. Plus, since you’ve cut out excessive spending, you’ll have already created a strong financial foundation for yourself. Focus on the goal of paying off your loans and consider it “treating yourself” to financial stability.

In your opinion, what are the most important workplace benefits recent graduates should watch for when accepting job offers?

Your compensation for your job is more than just your salary. The best workplace benefits in my opinion are flexible work hours and 401(k) matching. And make sure you have sufficient health insurance!

What was your biggest challenge when you entered the workforce (after graduation, if you attended college)? How did you overcome it, and would you do anything differently if you had another chance? 

The biggest challenge for me was overcoming complacency. I took a six month “break” after graduation which included a cross-country move for my husband’s job. My degree is in a field that pretty much requires further education, but I wasn’t sure that was the right path for me (and I’m still not!).

Moving complicated things, so I gave myself six months to figure out my next step. I started writing in that time and then launched GenTwenty in early 2013. If I could go back, I would have started networking earlier. Genuine relationships are everything — even online!

Any other advice to help our readers manage their education or advance their careers? 

Never stop learning, trying new things, and taking advantage of opportunities. You’re never going to figure out what you want to do with your life by staying in the same place.

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