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What it’s like to be a job-hunting, fresh-out-of-college graduate during a recession

One of the things I learned about life after college is that if we take the time to listen to other people’s stories, we’ll find that we aren’t alone in the struggles that post-college life can bring. And so I launched a blog post series that featured the stories of people and their first year after college.

But because of the current economic downturn, I wanted to also address what this year’s graduating class is facing while job-hunting — companies needing to cut down on costs. So I reached out to a couple of people in my network who graduated from college during a recession and asked them if they could share their job-hunting experience. Here’s what they had to say.

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Can you tell me about your job hunt and how the recession affected it?

Andrea

Many of us define success based on early experiences and definitions from our family and friends. I was no exception to that. Upon graduating with my master’s degree in 2008 (during the recession), I immediately had to redefine what career success meant and what it could look like. I felt lost, defeated, scared, and angry. I felt like everything I had worked for was taken away.

Upon graduation, I had planned to work for a large consulting firm. I didn’t really think through other options or a plan B, let alone having to sort all the way through what felt like a plan Z!

Through the power of networking, I landed in my first job working at DePaul University. I worked in their Career Services Office, supporting students leading up to graduation and after. I had such great knowledge and perspective to offer given my experience just a few months prior. That combined with my degree was an amazing fit!

That job was never in my plan. It was a path I never thought about pursuing. It turned out to be my dream job and I now do similar work through my career coaching business, AYM (aim) Consulting.

During this time, I realized that nothing in my 18 years of education (from elementary to graduate school) provided a way for me to navigate the unexpected change I was facing.

Like many of you, I wasn’t taught to think about alternative options and think through a course of action should something not go according to plan. I had no framework or textbook that could show me what to do next. So, I created my own process. I had to redefine success and re-frame how I positioned my professional brand. The recession was the best thing that happened to my career.

Let me say that again. The recession was the best thing to happen to my career.

Adrienne

After I graduated from Gonzaga with an Economics degree I really didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to do for a career. I applied for many entry level jobs in many areas of business. I soon realized that the market was tough as there wasn’t a booming economy and a plethora of jobs. I started working retail and worked as a retail store manager after college for many years. 

While working as a retail manager I kept applying for open positions at reputable companies and networking. I also looked at certification programs in specialized areas as an avenue to apply. 

I had spoken to many recruiters during my job search and then one day out of the blue I received a call to work for a company called Simply Measured as a contracted position. I immediately jumped at the offer and then practiced skills related to the job even though I had never done it before. 

Once I was able to get in the door I worked hard and learned as much as I could about the business and company I was working for and honed in on what I did and didn’t like about the position to better guide what I wanted for a career.  I was eventually offered a full-time position and have been growing my Operations career at different companies ever since.

It’s important to not get defeated and keep trying different avenues. Leverage your network and change up your approaches.


In addition to hearing about what it was like to job-hunt during a recession, I also wanted to hear about what this year’s graduating class can do to improve their job-hunt. Here’s what I put together:

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