Congratulations, Class of 2023! As a millennial who graduated in 2010 I saw a lot of uncertainty in the job market as we came out of the Great Recession and have advice for graduates based on this experience. While the US is not technically in a recession right now, there is uncertainty in the job market for new grads. This is making it tougher for new grads to get jobs right now. Additionally, while tech companies tend to offer high salaries, many tech companies have been laying off workers over the last 6 months making it harder to get one of these higher paying jobs. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research graduating in a recession leads to large initial earnings losses of about 9% of annual earnings in the initial stage eventually recede but don’t disappear until about ten years after graduation.
Don’t get discouraged by this news. While it’s tough, there are still ways to thrive. I graduated in 2010 and saw a lot of this first hand. We had less paid internship opportunities in college. Entry jobs didn’t begin opening up until much later. We also saw many of our friends who graduate a year or two above us get a job offer and then have it revoked, get laid off after only months of working or struggle to get that first job after graduation. Based on what I saw during the Great Recession and how we all took control of our jobs and our finances in the decade since here is my advice for graduates.
Be Prepared To Share Your Resume and What Jobs You’re Interested In At A Moments Notice
My top career advice for graduates is to always be prepared. Practice your 30 second elevator pitch on your background, what you’re looking for and how you add value. Always have your resume up to date, even if you’re content in your current job.
You know you need to prepare for a job interview, but how prepared are you for a chance encounter? While in person chance encounters are less likely during social distancing, they can still happen through word of mouth. Perhaps one of your parents, a relative, a friend or a neighbor hears of a job and contacts you. Will an opportunity land in your lap? It’s unlikely. But, if you tell people you’re looking for a job and put yourself in situations where you meet new people these types of chance encounters are more likely to happen.
These are the situations you need to be prepared for. If there is an opportunity, they’ll ask for your resume to share. They’ll ask about what types of jobs you’re looking for, so they can think about if they know of any openings.
Do have your resume always up to date. Do be clear with what you’re looking for. Don’t say you’re open to anything. By keeping it too vague it’s hard for someone to help you. That doesn’t mean you need to know exactly what you want. Here are a few ways you can answer it:
- Talk about your background – what did you major in? What were you most excited about in your internships and classes?
- Location – are you looking for a job locally or are you open to moving for a role? Do you have a preference?
- Are you looking for a full time or part time role? Are you open to a role that starts as part time but could lead to something full time?
- Speak to your skill set – what areas are you strong in?
See Also: How to Ask for a Job Referral
You May Not Land Your Dream Job… and That’s OK
Competition for jobs at the salary you want is higher right now. So, chances that you’ll land your dream job are slimmer. But, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Think back to when you were applying to college. Did you end up at your dream school? Did it all work out in the end?
To put things in perspective, you’re also in your early 20s. Most people do not know exactly what they want to do with their lives at this age. It’s a myth that everyone knows exactly what they want to do when they graduate college. It’s important to be flexible. Take a job and figure out what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy about that job. Then, continue looking for ways to enjoy that job more, or look for another job you’ll enjoy more.
The job opportunities available now may be wildly different than your major. Your opportunities may even be going back to where you worked part time in high school. That’s ok. No company is going to frown upon the interim job you took during a pandemic.
See Also: Career Advice for Young Professionals
Know What Seems Like Settling May Be The Best Thing That Happens To You
I stumbled into the tech industry at the recommendation of my career center at college. I had no idea what my dream job would be then. We were in middle of the recession so I got an offer and accepted. Turns out it was the best thing that could have happened. The tech industry is an amazing industry to work in. I met countless mentors and sponsors that helped torpedo my career. Now, everyone wants to work in tech! But back then, almost no one I went to school was trying to get a job in tech.
Some of my friends in tech sales that graduated around the same time have shared they joined a tech inside sales program because those were the jobs that were available. Sales reps at several high tech companies say they earn an average of over $142,000 a year. Here they were in the middle of the Great Recession and they ended up getting their foot in the door to one of the best paying jobs that doesn’t require an advanced degree.
Use Your College Career Center To Identify Open Positions and Helpful Contacts
Career Services on campus is a great resource for current students and recent alumni. They have access to tools that can help you identify what careers to pursue. Often, they’ve helped alumni get their jobs and have maintain those relationships. When you’re trying to get an in at a company they may know of an alumni to reach out to. They also have relationships with companies that hire entry level positions. Career Services may even be the most important office on campus according to an opinion piece on Forbes.
Network With Alumni
If you’re looking at jobs at a company my advice for graduates is network with current alumni at the company. That way, you have a connection that you can reach out to for a referral if a job does open up. Don’t expect alumni to reach out to you with any opportunity they hear. It’s likely they are busy. Instead, monitor the open jobs at that company and reach out again when you see one you’re interested in.
First, reach out to alumni you have relationships with asking if they know of opportunities. Remember to be as specific as you can with what you are looking for. Join LinkedIn Alumni groups for your college and also look to join ones on Facebook. Sometimes there are even subgroups for a certain location. Post in these groups and share your story. Many people are happy to help, and may help offer advice even if they don’t know of any job opportunities currently available.
Consider a Paid or Unpaid Internship In The Short Term Instead of a Full Time Job
While you’re looking for a full time role, one path to potentially get a full time offer is to accept an internship. An internship is helpful if you don’t have much experience on your resume and you need a little more experience to start landing interviews. Internships are also helpful if the company isn’t hiring full time right now but may be hiring for full time positions in a couple months.
Add To Your Experience Through Volunteering
Not all experience is from internships and part time jobs. You can also show your experience through your volunteer experience. Use this experience to show how you’ve built leadership experience, reliability and additional skills that are relevant to the jobs you are applying to. Not all volunteering has to be in person or even at a non-profit.
If you see a local business struggling and they don’t have a social media presence offer to help them set it up for free and add that experience to your resume. This also opens up opportunities for future paid work. They may recommend you to their network and you can begin charging for your time.
Be Frugal For The Next Few Years
My top financial advice for graduates is to be frugal for the next few years. It’s not the best economy right now and we don’t know how long it’ll take to recover. So, once you get a job keep conserving as much cash as possible. It’s not like there is a lot to do now anyways with businesses closed and limited travel options available. Plus, if you have a remote job you don’t have to buy more than a few shirts for Zoom calls.
Ways to keep living like a college student include cheap housing and cheap food. Keep living at home or move in with roommates into a starter apartment. If you’re moving out, try to negotiate rent. Vacancies are up right now so you’re more likely to have success negotiating things like a free month of rent. The next biggest expense is transportation. Hold off on buying a car especially if you don’t know where you’ll end up living. Use your current car as long as you can. If you don’t have a car, buy a used car and shop around for deals.
Hang out with friends outside instead of going to a restaurant. Go on a walk, or bring food for a picnic. Drinks and food at restaurants are expensive and with many bars closed there are less cheap drink specials to be found. Eat at home. When you buy groceries, look for coupons and deals. There are also ways to spend less on food by buying cheaper options. For example, buy oats and make oatmeal instead of single serve yogurts. You can find dinner recipes and meal planning tips to save money.
Is frugal living not for you? This doesn’t have to be a permanent lifestyle, but the longer you’re able to live frugally like you lived in college the easier your finances will be. You don’t have to cut back in all areas either, the single most important expense is housing.
See Also: How to Save Money in Your 20s
Start An Emergency Fund Once You Land A Job
Once you land a job, whether it be part time or full time, start an emergency fund. An emergency fund is an amount of money set aside to cover emergencies if they arise. The money should be easily accessible and liquid (such as money held in a checking account or savings account) that you have for when things go wrong. This includes an unexpected health bill, unexpected car repair, if you lose your job and so forth.
At this point, don’t worry about how much money you should have in an emergency fund. Your focus once landing a job is to start an emergency fund, even if it’s only contributing $5-10 a paycheck. If your family gave you some money for graduation put some of that cash in your emergency fund. Get in the habit of consistently contributing a little money with every single paycheck, and automate the savings so you don’t even have to think about it. Once you are more settled, you can start building your emergency fund.
Advice for Graduates Summary
As you step into the world as graduates, here are some pieces of advice to keep in mind. Always have your resume (and LinkedIn) up to date and ready to be shared. Be ok with not landing your dream job, and know that sometimes a different path ends up being better than you could have ever expected. Use LinkedIn to network with alumni. And, while it’s always most important to focus on increasing your income don’t forget to be frugal with your money and start an emergency fund as you begin to get your financial footing.