It was sometime around January 2010 that the recession began to hit home.
The confidence in my collegiate credentials, the lethargy of my final summer job, the novelty of my new home in New York City – it all started to wear off and I came to the stark realization that I had yet to be hired, coupled with the harsh reality that no one was hiring. One year later, I emerged triumphant as a media planner in midtown Manhattan.
Looking back on the career purgatory that followed my 2009 graduation – I worked in a coffee shop and a yoga studio, lived in a three-foot-tall storage space and constantly overdrew on my checking account – leads me to feel nothing but empathy for the graduating class of 2011 and my own peers who are still in the struggle.
Recently it occurred to me that if I have gained anything from this tough period of my life, it is perspective, and with that the opportunity to share the things I wish someone had told to me when I was navigating the recession.
So here are four insights to store in your job-hunting arsenal, listed roughly in order of importance. I hope they provide some direction and assurance for those who may become lost or discouraged along the way.
1. Networking is everything. You'll quickly find that résumé spewing is a tiresome, if not obsolete, path to employment. When I got off the online job boards and on the phone to set up meetings, I went from zero results to multiple interviews, and finally employment a few months later. Paper won't hire you – people will, so get to know as many people as you can. Ask everyone you know if they know anyone with opportunities, and when those opportunities fall through, ask those people if they know anyone else. Keep perpetuating this network and following up with every person you meet, if only for informational interviews.
2. Responsibility is… also everything.
To quote James Allen, "Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him." Take this as your call to action and work with what you're given; persist with sheer tenacity. Never give up. There are those who will see the scarce job market as an excuse for passivity, and others who will see it as a reason to double their efforts. Either way, you're the one who bears sole responsibility for your employment at the end of the day.
3. Get rooted in your identity.
It may be some time before you find a job, and you might take on a low wage "hook" job in the meantime to make ends meet. Whatever hand you're dealt, know who you are and what you're worth – this is your constant amid the variables. Do not let something so arbitrary as the fact that you were born in the late '80s make you feel inferior, depressed or guilty about a struggle to get hired in this market.
4. Take counsel with a grain of salt.
Although conditions are improving, understand that you are entering the worst economy since the early '80s. A decade ago, companies were practically handing out jobs on fliers. Today, nearly every job is coveted. Be open to advice, and very open to networking opportunities, but realize that anyone who graduated before 2008 is almost incapable of relating to the difficulties you face. Likewise, consciously eschew any pity-parties (i.e. self-fulfilling prophecies) among peers who are going through the same sludge.
Fortunately, the economy is starting to loosen up. If you do meet with hard times after graduation, though, keep faith in yourself and these insights in your pocket. The experience and degree you've gained from Geneseo will continue to serve you in all the years to come, even if it's slow getting out of the gate.