What the Class of 2020 Needs to Hear

Introduction

After over a decade of economic growth, you, the class of 2020, will be leaving school and entering into the workforce during a recession. As the unemployment rate skyrockets amid the Covid-19 epidemic, many students set to graduate next month will likely be spending a lot more time at home than they hoped for.

What really sucks about this is that you did everything right, and yet you will still be faced with the worst unemployment rate since perhaps the Great Depression. It’s not your fault, and there’s nothing you can do to fix the situation. So why worry?

Instead, flip the situation around. Realize that you are in a very unique moment in history, and there are things you can do that will put you ahead when we come out of the recession.

I’m not talking about profiting off of the global tragedy (for instance, trying to copyright the term “social distancing”). Instead, I’m talking about investing this newly acquired free-time to improve your future career.

Advantages of a Recession

There is no shortage of research on the effects of entering the workforce during a recession. Our last recession was just over a decade ago, and much of today’s workforce still bears those scars.

There’s no beating around the bush: Entering the job market during a recession sucks. It sucks so much, it will have a lasting, negative impact on the rest of your career.

(Stick with me. There’s good news coming as to why you’re actually in a better position than those who entered the workforce during a Utopian market.)

The class of 2010 is probably the best class to compare with the class of 2020. Six months after graduating, only 52% of the class of 2010 was employed, and most of those jobs were underpaid, lacked benefits, and didn’t require any sort of degree.

These initial jobs were typically for smaller companies and for lower pay, and thus set the tone for the rest of their careers. With such a start, the high point of their careers was destined to be lower than the peak of someone who graduated a few years before.

CEOs who began in a recession tend to head up smaller, less prestigious companies.

I did say there’s an upside to all of this doom and gloom, and that upside definitely makes up for all of the financial downside.

More often than not — WAY more often than not — those who enter the workforce during a recession are more thankful for what they have. Their perspectives are completely different from those lucky enough to graduate during great job markets.

One reason for this is a lack of narcissism: the self-focused belief that one is entitled to good things. This is a poison that is detrimental to a career. Things will never work out in your favor 100% of the time. When they don’t, a narcissistic person will have a much harder time getting through those times.

On the other hand, someone who is truly thankful for what he or she has and keeps other people’s interests in mind will have a brighter future, even if that means less money.

Money and prestige aren’t everything. In face, they mean NOTHING compared to a happy life. Those who can find the balance between money and happiness have reach the pinnacle of his or her career. The class of 2020 has a great shot at achieving this.

Focus on Your Online Presence

There’s only so many hours in a day that you can spend job hunting. What about the rest of your free time?

Take this time to develop your online presence. This is the image that you show the world via Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc. You’ve likely been building your online image since middle school, which means it’s time to update it.

You’ve no doubt heard all throughout college that employers will Google you and check out what they find. Most colleges today caution their students against posting anything online that you wouldn’t want your employer to see, and that is some solid advice.

But having a clean online presence is just the beginning of how you can use social media to your advantage while job-hunting.

The internet of things allows for the spreading of ideas at rates humanity has never seen. And with such low cost of entry (practically free for most people), anyone can aid in the spreading of such ideas.

During your unplanned free time at home, you can use this opportunity to become a thought leader in your industry online.

Create a blog, vlog, or podcast that deals with some area of your major and intended industry. Study what other people have put out there and learn more about your industry every day. Take these bits of information and create your own content.

These are your platforms in which you can speak to the world. You may not have a very large audience, but you know for sure that your audience includes all of your future employers. Provide content that they will enjoy, and you’ll win them over.

Start a Side Business

There is no better time to start a side business than right now. Even during a recession, there is always a need to be filled. If you can define that need and offer a solution, you will make a few bucks for yourself.

Starting a side business during this time will both keep you busy and allow you to practice the skills that your future employer expects you to bring to the table. These skills are broad, such as financial planning, strategy, commitment, and execution. They can also be more narrow depending on your industry.

There is a lot of money to be made on flipping stuff online. Start buy rummaging around your house and finding things you wouldn’t mind parting with. Add these items to Facebook Marketplace or eBay, and see what happens.

Of course, this will require some market research about your product, including what it’s selling for now across the web and what it’s selling for on your specific platform.

Another business scenario can be tied to the online presence I mentioned earlier.

Let’s say you decide to start a blog. You put out articles every week, and soon build up a humble following on social media. All of the articles you publish, of course, are free to read.

Take those articles and repackage them as an ebook using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP is an incredibly easy tool for publishing books and ebooks that appear on the Amazon store almost overnight. After publishing a few weeks worth of content, you have enough for a modest ebook. If you include a few new, exclusive articles in the book, you have an even better chance of selling it to your readers.

Even easier than using KDP is to simply format the manuscript on your own and export it as a PDF. The ebook is simply the PDF. Many people sell ebooks like this online, which costs them little to no money to create. So even if you sell your book for $7 or $10, that’s 100% profit in your pocket.

If this ebook is within your industry, it will add that much more appeal to your resume.

Conclusion

School hasn’t prepared you for this kind of world. But, rather than dwelling on what could have been, accept what is and take advantage of what you can.

Time is as valuable a commodity as money. Having too much of one is no good without the other. You are in a unique position where you probably have little money, but a whole lot of time.

This is time that can be invested. Shakespeare’s life was ravaged by the plague in England, which would cause theaters to shut down constantly. It’s rumored that, during one of these lock-downs in which the Bard found himself quarantined, he wrote King Lear.

At this pivotal moment in your life, look at how you can use this free time to better prepare you for when the job market opens back up.

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