I graduated in 2009 just as the great recession hit its stride. The subprime mortgage bubble burst and lots of people lost their homes, their jobs, and their way of life. The stock market plummeted and the Bush administration bailed out Wall St. and corporate America for what would be the first of many times to come.
I remember hearing about it on the news and thinking absolutely nothing of it while I was putting together my senior projects, and looking for jobs.
Surely hard work, good work, drive, and enthusiasm would speak for themselves in an already competitive professional landscape.
I strategically took my first unpaid internship which seemed like a worthy tradeoff. I was hungry to gain the experience necessary to get a job with a livable wage that would allow me to stay here and start my life. So I worked for free.
And worked for free.
And worked for free.
Then worked for almost free.
No one was hiring.
Then worked on a grant project for the United Nations Development Programme through Champlain College, which was wicked cool, but temporary. We made a video game called Breakaway that helped educate kids about gender inequality issues, and how to make gender equality-positive choices.
It’s still in production and is played by millions of kids throughout the world.
I’m still extremely proud of the work my team did to bring this idea into reality, and grateful to be part of its legacy.
Rolling into 2011, the economy had hit the bottom of “The Recession” – now a common household term – creative departments and sub contractors were being let go in small to medium sized companies, of which Vermont is mainly comprised. People with 5-10 years of experience were scrambling for entry level jobs and savvy business owners were understandably hiring them.
This scramble is a symptom of a recession. It will happen again, in fact, it’s happening now.
So, here are a few tips and lessons that got me through the first recession.
Tips for Graduating in a Recession
Know what you want.
3/4 of ‘being successful’ at anything is knowing what you want. Spend the time sitting with yourself until you find clarity around what you want.
Write a personal mission statement.
Life in the creative industry can be a vicious cycle and is not for the weak spirited. It’s hard. It’s easy to become cynical and forget why you wanted to do this crazy thing from the start. Write a personal mission statement and refer back to it when the walls feel like they’re closing in.
Take matters into your own hands.
The advent of high-speed internet has provided endless opportunity for creative professionals. Figure out what you want then leverage the tech and tools around you to explore it. Start a business. Work remotely. Partner up. The possibilities are endless.
Ask for what you want.
Discover where your ideal job is, or where your ideal clients hang out. Cold call them. DM them. Cold email them. Be relentless. There is always someone willing to pay you to learn if you have drive, enthusiasm and talent. Always.
Never stop learning.
Your education doesn’t stop once you get your diploma. Sign up for free classes through reputable universities like Alison, Harvard’s completely free online course library. Udemy is always having sales. Adobe TV is free. There’s zero excuses.
Don’t give up.
Some people get lucky but most of us have to make our own luck, and that requires courage, mindfulness, and and in-depth knowledge of self. There will be days where you want to give up – don’t. Walk away for a minute and breathe. It will work out even if it doesn’t seem like it, I promise.
Your friends are your best network.
Start there. If you’re starting a business, ask your friends to promote your services. If you’re looking for a job, ask your friends for a recommendation. Team up. Find an accountability buddy. Journeys are always more enjoyable with friends.
Good luck out there seniors. It will get better, I promise.