Tips to find a job after college and during a recession

Tips for recent college graduates from 2008 grads

Three CareerBuilder employees who graduated college in 2008 share advice for recent grads

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many college graduates nervous about what the future has in store for them. Their fears may be similar to those of college graduates who were entering the workforce during the Great Recession in 2008.

We pulled together some CareerBuilder employees who lived through that time and asked them to share their experience and offer advice to this year's graduating class. We sat down with Jessica Ribish (Marketing Automation Manager), Brandi Frattini (Talent Acquisition Team Lead) and Timothy Kincade (Senior Account Executive) to hear about how they stayed positive, worked towards their professional goals and advice they have for the next generation entering the workforce.

What were your initial thoughts as you graduated college and during your initial job hunt?

Jess: When I graduated college, I felt a mix of emotions: scared, uncertain and excited. The economy wasn’t great, I didn’t know if there would be a job out there for me, and I had $700 monthly college loan payments to start making on top of paying the rent of my first apartment. Yet, at the same time, I was looking forward to my post-college life, and I couldn’t wait to see where it took me.

Brandi: Even when there isn’t a recession, almost all new grads have challenges looking for employment in their field of study. Knowing this, I remained committed to my job search and looked for roles that provided me with experience in the field of HR, even if the location or pay was not ideal.

Tim: Fortunately, I had a job lined up, so I didn’t panic or get discouraged after graduating like many others. When I graduated, I was a bank teller and shortly later took on another job as a sales associate with a gym. This helped me gain invaluable experience that helped me continue building a resume within sales.

Did you have to pivot your career ambitions to find a job? What advice do you have for expectant college grads who are now looking for a job?

Jess: Yes, I was a double major in Graphic Design and Marketing, cum laude and honors graduate – so I thought I would apply to the first few design and marketing roles I saw and have job offers just lining up out the door. Entry-level positions weren’t available when I was looking, and every position required at least 3-5 years of experience. Understanding that I needed to get some real-world experience, I applied for a sales role. During my interview process, I asked about lateral movements within the company since marketing was really my passion and the hiring manager said that if I worked hard and met my sales goals consistently that those types of moves could be possible. I took the job, put everything I had into it, survived a layoff, gained a massive amount of B2B knowledge, and earned a role in marketing two years later.

Brandi: I doubled down on making sure I got as much experience in HR as I could. Naturally when you finish college you are hoping for a paid job or internship, I didn’t have that kind of luck. I took unpaid internships, I volunteered my extra time with HR associations, and dealt with long commutes to get the experience I wanted.

Tim: While I had a job lined up, I still had to pivot. Originally, I was planning to move to Atlanta and start my professional career there, but I decided to stay local and take some additional courses. This was ultimately the best decision for me, because after spending a few years working within sales in Chicago I was able to make the move to Atlanta in 2011.

What advice do you have for this group of college grads?

Jess: Now is not the time to be picky. If the exact position you want isn’t available right now, try to find a company you like, whose values align with yours, within an industry you care about or find interesting. I have no doubt that you have transferable skills that would be relevant for an opening they have now. Although the position may not be your ideal at the moment, take it as an opportunity to learn, work hard, gain experience in new areas, and make strong connections with people – all of that will help you for years to come as your career path takes new twists and turns. One more piece of advice, start investing in your 401k now!

Brandi: Be flexible and patient! All the activities, side jobs and volunteer opportunities you are doing during this time are building your resume and giving you experience to speak to at your next interview. Take this time to build your network and online brand.

Tim: Always have a backup plan. If you don’t have one, make sure you utilize the tools and resources to help you (i.e. career center at your school, academic advisor). Do not panic, this is not the end of the world - you will get through it. Technology sales is very popular, and companies are always hiring recent grads with no or minimum sales experience. A large percentage of employees in that profession do not have degrees in business related fields. It’s a great way to work in an amazing environment and earn a good living while you’re still pursuing your dream.