Showing Your Value as a New Graduate During a Recession

By Alexis Stiebe

Don’t be discouraged new college grads! I know that if you graduated this spring, the future is filled with uncertainty. The sudden recession and unexpected restrictions caused by the pandemic have upended multiple industries. The way this recession mirrors the environment new grads were faced with 10 years ago is clear.

Back in 2008 and 2009, new graduates faced a similar economic downturn. Jobs lined up after graduation disappeared. Young adults found themselves moving back in with mom and dad. In 2009, I was one of them. Friends without the safety net of parents with a spare room scrambled for any position at all. Those new grads from 10 years ago built successful careers and so will you! In fact, the advances in technology over the past decade and the remote work revolution give you some unique advantages. Here are a few tips to help you leverage your skills and enter the workforce during a recession.

First off, stop applying to every job on the job boards.

I know it feels productive to send in applications. You’re applying to openings like it’s a full-time job right now, but that effort is wasted if put into fruitless tasks. An employer will not hire you if you don’t have the skills they need. The only exception is maybe years of experience. If you can clearly demonstrate that you have the skills asked for, 2 years in the workforce might not be necessary. Apply to those positions you are qualified for and redirect the rest of your effort into showing your value. One of the most important ways to show that value is on your resume.

Build a resume with quantifiable accomplishments to sell your skills.

Our recruiters’ main advice when reviewing resumes is to use quantifiable accomplishments. Your resume should quantify the results and impact of your work. Use firm numbers to show your success clearly and with impact. As a new grad, you may have to get creative and use achievements from class projects instead of a workplace. Internship experience definitely counts. Use this format to describe past experience clearly:

Accomplished X as measured by Y by doing Z.

We’ve written about resumes in-depth on our blog so be sure to check out these more detailed articles as well:

Experts Agree, Your Resume Should Have These 5 Things

Your Resume Needs to Prove It!

And don’t forget about your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have an account yet, go sign up now. Right now. This article will be here when you get back. There are a lot of guides on optimizing your LinkedIn profile, but the most important factor is filling out every single section until LinkedIn stops giving you popups telling you your profile is incomplete. You will show up in search more once you reach that 100% complete status. LinkedIn is a great way to build your network and is a key component to our next tip.

Networking is key!

Having a LinkedIn profile will help you better take advantage of your network. Even if you feel like you’re bad at networking, I guarantee you’ve made valuable connections that can help you enter the workforce. Take advantage of your college alumni association, campus resources, local job boards, and young professionals groups in your area. Send a LinkedIn connection request to every professional you meet. A connection of a connection could be your lead into a great position. I know we’re staying inside more, so take advantage of virtual spaces like LinkedIn Groups and don’t be afraid of promoting yourself. Many LinkedIn users who are established in their career are willing to mentor new grads. If they see you are available-to-hire, they may reach out when they hear of an opening.

Explore alternate career paths.

Remember when I told you not to apply to jobs you aren’t qualified for? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something new. Are there exactly zero openings in the industry you’ve set your mind on? Take an inventory of your skills. The knowledge and skills you’ve developed can have value outside of the career path you originally had in mind. New opportunities will open up when you look beyond where you thought your academic major would lead in freshman year. A job opening that needs your skills but isn’t a position you ever imagined for yourself could turn into position you really love. Yes, your first job will impact your career path down the line. But not as much as you might think. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Never give up. You will find success.

Recessions do not last forever. We are talking to employers right now who are looking for talented professionals. We are also seeing that for companies looking for new employees, their search process may take a little longer. Many companies have had to adjust their hiring process to online video interviews and even remote onboarding. So have patience, keep networking, and keep building your skills. You will be able to find a job eventually. You will be able to build a lasting and fulfilling career.

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