During this article, I'll be discussing my own experience of surviving and getting a job during the last major recession and what we can continue to learn in the pending recession that will face us after COVID-19.I'll include tips like networking, upskilling, personal professional development, etc.
Table of Contents
Analyze Your Skillset
Build Your Network
Never Stop Learning
Although the Great Recession in 2008 only lasted 19 months, the longer-term impact of the recession on a generation of workers caused repercussions that could still be felt several years later. As we approach the next major crisis, I wanted to take a retrospective from my own career and see what lessons can be learned from the 2008 Great Recession.
I began my career in the middle of one of the world’s worst economic crises. Good friends of mine who were graduating at similar times were finding themselves without any job prospects and even “assured” contracts being withdrawn at the last minute with no prospect of the offer being reinstated. We were all very worried about what our future would hold, how we could start to get onto the career ladder and how we could afford to live if all we could find was unpaid/ low paid internships.
We all came from similar backgrounds, gained similar degrees but what made the differences to our post-graduate story was how we prepared for it. Whether it was relying on their parents for support and income or using their existing network of working summer jobs to try and temp their way to a permanent job/opportunity.
I was very fortunate that I was given a temporary contract and a chance to prove myself within a great company with prospects to grow and train. I worked by hardest within those six months to prove that I was worth the investment and could support the team and organization but it was not an easy transition or journey.
As a young graduate, you are forced to look at the skills that you have gained through studying and extra-curricular activities rather than necessarily showing how many certifications you have to your name. The same can apply now! What skills have you gained in your current job? What are you able to add to your resume that can support any future job application. When coaching graduates, I often start the discussion with the following questions:
- What do you like to do outside of studying? Are you a volunteer? Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Each of these can open a wealth of skills that you may not realize such as leadership, budgeting, perseverance, and dedication. If you lead a group of volunteers at a Food Bank, you have people skills, leadership, and management skills that you can call upon. If you play competition Tennis or Football you have the dedication and determination to stick to a training schedule, you’re able to work in a team and you show up.
It’s really important to utilize as many connections as possible from your university course/ clubs and societies. I was President of the German Society at University and had the opportunity to network with every year. This has led to friendships that ten years on I can still talk to and have connected with job opportunities through the years. During my time at university, I was also working part-time and this also opened opportunities that I could use after I graduated to find out about vacancies or discuss potential options. These networks were all built on friendship and a common interest goal but what made them last longer was ensuring that I kept in touch with them on a regular/semi-regular basis.
I would strongly recommend that from today, you work on enriching your own personal network. Message old friends and contacts, check-in and see how they are and foster that relationship. If you are just getting started in your career, I strongly recommend online networking. This is a great way to get established and known within your industry as well as open potential opportunities for you in the longer term.
As a junior, every work day felt like a new day at school. I remember having dozens of notepads by the end of my first year, all filled with notes, diagrams, explanations, abbreviations that I needed to know. We can sometimes forget that our careers are a continual learning process. As an experienced Project Management Professional, I still feel that I can learn something new and that there are always ways to improve and learn a new skill. Many organizations and learning providers are offering their courses for free/ reduced costs, so why not use this time to gain a new certification? Or look at widening your skillset to incorporate an additional Project Management methodology or skill.
This recession can also hold a lot of opportunities for you to reevaluate your career and transition into something new. I’ve written an article on projectmanagement.com which can support you in working out what is your next step in your career and how you can navigate to this end goal.
If you are just coming out of university, there’s a chance that you may not have a LinkedIn profile yet. If this is the case, I recommend that you look at joining online networking sites like LinkedIn and ensure that it’s up to date with all of your information and data. More importantly though is answering the question: What does your online profile say about you? During recruitment processes, it’s common for interviewers and recruiters to google your name/profile to try to see if you will be a good fit for the role and organization. What does your search say about you? Does it highlight the great volunteer work that you’ve been doing? Or is it pictures from your personal life? If it’s more personal than professional, then consider making as much of your personal profile as private as possible.
As we approach this crisis, we can take two approaches. We could be reactive to the situation that we face and take the cards that we are dealt or we can be proactive and take the course of our careers into our own hands. Which will you choose?