The class of 2020 will long be remembered for graduating into the worst economy in generations. They came of age during one of the longest periods of economic expansion in the country's history from 2010 through 2019, in the shadow of the great recession. Many took for granted the numerous high-paying jobs across industries available to them, and were blindsided by the recent coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus has pulled the rug from beneath graduates and now thousands are finding themselves returning to their childhood bedrooms, missing their friends, graduation parties, and travel while facing a steady trickle of bad news about rescinded offers, postponed start dates and limited opportunities.
But for job seekers today, there's reason to be optimistic about the prospects of landing a job before the economy recovers.
What's the state of the market today?
Unemployment jumped in April as coronavirus related lockdowns began. In the 20-24 age bracket, where most recent graduates will fall, unemployment went from between 6 and 7 percent for much of time between June 2019 and February 2020, to over 25% in April. While unemployment has recovered slightly to 20% in June, these levels are worse than the high mark for the 2008-2009 recession.
Also looking at BLS data the job losses have most severely impacted individuals without a college degree. At about 60% of the labor force, individuals without a college degree have recovered only about 30% of the jobs lost, whereas individuals with a college degree have recovered 65% of the jobs lost in April.
According to Glassdoor, while job listings for recent grads were down nearly 70% versus the prior year in May, this figure already improved to 40% fewer job postings versus the prior year for June. While these aren't signs of a strong labor market, they do point to a quicker recovery than what one might expect in a typical recession.
There is evidence that graduating into a recession can set new entrants to the job market back for much of their careers. Analysis of previous recessions shows that on average, it takes graduates twelve years to catch up with their peer group in lifetime earnings. Millennials graduating into the 2008 recession witnessed this, and continue to fundamentally change the global economy by delaying life events like marriage, purchasing a home, and having children as a result. Much of this has been driven by record levels of student and consumer debt, but many incomes started lower and stagnated as the country at large climbed out of recession.
So what should you do if you're looking for a job?
Be patient. Be persistent.
Plan to build a routine around your job search, similar to a routine you might have if you were still in school or going to work every day. That means having a morning routine before starting your day and designating a period of the day for your career search, including researching companies and roles, identifying members of your extended network, catching up with other job-seekers, recruiters, mentors, and sending applications. Notice how 'sending applications' is listed last.
Many industries will be difficult to break into, particularly given the challenging job market, so be open-minded about taking a job that you might not have considered if you find that the team, the opportunity for learning and advancement, and the mission align with your goals.
Networking takes practice, and is a muscle that you can build. Before you can network effectively, you have to be disciplined and prepare.
Over 80% of jobs are found via some form of networking. While social media and job boards provide the easiest path for seeing available jobs and sending applications, your highest yield will come from building relationships with people in industries and at companies that interest you.
Start out by making a long list of desired industries. You might be interested in healthcare, or policy-making, or legal, social media or renewable energy. Identify and order your top three.
Using LinkedIn, Facebook, Glassdoor and Twitter (and Crunchbase and AngelList if you're interested in startups) make a list of 20 companies in each of those industries. Read about their missions and values, recent news, leadership teams, and order your list by which companies make your top ten in each industry.
For each company in your top 10 (you should have 30 companies in total, across three industries), go to their website and browse open roles. Figure out where they post jobs (ZipRecruiter, Indeed, LinkedIn, Handshake) and set up alerts so that you receive an email every time they post a job.
Follow the company pages on LInkedIN, Instagram and Twitter. This will help you familiarize yourself with their industries, products, leadership teams, and culture.
Now you're ready to start networking.
Using Linkedin and your alumni directory, if your university makes one available to you, research and identify any contacts who you might be able to connect to at each of the thirty companies. Reach out by email (use mailtester.com to test addresses) with a personalized note about your interest in learning more about the company, their career, the industry, or their role. Ask for their time instead of asking if they know of any roles.
To prepare for each meeting, make a list of ten questions that you'd like to ask, then spend about an hour researching online for the answer to those questions. If you can't find an answer online, mark that question as a conversation topic.
Always end the conversation with a specific request to be introduced to somebody else in their industry, at a another company on your list, or in a role that better aligns to your target position.
Send a follow up note afterwards thanking them for their time. Ask if you can follow up with them to provide updates on your job search, and if they would be willing to catch up again to help you prepare for interviews. The magic here is that you haven't asked anybody for a job, but they will remember you when something comes up that might fit your background.
Explore the many resources available to you as a job-seeker.
There are a number of services that cater to entry-level job seekers (*** below), and it is valuable to explore each of them as they might have different geographic or industry strengths.
E.g. Job Boards
Job boards tailored to entry-level roles
Micro-internships (short term roles to build your resume)
Here at Nlyst, our mission is to build a better model for recent graduates to launch their careers. For access to resume templates and advice, or to join, visit www.nlyst.com.
Jake Ricciardi is the president and founder of Nlyst, a marketplace startup serving recent graduates. Prior to founding Nlyst, he led a team of product managers at AI powered legal services provider Axiom. He is a graduate of Brown University and resides in Rhode Island. You can contact Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.