Graduating from college in 2020 means entering the job market in a cratered economy. The last time this happened was in the years following the 2008 financial crisis. Here are words of wisdom from the people who graduated during those years.

Keep in touch

“Never take anyone in your life for granted, because you’ll never know how they will impact your life. Never burn bridges you don’t have to, because during the time of the recession when I graduated, and even more so now, finding a job is really about who you know, and who knows you … if you can cultivate your network and keep in touch with as many people as possible, that will serve you well down the line, especially as you advance in your career and are looking to either start a career or make a move within your career.”

— Megan Jeffrey, class of 2009

“Stay in touch with anyone you interview with. Even if they reject you, stay in touch.”

— Kimberly Latham, class of 2009

Your first job probably won’t be your forever job, and that’s OK

“No job is forever. That’s just not the way the job market is structured anymore. It used to be our grandfathers would go into a place and work there for 25 years, get the gold watch and retire. But the truth is that even if, when you’re starting out in your career, you’re in a job where you’re not quite sure about it, it’s not necessarily fulfilling you the way you thought you thought it would, it is OK to still hold that position and learn what you can from it, because that will help you move into your next role, and that role will probably be closer to what you envision as your dream role.”

— Megan Jeffrey, class of 2009

“Don’t be afraid to take a low-paying job if it has the potential for growth. Because when the economy comes back, they’re gonna hire more people, and then you’re in the driver’s seat there, you’re the most experienced person. At Perkins Coie, in my department at least, most of the people who are managers started before the recession, and … once we got to 2010, 2011, we were hiring a ton of people, and so the people who were on before the recession, if they’re good enough, then they became managers. So as a younger person, if you are able to just get your foot in the door doing whatever, when the economy comes back, there’s gonna be a lot of people banging on the door, and then you got a leg up, you have the experience.

“Try to set up more of a five-year plan as opposed to a one-year plan. You can make demands, but instead of asking for a fancy salary or a fancy office or something, ask for access to certain meetings or certain responsibilities — things that would act as résumé items two or three years down the line … or things like continuing education, or if there’s tuition reimbursement so you can take more classes as your career develops, you can add more skills … I think just looking to the future, instead of trying to just get the cool fancy salary or the fancy office, that would be the advice I’d give.”


— Tony Trepanier, class of 2008

“For me, I really just enjoyed whatever situation I was in at the moment. If you had told me two years before I graduated that I’d be working at a grocery store and loving it, I would have thought you were ridiculous. But I did love it. I enjoyed every moment of it. And I took the opportunity to learn as much as I could while I was there … I would say just enjoy whatever situation you’re in and try to learn from it in the moment as opposed to just in retrospect.”

— Eliza Parsons, class of 2008

Be ready to adapt

“Be creative and be flexible. If you had told me when I graduated that I wouldn’t be using Spanish on an everyday basis I would have been devastated, because I spent my whole life working toward this … it can feel like college degrees are a dime a dozen. It certainly did in 2010 when I graduated, but if you think on a global scale, it’s really a privilege to have higher education. Put the concepts and the things that you’ve learned in college to use. Think about how the things that you know and do can be applied to a workplace that isn’t directly one of the things that people think of when they think of your degree. Sometimes you have to let go of one dream to get to the new dream … it’s unfortunate that this is why you have to be clever. But I think that there’s a real potential for innovation.”

— Stacy Sage, class of 2010

Know you aren’t alone

“I would say that even the people who have had careers for 20 years are feeling just as uncertain about where they stand in the workforce.”

— Kimberly Latham, class of 2009