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Graduates of the Great Recession Share Career Advice for Class of 2020

The Class of 2009
The Class of 2009 gets ready to march in their commencement ceremony.

The classes of 2008 and 2009 faced one of the most challenging job markets in decades, as the U.S. reeled from the impacts of the Great Recession.

The Class of 2020 faces an equally uncertain job market, with hiring slowing and the unemployment rate rising in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help these students navigate this stressful time, the Student Engagement Center turned to Whitman College alumni who graduated during the recession years to share their wisdom and encouragement with this year’s class.

Below is their advice:

Use Your Existing Connections

Andrew Johnson ’09, philosophy, Associate Director, Residence Life & Housing, Whitman College: 

“When I graduated in 2009, I didn’t feel like I had a lot of options open to me at the time. There was a lot of uncertainty both about what I wanted and what was available. I used a connection I had made from a job on campus, and through that I was able to get my first job after college. I wasn’t sure it was an area I wanted to work in, but it surprised me in meaningful and positive ways. Look for ways to make connections through experiences you had through Whitman, and don’t be afraid to try out a new kind of work or move to a new city. It’s a good time to take chances and try something new. And just because the job market might be bad now doesn’t mean that it won’t be really good in a couple years when you’re looking to transition to a new position or pursue a graduate degree.”   

Put Yourself Out There

Justin Daigneault ’09, biology, clinical supervisor, Youth Eastside Services:

“Figure out connections and networking opportunities you already have access to, and those that you may not have used yet, but could. Think of friends, family, online connections and attending networking events to meet new people. Examine your strengths and what you’re good at and what transferable skills you have that could be leveraged. Figure out ideal job options that you could explore and what secondary options might not be ideal, but are still a reasonable or realistic option for you or could be a stepping stone to a more ideal career path later on to build from. Don’t be afraid to apply to many different positions and put yourself out there for opportunities, even the ones you think you might not be qualified for or even be considered for. Going through that process will still help you build skills and practice for when the right opportunity comes along.

After graduation, I ended up using my strengths and connections already in place and applied to a job on campus. I also applied to some graduate school programs and opportunities abroad to cast a wide net, but ultimately chose to start making some money before accruing more debt. This helped me to pause after graduation to try something else out before getting into my future career, and I was able to practice and hone skills I could use later on.”

Be Willing to Imagine Outside the Box

Aisha Fukushima '09, rhetoric and film studies, RAPtivism founder:

Published on May 6, 2020
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