advice to the class of 2020

The classes of 2008 and 2009, who graduated during the financial crisis, understand what you are about to experience—minus the unprecedented global health crisis, of course.

There have been challenging times before and the Northeastern Network is here to help. We asked 2008 and 2009 graduates to offer advice on how to navigate a transformed economy. Take a look at their insights below.

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Be Open to Opportunities

Jamie, DMSB'08

“Consider jobs that may not be in your wheelhouse or are simply adjacent to your degree. Being open to different opportunities and being flexible will help you secure a position more easily. In time you can migrate back into the line of work you prefer.

When applying for entry level jobs, the Northeastern education and hands on experience through the co-op will help you stand above the crowd. Use that to your advantage at every opportunity.

Think outside the box; I took a job managing a bookstore during the recession which gave me incredible experience that I continue to use 12 years later in my career.

Continue to learn and upskill; while you’re looking for jobs take notes of recurring skills that companies are looking for and find ways to upskill online (many courses are being offered for free across learning sites).”

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Mary Beth, AS'08

“Without selling yourself short, be ready to take less money right now than you might have hoped for before the pandemic. Making less than you’d like is better than being entirely unemployed, and it’s possible (although difficult, and not ideal) to make up the lost wages later in your career.

Look at fields that can weather recessions better. Now might not be the time to join a startup if you don’t have emergency savings or other financial support. 

Look for people in your professional network who can connect you to employers and jobs. Mine LinkedIn, join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, email your favorite professors. 

Expand your search horizons to include multiple areas of the country (if you’re in a position to move) and fields you might not have thought of. Don’t necessarily search for jobs based on your degree; search based on your skillset and have an open mind. 

If you get laid off, realize it’s more than likely not because of anything you did. It doesn’t feel great to have to go back to applying for jobs again, but if it happens, give yourself a few days to regroup and then get back on the horse.”

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Marcia, DMSB'09

“Identify the industries/companies that are growing in today’s environment and look for connections there. To this day I have yet to use job posting sites, I have been able to find job opportunities via my network.”

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Michael, JD'14

Have some north stars and long-term goals, but be open in your short-term moves because options you may have never considered can change your life. Unexpectedly working for CityYear in Little Rock, Arkansas for 2 years was unexpected and was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And, network, network, network.

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Cassandra, AS'08

“It’s important to be resourceful; don’t just aim for what you majored in, but see what other little pockets come from underneath it.  For me, being an Office Administrator still equaled building experience in my field of communications.”

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Lacey, AS'08

“After graduation, I was freelance in TV production, so I would say being open and flexible to freelance is something to consider!”

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Kate, AS'08

“Say yes to opportunities without knowing exactly where they’ll take you. Real estate investing and entrepreneurship offer diversification in income streams that allowed me to make bold demands for my career, such as negotiating a permanent position from a temp role during a recession.” 

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Lauren, DMSB'09, MBA'15

“Be flexible and stay open to roles and opportunities you might not otherwise consider, including contract work. Stay in touch with former employers and contacts. Keep your job search flexible and be open to new experiences, as they may lead to good opportunities.”

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Tap into Your Network

Chris, S'08, MS'13

“It is important for young workers to be adaptable and accept uncertainty in the early part of their careers. Building your career takes time. Temporary work may lead to other opportunities

Maintain connections with staffing agencies and recruiters who know your talents and be open-minded to opportunities. Also very powerful is the professional network you form with your coworkers and management, who will recommend you for roles later on. 

Know what you are worth and salary range statistics, before you sit down to negotiate for a job.” 

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Matt, Khoury'09

“A strong professional network also gives candidates an advantage. Through co-op experience, student group involvement, and other activities, I graduated with a strong professional network which still proves valuable over a decade later.

The key in any job search is patience, and that’s even more important in times of recession. A job search is also a bit of a numbers game, so just getting your resume out there in front of as many potential employers as possible is key.”

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Julia, AS'09

“I’m almost certain that had it not been for the co-op program, finding a job would have been challenging, particularly as a sociology major. Make a list of contacts to network with: co-op employers, coaches, and past professors. You never know where an opportunity might be.”

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Ryan, E'08

“I reached out to as many contacts as I could to see if there were any close connections I could tap into. I had to transition from construction into bridge inspection, but it was still working using my civil engineering degree.  I also worked part time at Cheers and was able to start working more shifts there.  I also picked up piecemeal work using the TaskRabbit app, doing side jobs for extra money.”  

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Job Search Strategies

Nora, JD'09

“If you can’t find work, keep building your experience and resume through volunteering and freelancing and use your network.”

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Hilary, DMSB'08

I used the skills I gained from prepping for co-op to start looking for jobs. Stay positive, pursue a skill set or job you didn’t even know you were interested in. Leverage the co-op experience, which is a point of differentiation from others. You never know what it might lead to.”

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Matt, Khoury'08

Apply to as many jobs as you can and write a strong cover letter that is relevant to the job posting. Take time to practice common interview questions.

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Wayne, CPS'95, MS'09

“Accumulate soft skills, which are going to be more important than before and will last a lifetime. Courses are being offered by various platforms at greatly reduced prices or even free.

This isn’t the first calamity the world has endured, and it won’t be the last. First, second, and third choices of places to work may not be open. The road may be slower but gaining experience at whatever level will help going forward. Sometimes these roles provide the greatest learning experiences.”

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The Graduate School Option

Corey, E'09

“Always work hard to build a strong resume backed by academic success in your earlier years. Don’t worry too much about trends. Learn how to market yourself well and adapt.

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Mike, PhD'15

The 2008 recession led me to pursue a doctorate in chemistry at Northeastern.  My advice is to maximize your software skills. Get trial versions of the latest software in your field, work through every free tutorial you can find.  If you can’t find a job right away, think of this as a “software sabbatical.” These are the tools that will most likely differentiate job applicants moving forward.

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Andy, DMSB'09

Going to law school and into more debt to avoid a bad market when I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to practice law was a mistake. Instead, I should have leveraged whatever networks I had to try and find a job.

After realizing that law school was a mistake, I ended up starting my own business with a classmate from Northeastern, and it was the best career move for me. We grew and sold a successful business together and are still working together today.”

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Bomopregha, JD'13

“Tap into your connections: friends, family members, old high school connections and internship contacts. Be persistent. Remember that this time is temporary and hopefully you have family members and friends you can lean on. They will be some of your greatest resources for the tears as well as the triumphs, because they will cheer you on and give you hope. Keep trucking along and most importantly, don’t give up!” 

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Lauren, BHS'09, DPT'12

Going to graduate school can be a good option and compare the various financial aid offerings. I was able to get the education I was planning to get anyway, avoided as much debt as possible, and rode out the recession. By the time I graduated, the market had turned around and I had two job offers.” 

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