Lessons from the Class of 2008

Lessons from the Class of 2008

For the Class of 2020, graduation is a time like no other in history. The current global pandemic and its impact on the world has left many feeling more uncertain about their future than ever. alumni UBC looked back at other moments in history that have had somewhat similar impacts on the graduating class. Through a review of recent retrospectives, we were able to put together the following lessons from the Class of 2008.

What’s Similar?

The global financial crisis in 2008-09 presented new graduates with immense uncertainty, which was not exclusive to one particular sector. Similar to the current pandemic, the Class of 2008 was faced with a job market that they did not expect. However, after the dust had settled, new graduates were presented with new opportunities in new fields that had not existed before (for example: Social Media Managers, Data Scientists, Privacy Officers). Although it may be too early to see what new opportunities will present themselves to the Class of 2020, the last global recession demonstrates that there is a path forward.

What’s Different?

While in 2008-09, many employers and leaders were trying to get back to normal, in 2020 there is an understanding that we are preparing to enter a “new normal”. Organizations are undergoing major structural changes both physically and financially. Global travel, workplace culture, and entire sectors will be vastly different.

Lesson #1: Expect A Slow Start

In 2008, the global economy crashed, leaving new graduates to enter an unpromising job market. Years later, economists and other academics have analyzed the true impact this had on graduates from that time.

A study of the graduates of the Great Recession indicates that:

  • their wages grew more slowly over the first decade of employment than peers who entered the workforce before the recession;
  • at age 30-34, they’re less likely to be in a management position than people in that cohort were before the recession;
  • at age 30-34, they’re less likely to occupy a skilled position than the same pre-recession cohort.

  - Source: RBC, The Recession Roadblock: The Long-term Career Consequences of Graduating into a Downturn

While it’s true that the Class of 2008 is still feeling the professional repercussions of the Great Recession, understanding that there may be patience, resilience, and grit required to navigate the job market will help manage expectations and keep a positive outlook.

Lesson #2: Know That It’s Not Your Fault

Similar to the Great Recession, very few experts today could have predicted the enormity of the situation. Financial recessions and major global events – although inevitable – can rarely be controlled. Know that there have been generations before you who have experienced the struggle of entering an uncertain job market.

The best approach: focus on your own well-being. Do what you need to do to stay mindful, positive, and healthy during these uncertain times. This may involve re-assessing your short-term and long-term goals, but know that there are people out there who have shared experiences and can provide sound advice.

- Source: Globe & Mail, ‘I was broke’: Millennials who coped with Great Recession on surviving downturns

Lesson #3: Expect Change

The period following the Great Recession marked a time of exciting change. The technology sector boomed, giving way to new jobs and new fields. The banking sector also changed drastically, opening up opportunities for graduates from a range of degrees. We can expect this type of labour market change again in the near future.

Be resilient. Be adaptive. Moreover, be prepared to think critically about your skills and how they may transfer to potentially new and emerging fields.

- Source: Vice, What's It Like to Graduate Into a Recession? We Asked the Class of 2009

alumni UBC Resources

We hope these lessons prove to be valuable for the Class of 2020. As a final note, we have prepared a list of  resources to help you take action and prepare yourself as you enter the job market:

Top Five New Grad Career Resources

Alumni Career Stories

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