Advice for the Class of 2020 from a Graduate of the 2008 Recession
By: Valeria Ramos
Class of 2020 graduates around the world are faced with an unsettling reality as the coronavirus pandemic forced students to abandon their campuses two months before now-canceled graduations and set them out to job hunt in an unstable economy.
While quarantine and social distancing are new aspects of our reality, a crestfallen economy is something that has been faced and conquered by college graduates of the past.
To gather some advice and hopefully lift the spirits of heartbroken and anxious seniors, we spoke to Lyz Mancini, a communications graduate during the 2008 recession who went on to work as Director of Copy & Brand Voice for companies like Clinique, Real Simple, Pat McGrath, and more.
What was the job hunting experience like during the 2008 recession?
It was a difficult time not only for job hunting in general but especially for print publishing. My dream had always been to work for a fashion magazine, and now jobs were scarce, and everything was moving to digital. Where I lived then, you graduated and got whatever job you could locally, paying off student loans as best you could. I probably could have taken a job at a small newspaper, but a friend said she was moving to NYC and I said I’d go with her. I just started cold emailing fashion editors I admired, asking if they needed an intern. I figured I would just make it work. My friend ended up bailing on the move, so I showed up to Brooklyn with under $1,000 and an unpaid internship at NYLON. Then I took the subway to SOHO and told myself I wouldn’t go home until a bar or restaurant hired me. I worked two full-time jobs (only one paid) for three years until the job market started picking back up and people had the budget to pay writers again. It was rough, but it also made me work really hard for my dream. I had to take a lot of risks and grow thick skin.
How did you deal with the stress of the uncertain situation you were facing post-graduation?
I just always told myself that I could always go back home if I needed to. That I couldn’t change the fact that we were in this recession, so what did I have control over? How much I hustled, how much I budgeted, and the small steps I could take every day towards the life I wanted. The time will pass no matter what, so are you going to do whatever you can to get closer to your dream, or will you be in the same place years from now? There is always something small you can do that will make you feel productive and like you’re growing.
How did your first career moves take you to the position you’re in now?
Well, taking so many low-level positions in a cutthroat industry was like an ego boot camp, that’s for sure. They showed me that I never know everything, that I am always there to learn, but also there to add value. Also, working for free really makes you evaluate if what you’re doing is your passion. Is it worth the hours and the long days plus the work you’re doing for money? I was exhausted, but I knew I was on the right track to something.
What is the best advice you can give to the Class of 2020 graduates as they transition from school to a new reality?
This is an unprecedented time, a time that will likely be more difficult than the world I graduated into. Be kind to yourself, be gentle, and be honest. Do what makes you feel like the most organic version of yourself, and take chances. It’s okay if you have to live with your parents for a while. It’s okay if you have to take a job you hate for a while. But on the side, do something that makes you happy. The time will pass no matter what, and we will come out of the recession at some point. So, where do you want to be when that happens? Don’t let this hold you back from having the life you want.