Hey guys. A few months back, I wrote a well-received "Guide to Surviving the Recession for New Grads" based on my experiences during the 2009 financial crisis. As a follow-up and to give some hope to new grads still out there looking for a job, I wanted to add a few more thoughts with four ways a recession will make you stronger:
1. Your Networking Skills Will Go Through the Roof
Circa 2008, I was an introvert. Circa 2010, I was the most extroverted introvert that you will ever meet. The recession forced me to get out of my shell, network, and sell my story. With Covid, I'm sure that this will be a little different given less personal interaction, but I imagine that you guys are getting pretty good at phone calls, e-mails, and Zoom chats.
When I finally broke into IB and then, this skill immediately transferred into comfort talking with clients and networking at investor conferences. I didn't even realize that I had built up these skills until several years later observing younger incoming associates. When it came to professional networking and getting to know others in the industry, I was more extroverted than the most naturally extroverted kids graduating in 2012 or 2013 who all seemed very timid and unconfident. The recession taught me how to hustle.
2. You Will Never Worry About Losing a Job Again
After surviving the 2009 crisis unemployed, I don't fear job loss at all. I know many colleagues who are the opposite. A lot of people are scared to death of losing their jobs. They have great resumes, but they've never experienced something like 2009 or maybe have never been unemployed. After the experience of sending 500 resumes in 6 months during the recession, I know that I'll find something, especially now that I actually have a good resume.
Also consider my job search progression in the past 13 years or so. First shitty financial job, it took me 500 resumes to land a position. First IB job, it took me maybe 100 to 150 resumes. First ER position, 1 resume sent - instantly got the job. Exit from ER, sent 20 to 40 resumes - got the job (also got all kinds of interesting interviews: PE, IB, lateral ER to....had maybe a 20% to 30% response rate which is insane compared to something like a 2% response rate for my first finance role). Most recent job - 0 resumes. Got recruited. So again, if I got fired tomorrow, not great of course but not that worried about it either.
3. You Will Have Right-Sized Expectations
After going through a long period of unemployment, you really get to appreciate your current position more. I lost a few good years thanks to the recession, but that's ok. Not a big deal. If I had landed an IB role in 2008, I'd probably be living a lot higher on the hog, but it doesn't bother me at all. When I finally got a role at a MM, I was thrilled. When I worked in LMM, I was thrilled at the opportunity. Even now, I don't work for a fancy company. Don't care. I'm pretty happy where I am as I've seen over the cliff of the alternative.
Also, I don't need a ton of money to make me happy - I can directly tie some of this to surviving the recession. If Bob is only happy retiring with $2 million in the bank and Dave is only happy retiring with $10 million in the bank, Bob will have a lot easier time finding happiness than Dave.....this statement is pretty hard to refute.
Now, a word of caution, I've seen this also go the other way. Some people are bitter forever that they didn't get into such and such bank because of the recession or are not further along in their career, but if you have a little bit of a thankful approach and positive attitude, you can avoid feeling like this, but just want to put this out there as a word of caution.
4. You Will Have Right-Sized Spending Habits
For those of you with grandparents or great-grandparents who survived the Great Depression or WWII, you might wonder how they're still so frugal even after almost a century following the event. Well, I didn't understand this either until it happened to me.
Don't take me for a complete miser. I'll spend money on some luxuries, but I'll give you an example of where I won't. My wife and I were recently thinking of doing a major remodeling of our kitchen. It's really not that out of date but we had a few ideas on how to to make it cooler. We got severals bids that came in around $20K. We could easily afford it, but we didn't do it. My first job out of the recession paid $36K with no benefits. I just can't make myself spend that entire year's after-tax salary on something that makes my life the tiniest bit better. As some of you grow older and get into houses, you will be absolutely shocked by how many people just blow money on stuff like this. Save some money here. Read #3 again and you're on your way to living a more satisfied life.
Again, hope this helps and good luck to everyone still looking for a job. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the skills learned from the covid recession will give you an advantage probably for the rest of your life. In fact, it's crazy how something like this will change you forever. After graduating into the financial crisis, I don't even identify with other millenials...basically graduates from 2007 to 2009 are my people. I honestly see millenials graduating post-2009 as alien in worldview. Anyways, in the long run, it has made me stronger and better and despite the pain, this experience will do the same for you. I know that it's hard to hear but there actually is a big silver lining to this all if you can get through it and learn the right lessons along the way.