What new graduates can learn from my 2008 recession job search
By: Leslie Mardis, P.E.
I graduated from college with an engineering degree during the subprime mortgage recession of 2008. I know what it’s like to have a promising future put on pause for the unknown foreseeable future. The Houston Construction industry halted all at once. In my role as a mentor, I’ve spoken to many recent graduates, who like me, had jobs lined up and received the call or email that their opportunity was suddenly unavailable. It’s going to be okay. Here’s what happened to me. I was really excited. I was one of the few graduates who knew for years what my path would be. My years-long internship was rolling me into my graduate engineering position and then…nothing. After the initial sadness and trepidation, I faced the reality that people without jobs cannot file for unemployment. My path for financial stability was looking grim. I immediately deferred my student loans and started living off ramen noodles and cheese quesadillas. Living in my parent’s guest room was not resume-worthy so I started looking for opportunities. I studied and passed the E.I.T. (Engineer in Training). I applied to every job search site and minimum wage job in my vicinity to no avail. I was too overqualified for my old Blockbuster job. Personal depression hit by the end of the first month and by the sixth month I was certain I would never work an engineering job again. The industry started picking back up though. Friends started to find jobs and I had a potential offer of a technical writing position at a well-known engineering firm, but grant money was holding off the start date. I was doing all that I knew to do, and then I received a fateful call from my old boss. Construction projects were gaining quickly, and they needed an extra man (woman) on board, was I interested? I maintained composure and said “Yes,” as fast as humanly possible, and started my new position the next Monday. It has been over a decade and I can still feel the upswing of hope that I would not die penniless and under a bridge. All of this to say, if you are a recent graduate who had a job and now does not, it is okay to feel sad and defeated at times. You just worked and studied harder than any other undergrad major and you feel like it was all for nothing, but it is not. It takes more time than you think you have the patience for, but one day you will start getting the emails and phone calls asking for your skills back in the market. Just hold on. Ten years down the road you will see it was all for a bigger purpose, sitting behind your desk, managing other engineers, knowing that you endured some very difficult times, but you made it. It will equip you in ways that you can’t understand yet. You will think more creatively and have a different perspective. Your voice is needed. I’m proud of you. May you be encouraged. You won’t live with your parents forever. It’s going to be okay.
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