From 22 to 24: Lessons from Graduating During a Recession

My 24th birthday was on March 31st.

That means it’s coming on two years since I graduated from college and moved back to Miami.

Where the hell does time go, right?

Along the way I’ve learned some lessons from having graduated during a rough economic time. Lessons, that although the media constantly perpetuates how screwed we are because of it, I hope will teach a generation about being more careful with their career choices, their money and how they treat each other.

Stop Complaining and Do Something

There was an article published by Esquire recently that argues our Boomer parents set us up for disaster. That it’s their faults we can’t get out on our own, can’t find the jobs we need and have horrible money habits. The article also goes on to explain that politicians and our parents set the economy up for this nightmare and still continue to attack us and keep us from growing on a daily basis through current legislation and constant condescending media.

While it’s easy to point fingers, and while it’s true that this was coming for a while, what’s done is done – regardless of who perpetuated it. Simply put, we got a really crappy hand – one that had been a long time coming and certainly one that we didn’t ask for – but what matters now is how we learn from it.

Is it our faults the economy busted as we were entering adulthood? No, but that doesn’t give us the right to constantly gripe and moan about it. Instead, we should take this as a serious lesson so future generations don’t go through the same ordeal.

When Life Gets Tough, Get Creative.

When I graduated in 2010 there was practically no work to be found in the sunny state of Florida. Even now, when things are starting to look up, we are still lagging behind the rest of the country in terms of economic recovery.

The result? You either get frantic stressed out 20somethings or 20somethings who have stopped giving a rat’s ass about anything.

How do I know? I see a fair share of both groups on a weekly basis thanks to my job.

What I end up telling a lot of these kids, besides the fact that we can help them find a decent job, is that in the meantime they can use skills they already have in order to make some extra cash.

Most of them look at me like I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Then I go on to explain that there are plenty of ways to make some extra money while they look for full time employment. All it takes is thinking outside of the box and some discipline.

Respect Money and People

Part of what got us into this mess is that people lost the respect for money. Seriously, you threaten with someone with bad credit and they won’t even flinch anymore. The other phenomenon is that good people are being taken advantage of precisely so someone could make a bigger bucks.

People seem to have lost the common courtesy for money and above all for each other. Money is great, yes, and it should be treated with respect. But more importantly, you should treat other people with respect.

Defaulting on your debts because you think you can get away with it or lying to people to make a quick buck is not a way to thrive in society. Quite the opposite, on varying levels it’s how we managed to get ourselves into this mess.

We need to regain respect, both for money and for people.

Don’t Rule Out Your Family Because It Isn’t Ideal

I was fortunate enough that my family let me move back in after college. It was partially cultural, I come from a culture where it’s completely normal (and somewhat expected) to live in your parents’ house until you get married. The other reason was economical – I needed a roof over my head while I looked for work and got my finances in order.

Was this the ideal situation? Not in a society where you’re trained to believe that you just keep moving on after college. However, once I got over my stupid pride I realized that when times are tough my family will always be there.

Their encouragement and support has helped me tremendously as I start my career, invest and start saving for retirement. Do they pay for everything and let me get away with murder? No, not since I found employment, and I don’t expect them to either – but their down to earth common sense view on money is helping me set my finances up for the rest of my life.

Get Over Yourself

Knowing your worth so you don’t get abused at a job is one thing, thinking that a company should bow down to your needs is another. I’ve seen one too many college grads walk through the office and simply shut the door to some great opportunities simply because their pride got in the way. Others are incredibly realistic given the current economic situation and actually end up doing much better in the long run.

Moral of the story? Get over yourself and your life will become a bit easier.

Figure Out Your Money First

Before you start moving out, racking up debt, and signing contracts you don’t need make sure to take a good look at your finances. You can’t go into this kind of stuff blind, it’ll just come back to bite you in the ass.

We’ve all learned this in some way or another as we witnessed people make horrendous mistakes that led to a recession. Unfortunately, we also continue to witness the same mistakes even after we’ve begun to see some recovery.

Don’t make the same mistakes many of our predecessors have made. Start cultivating healthy financial habits while you’re young. It will save you a lifetime of trouble later on.

The Silver Lining

Although we were hit pretty badly, the good news is that it did give many of us a reality check – at least to some degree. It forced many of us to start thinking about our money, become flexible as we worked jobs that were less than desirable, and really take a good look at previous practices that clearly weren’t working out for society as a whole.

Hopefully we can all take these lessons with us into the future. And hopefully we will instill the same lessons onto future generations in case history decides to repeat itself.

 

 

 





, , ,

One Response to From 22 to 24: Lessons from Graduating During a Recession

  1. Deborah Aldridge April 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Amanda, this is such a great post. I have two 20-something friends/recent graduates. Both have their own businesses now, that they started to make a little extra money since they could not find a job. One picks up discarded items from the curb on garbage days and remakes / refurbishes them into beautiful things. She was selling them in consignment shops, but she had so many, she opened her OWN thrift / consignment shop with a friend and now sells them there. She has a degree in digital sciences. The other is now a freelance writer. She has a degree in computer engineering, and writes white papers and technical papers, as well as articles for various clients. She says she never wants to be a computer engineer now, because she is having too much fun.

    Me, I’m older, and after 3 years, I still struggle sometimes, but I’m working on a writing career, and I won’t stop until I succeed. My thoughts are that this economy will separate the wheat from the chaff…the whiners from the go-getters. There is work out there, but sometimes you have to create your own job. Those who can do that will be the entrepreneurial giants of this generation. Those who can’t will work for them. Everyone has a place.

Leave a Reply