The US economy is at an interesting cross-roads. The effects of the 2008 recession were massive and lingered much longer than the duration of the financial crisis. Unemployment reached a peak of 10% in 2009, but today it is 5.6% and dropping rapidly. I’m no macro-economist, but I do have a good understanding of what this means for the job market.
You see, many people might think that with hard work and determination, we have full control of our lives and careers. That’s simply not true. College students who graduated between 2008 and 2014 entered the job market to an ultra-competitive job market marked by scarcity. Companies who were ravaged by the recession were hesitant to hire employees that weren’t essential. Older workers who were preparing for retirement saw their pensions shrink and decided to keep working at their positions. Middle aged workers with secure jobs were suddenly laid off and had to find jobs much lower-paying jobs. For college graduates who didn’t go to elite schools, this meant little to no chance of finding an entry-level job with good career prospects – they simply weren’t competitive.
On the other hand, if you graduated in the mid 2000’s, you entered the job market when the US economy was growing at an unprecedented rate. The unemployment rate was as low as it could get realistically (around 4%) and companies were desperate for smart young professionals whether they had experience or not. Employees were in high demand, and wages were high. If you couldn’t get a job in 2004-2007, then you were either an English major from a low tier school or hopelessly incompetent. This was a dream period, and those that found jobs then were set up for great careers.
But unfortunately, if your parents had you a few years later, then you would face economic turmoil. Your resume paled in comparison to desperate workers with a decade of relevant experience. Service jobs became a temporary necessity and graduate school seemed like a good option. Suddenly, your whole mental structure of life: go to school, get a job, and start a family, was cut prematurely. This can be daunting, even shattering. But today, you’re in luck. The unemployment rate is going back to 2004 levels and the US economy is on pace to have its strongest decade of growth since the turn of the century. If you tried to enter the workforce during this period, hopefully the recession didn’t hit you too hard and you didn’t have to settle for a job at Cubicle Co. filing paperwork. Even if you did, this is a great opportunity to turn things around. But how, you might ask?
Well… like most things, it depends, both on your goals and abilities, but here’s an anecdote that may help. You want to do something you’re passionate about, right? That way you have the motivation to pour everything you have into your work and become the best in your field. Now do it. The thing is, technology is so prevalent that you have no excuse to do something about your passions. The camera on your smartphone is amazing. If you love film, make a movie with it. Do you enjoy boxing? Make youtube videos analyzing boxing matches. The alternative is selling yourself on the job market with nothing but a resume. An employer doesn’t see your potential, and you won’t get your worth-you won’t even get freedom. I believe the economy is moving toward increased specialization on the level of the individual. Produce what your dream job entails and keep doing it. If you really love it, you will get good, people will come to you, and you will be discovered. Companies will offer you money to do the exact same thing for them, and you will get your true value.
Of course, this is an anecdote and does not apply universally, but the fundamental idea stands true. The economy is on the upswing and the supply of jobs is increasing. You won’t have companies fighting over you, at least not any time soon. But don’t wait for the “perfect time”, now is the perfect time. If you like economics, like me, go ahead and learn the shit out of it and produce something out of it. Make videos, write articles, record podcasts-everything you need is at your fingertips. And if you’re not motivated to do that, then you might not deserve to get your dream job.
Ah, what a beautiful trend-line.