In 2008, the financial market fell hard on its face, bruising both our collective expectations and confidence in anything. That was the year I and many others graduated. People lost long-held jobs, investments disappeared and lifestyles reflected more austere obligations. As this was no Depression or World War, I was surprised to realise graduating into the recession changed my mindset for the better.
2008 graduates like myself became professionals amongst a collapse we could not circumvent. We fought harder for jobs, dealt with uncertainty for years and adjusted our financial and professional mindsets to survive, as even our support systems dealt with their own issues. Rules, norms and standards were recalibrated daily. Relating to other millennials three years older or younger is a challenge. They did not experience what we did.
If we asked for help, we felt like burdens. But on the other hand, we felt partially helpless in front of the barrage of news and its trailing reality. This meant self-sufficiency drove decisions. We knew a month with the comforts of a job could be unceremoniously erased the next. We planned for the unpredictable, as no analyst, professional or politician really knew what was going on and for how long.
Desirable jobs were not handed out to anyone around the recession. Jobs of all types and sizes were found and acquired by the prepared, hustling, savvy, humble and lucky applicants. When I got a good job, I was appreciative, thankful and determined to keep it. Working harder, longer hours or when you’re needed is something that still sticks with me today, as I know there are other people lined up to do the same tasks.
But now, I’m tougher, more realistic and expectant of business’s downs. We 2008 graduates are ready to change and redefine our professional skills as we go along. Unlike other generations, we assume one day our position is valued, and the next day it’s redundant. It’s something I plan for now and will anticipate for decades into the future. Unconventional, uncertain or temporary job situations are nothing new or worrisome as that’s always been our norm.
But this led to life developments that made us better people. We were more willing to move if necessary, and jump into unknown situations. For some of us, there was nothing to ‘leave behind’ or roots to ‘uproot’ when changing jobs. We did not fear new people, places or circumstances because we did not have the luxury to. This is probably why I moved to Europe in my early 20s, or left the comforts of a brand for the ups and downs of a consultancy.
If I could deal with no job market, I could deal with any life situation. I am always calculating my financial situation, with and without. Considering my finances with or without jobs; how buying lunch affects my monthly finances; my net income with lifestyle adjustments; the possibilities of retirement. These are of course things you should do at some point in your adult life, but I found myself doing these day one of graduating from art school because I had to.
2008 graduates are typecast as typical millennials, when we are more than that. We survived an economy that did not hand out many favours. This made us more aware, flexible and resilient both professionally and personally. We know whatever we do, where ever we go, we’ll make it work. That’s why we don’t follow ‘the rules’ because we know when shit hits the fan, rules crumble.