October 27, 2020

My First Professional Recession: A Firsthand Story We Would Rather Not Know

Cody Broussard

Most Millennials are very familiar with the concept of a recession; I graduated college during the last one and it certainly colored my experience entering the work force. As a generation we are largely defined by the state of the economy when we started our careers. Fast forward to 2020 and many of us can finally boast stability and success in our careers, dents in those student loans and a mortgage to contend with and we are worried about what COVID19 will mean for the careers we fought so hard to establish. It may not be our first experience with a recession, but for many of us it is the first that we are experiencing where we have something to lose. And for all the things in life worth celebrating, your first recession as a professional, doesn’t seem high on the list of reasons to breakout the champagne.

We also entered the work force during the dawn of the “there’s an app for that” era. Apps and social media allow us to track our steps,capture highlights of our trips, review our favorite restaurants and record every high and low we experience. It can be hard to not meticulously measure our productivity and even over analyze our down time before deciding if it was “good”enough. We are engineered to compare and measure our success by our productivity levels, but are being forced to stop, slow down, but still perform. The first step to staying “safe and sane” in all of this will have to revolve around redefining what a successful day looks like. You can still be driven and determined to hit goals and KPIs, but you will drive yourself crazy using the same measuring stick that you did a month or two ago.

Now more than ever, we have access to thousands of virtual entertainment platforms. There are Zoom book clubs, memes on Instagram, endless videos on Tik Tok, virtual workouts and online dance lessons. Choose with caution.We already have this weird understanding that being busy is like a currency and the busier we are, the more we are achieving, but this is a perfect time to slow down and decide where to use your energy. Do one or two things incredibly well instead of fifty things half-heartedly. This is a time where we are being forced to pause and reset; don’t squander that by saying yes to every activity the world wide web has to offer. Give your self some grace and time to rest and slow down.

You don’t have to figure it all out yourself either. Talk to your mentors and lean into stories of how they fought to make it through their last recession. Share your fears, let them share their war stories and you will feel less alone, more inspired and possibly get some ideas from people who have been there, done that and came out on top and into the leadership roles you want to eventually reach. Likewise, pay it forward to your junior teammates. It is scary to be barely starting your career and entering an uncertain time in the economy and you understand how to get through that challenge. Share what you did to see it through. Use this time to set yourself apart, maybe not as someone who had a picture perfect recession story but as someone who pushed through, helped the people around them and made it out of this with a few scars, but some war stories of your own to contribute.