Posted October 1, 2022 by Mark Perna
Today’s young people face an uncertain economic future as they enter the workforce—but there are skills they can learn to put their best foot forward and thrive. Mark’s article, “The Skills Young People Need To Thrive During The Next Recession,” published at Forbes.com on September 27, 2022.
We’re all dealing with turmoil right now—and things might get worse. Forecasts say that there’s at least a 50% chance that the economy falls into recession by the end of the year as policy makers struggle to contain inflation by raising interest rates.
That means that the class of 2023 will likely graduate into a down economy just like millennials did in 2008, when thousands of young people were left unable to find gainful employment upon entering the workforce. Sadly, these budding young professionals felt the downturn much harder than many of their older and more established counterparts.
“The hostile labor market caused by that recession set an entire generation back on their lifetime earnings potential with high unemployment years after they donned caps and gowns,” says Kevin P. Chavous, President of Stride Inc.
While Chavous remains hopeful that future recessions won’t be nearly as bad, it’s crucial for young people to carefully consider what skills and industries will remain in high demand, regardless of the economy, to ensure they don’t meet the same fate.
“It’s vital that students take steps to recession-proof their career,” he says. Here’s how.
Economists are currently predicting that industries including healthcare, information technology, education and government will continue to be in demand even if the market takes a turn for the worse.
“If they’re considering a job in any of these industries, young people should also recognize that each industry offers a full range of positions,” says Chavous.
For example, healthcare systems don’t just hire nurses and doctors, but IT professionals, administrators, interpreters, building maintenance workers and other vital roles.
Additionally, project management and communication skills will remain highly marketable even during a recession.
“Regardless of what the economy does next, it would be valuable for young people to start developing these skills,” says Chavous.
Of course, young people shouldn’t be left to fend entirely for themselves in a tough economy. “The burden of recession-proofing their future does not fall on the shoulders of young people alone,” says Chavous. “Educators, employers and parents can all help ensure that Generation Z has the skills to succeed. In fact, more than 1 in 3 parents say career prep is one of the most important factors when choosing their child’s school.”
And parents are facing up to the challenge. When it comes to investing in their kids’ education, all bets are off.
For high school students, for example, there are numerous career exploration courses available to start determining what paths may be of interest to them and building relevant skills before pursuing higher education.
College students, on the other hand, should consider internships, mentorships and other jobs-based opportunities to build “professional skills” while getting their foot in the door with companies and continuing to develop marketable skills.
Regardless of the economic conditions, making the time to build a resume that showcases whatever relevant skills and experience they’ve earned is vitally important for young people kicking off their careers.
“Resume building can be incredibly intimidating for first-time job seekers who don’t have previous experiences to highlight,” says Chavous, “so it’s important to start sooner than later.”
Fortunately, there are a host of online tools available that can give students an idea of how a resume should be formatted, what skills to showcase and how to leverage classes and extracurriculars to stand out as a candidate.
At the same time, students and first-time job seekers should always ask a teacher, parent or mentor to take a look at their resume before applying for a position. Nowadays, even a single typo can doom someone’s job prospects.
“Enlisting help from trusted individuals will help catch potential mistakes and may have greater insight into what makes an ideal job candidate,” says Chavous.
Once a young person lands their first job, it’s critically important for them to make good decisions with their finances—especially during a downturn.
While many students are now required to take a personal finance class to receive their high school diploma, this should merely be the start of young people leaning into financial literacy even if it’s not yet in their sweet spot.
“Talking to parents, teachers, bosses and even financial advisors can help students gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be fiscally responsible,” says Chavous.
Once students have a better understanding of financial literacy, there are numerous digital tools available to help implement practices like budgeting, investing and more.
“Realizing the importance of money management and taking the time to develop these skills now will serve students well regardless of what the economy does next,” says Chavous.
Since many Gen Zers are making minimum wage or slightly above it, strategic saving is paramount. It’s time to put those financial literacy skills to work.
“Automating savings from your paycheck to resist the temptation to spend, cutting costs on non-essential items and buying second-hand for things like textbooks are small ways to make a big difference in day-to-day savings,” says Chavous.
For high schoolers and even younger members of Gen Z, it’s also essential to plan ahead for how you might pay for college, if your career aspirations require a degree. But when it comes to paying for college, it’s going to take more than skipping a few coffee runs.
Thankfully, there are several ways to access free money for schooling. “With the cost of school continuing to rise, scholarships and financial aid are vital resources,” says Chavous. “Thankfully, it’s never too early—or late—to start applying for scholarships. Online resources, school counselors and even admissions officers can help point teens in the right direction.”
Regardless of what the economy does next, it will always be valuable for young people to have a plan. It’s never a bad time to start thinking about how to prepare for the future. Career prep courses, mentorship programs, scholarship applications and other resources can all help ensure the next generation is well prepared for whatever the future may bring.