Great Recession, 10 years later: Young professionals battled for scarce jobs - JobAdvisor : JOB SEARCHING , CAREER ADVICE

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Great Recession, 10 years later: Young professionals battled for scarce jobs

Brennan Whitley thought he had done everything right to score a job after college.
His résumé was stocked with internships: two with the Fort Myers Miracle, one with the FGCU athletics office, one his senior year with the Tampa Bay Rays, a stint at the Super Bowl, and years of experience with the City of Palms basketball tournament. 
His problem, though, was timing: He graduated from the University of Tampa in 2010, a year after the recession officially ended but when the effects were still being felt.
“My whole college career I had never really been said no to,” he said, but in his job hunt he was getting automatic responses of “no,” or no answers at all.
Whitley moved back to Fort Myers to live with his parents. “I wasn’t going to just go back and mooch off Mom and Dad. I wanted to be on my own.”

During the downturn, Whitley, now 30, was among the younger workers battling with older and sometimes more qualified workers for scarce jobs. Entering the labor force during a recession is not where one wants to be. 
Studies of past recessions have shown that starting work during a recession can lead to lower earnings for about 10 years, according to a Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences article. What’s more, such an experience can negatively skew a worker’s view for life.
A 2009 study cited found people who experienced a recession in their formative years were more likely to believe success comes with luck rather than effort. Workers without college degrees who are not white face more challenges. Younger, less-educated and minority workers were more likely than whites to lose their jobs, said another study.
A decade later, Southwest Florida younger professionals see value in their experiences. They learned persistence and resiliency, career-building skills.
“If anything, it hardened me and some of my classmates in law school,” said Chris Lopez, public policy director at the Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association, who at one point considered leaving law school during the recession. “When we came out in 2010, we knew we needed to make our own path.”  

To him that looked like working for a small firm and becoming a staffer for two local congressmen before stepping into his current role. The uncertain years gave him the “ability to go with the flow” and handle stress, he said.
Aysegul Timur, senior vice president of academic affairs and dean of the Johnson School of Business at Hodges University, noted that it’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions because there are unresolved, complex social issues at play. However, anecdotally, she echoed that students grew in character. 
“In the classroom, we heard about people losing their homes and how it changed their lives, but one thing I saw was that they gained an incredible skill: they learned how to adapt to the situation and be a fighter of the situation.”
For two years, while searching for something permanent, Whitley worked seasonal internships for the Boston Red Sox, clocking up to 70 hours a week. In June 2012, the team hired him full time. By the end of that year, he closed on his first home.  He is now the manager for Florida business operations for the Red Sox.
“The weight off the shoulders was tremendous just to be able to know that you’ve got something now that will hopefully last and get into more of a routine.”
Jenna Persons, 34, made an unsuccessful bid for the mayor of Fort Myers in 2009 after graduating from law school in 2008, acquiring a job and getting laid off.
“I took some risks and I couldn’t be happier where I landed,” said Persons. Her run helped her build contacts and understand the community. Soon after, Persons founded a firm with Fort Myers attorney Bruce Strayhorn. “I couldn’t imagine a better place to be in my career at this moment, but for some time, when you’re sitting at home on a mountain of student debt and nobody is hiring, that was an incredibly scary experience.”

For Tony Lindberg, the recession played a role in his 2009 decision to study heating, ventilation and air-conditioning at Fort Myers Technical College. “Basically, I wanted to be sought after or as hirable as I could be,” said Lindberg, now 34 and a maintenance manager. “I wanted to learn a little bit of every trade."
He already had about six years of work experience and needed the education to be promoted. Though Lindberg was never without work during the recession, he saw how it affected the labor market. “As soon as the recession hit, the competition was fierce.”
Fort Myers native Kelsey Griffin graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa in 2009. She loved living in Tampa but decided that a professional opportunity would dictate where she would live, which is how she returned to Fort Myers to work at Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company.
She had interned at the tax, accounting and consulting firm during college.  
“It was a hard decision. Fort Myers is not the happening place to be. Like anybody else, I couldn’t wait to leave. Fort Misery and Cape Coma is, I think, what this area has been dubbed,” said Griffin, a certified public accountant. “People end up going away but coming back. They think the grass is always greener on the other side, but it isn’t always.”

She and her husband settled into the area. She became involved in business and civic organizations and co-founded Leadership NEXT, a group of advancing professionals under the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.
In October 2017, she became a partner at her firm.
Whitley, in his current position, took over the Red Sox internship program in Fort Myers where he got his professional start with the team. Because of his experiences with rejection, he makes a point to respond to applications, which can number up to 400 for 5 slots.
He’s given tours of the JetBlue Park to FGCU students interested in sports management. When speaking with students, he tries to instill the persistence he learned during the recession. He admits to being gruff, but it comes with their interests in mind.
“You have Target on your résumé. Do you think you’re going to get a job?” he recalled telling students who wanted jobs in sports fields. “Show some passion and drive. …Go the extra mile.”
For a full look at the "Great Recession: 10 years later" series of stories, click here.