What to Do If You’ve Graduated During a Recession

Recent college graduates face a complicated “real world” thanks to the pandemic and economic downturns.

As a recent college grad, you’ve entered the “real world” during an unusual time. The pandemic may have robbed you of your commencement ceremonies and goodbyes with friends. And now, you’re facing an uncertain economic environment. Not only will you need to be more flexible in your job search — you may also need to be more careful with your finances.

Though these circumstances may be out of your control, there are ways you can be proactive and take control of your situation.

Adjusting Your Plans

As the country experiences a record amount of lost jobs, you may have a bit of difficulty finding your first. It may feel like you have limited options, but resist the urge give up on your passion quite yet. Even during the economic downturn, some industries — such as technology, medicine, and e-commerce — are functioning just fine.

Perhaps even more than before the crisis, networking is crucial. Tap extended family, friends, school colleagues, professors, or anyone you have a close or professional relationship with who may be able to help you dig up leads. As face-to-face networking opportunities have screeched to a halt, consider using tools like LinkedIn or Twitter to connect with those in your desired industry. Further, take advantage of the career resources that may be available to you, such as a career center or college counselor.

Finally, consider forging your own path. Depending on your area of expertise, you may be able to build experience by offering up your skills on a freelance basis as many Millennials did in the wake of the Great Recession. As many companies have laid off full-time employees, they may be turning to freelancers to help fill the gaps.

Managing Your Finances

While the current recession has impacted nearly everyone in the nation, you may be dealing another crisis: student loan debt.

Fortunately, the government’s stimulus efforts don’t ignore student loan borrowers. As part of the CARES Act, federal student loan borrowers have been automatically placed in forbearance with a 0% interest rate from March 13, 2020 to September 30, 2020. In layman’s terms, this means that borrowers are allowed to temporarily pause their monthly payments without accruing interest during this period.

So, should you pay your loan during this period? Save while you can? Well, ultimately it depends on your situation. If you aren’t making any income, covering living expenses and necessities should come before making loan payments. If you are employed (or otherwise relatively stable financially), other high-interest debts like credit card debt should take priority over student loans during the relief period. Other non-federal lenders may be implementing their own relief measures, so contact any institutions you have agreements with. Ultimately though, if you find yourself in a stable position without other significant debts, continuing to pay down your loan debt can benefit you in the long-term.

Finally, if you worked during college, you might meet the work history and earning requirements for regular unemployment insurance benefits. Even if you don’t qualify for traditional benefits, you could qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Find your state’s unemployment qualifications and apply as soon as possible.

Before the pandemic, graduates were looking at a thriving economy with all-time unemployment lows. Now, the “class of COVID-19” may have to adapt to find available positions, fill roles they hadn’t anticipated, and work a bit harder to manage their finances.

For more tips, tools, and guidance on everything from paying off student loan debt to budgeting as a post-grad, visit Next Step for Students.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.