White-collar graduates are vulnerable as companies lay off workers and cancel offers – how to protect your job search against the recession

College graduates looking for work face an unpredictable labor market.

“It’s just a very strange time,” said University of Phoenix career counselor Lisa Severy, who has worked in college career services since 1996. “I feel, for the first times, that none of the rules we usually follow are valid anymore.”

Many older and higher-level employees left the workforce during the pandemic, and employers sought to fill those positions with cheaper workers.

Meanwhile, some graduates who landed jobs at Coinbase COIN,
-3.50%
and Twitter TWTR
had their offers rescinded. Other Big Tech companies such as Meta META,
-0.86%,
MicrosoftMSFT,
-1.89%
and GoogleGOGL,
-0.96%
announced hiring freezes, all in the face of macroeconomic headwinds.

Some graduates who have landed jobs at Coinbase and Twitter have had their offers rescinded. Other companies such as Meta, Microsoft and Google have announced hiring freezes.

According to Twitter, the decisions were part of managing the company’s costs and operations in the face of the challenges of the current environment. Aware of the difficult situation of these candidates, she offered compensation to support their future job search.

Google and Alphabet reported to MarketWatch the recent earnings call in which Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Google and Alphabet, cited the “uncertain global economic outlook” as one of the reasons for the hiring freeze.

A spokesperson for Meta said the pause in hiring for some positions would be temporary, giving management time to identify key areas of the business in which to put more effort. The company is pleased to resume hiring in high priority areas.

Microsoft also deferred MarketWatch to its earnings report and Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood responded, “As we navigate this period, we will continue to invest in future growth while maintaining an intense focus on excellence. operational and execution discipline.”

(Coinbase did not respond to a request for comment.)

Ford F,
-3.46%
announced earlier this week that it had laid off about 3,000 white-collar and contract workers to cut costs and focus more on electric vehicle production.

And AppleAAPL,
-0.80%
announced the dismissal of around 100 recruiters last week. Walmart WMT,
-1.02%
laid off 200 corporate employees this month, but said in a statement it would continue to invest in e-commerce and supply chain jobs.

(Ford and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.)

Novice workers should be careful

Newbie white-collar workers should be careful, said William Lee, chief economist at the Milken Institute, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based think tank.

He said entry-level workers have become more vulnerable as companies improve their business models after the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies have replaced entry-level roles with applications and new technologies to reduce costs and make their business processes more efficient.

Due to the strong demand for blue-collar workers, economists told MarketWatch last month that in the event of an economic downturn, it would be a “white-collar recession.”

It’s not all bad news. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5% in July from 3.6% in June, returning to pre-pandemic levels. Wages have increased by 5.3% per year over the past three months.

Overall, the labor market is recovering after being hit at the start of the pandemic. This is especially true for lower-paying jobs in the retail, manufacturing, and service sectors.

Due to the strong demand for blue-collar workers, economists told MarketWatch last month that in the event of an economic downturn, it would be a “white-collar recession.”

Here are some tips for young white collar workers:

1. Learn to be open-minded and flexible

What next? Keep an eye out for jobs that may not be your first choice, said Cody Harker, data and information manager at Bayard Advertising, a full-service recruiting advertising agency.

Although people typically pay attention to tech layoffs, there are plenty of entry-level tech jobs in other industries outside of the Silicon Valley bubble, Harker said.

“Companies that aren’t traditionally known as technology entities are having a really hard time hiring software developers,” Harker told MarketWatch.

The current hiring situation is also regional, Severy added. Entry-level workers should therefore remain open-minded about the location of their first or second job.

2. Apply to roles that seem overdone

Often, says Severy, some clients tend to underestimate what they can offer employers. “They really need to think bigger and expand their expectations,” she said.

Never tell yourself, “If I don’t meet all the preferences for a job, I won’t apply.” Be ambitious when applying and be prepared for tough questions in the job interview.

“None of us have a clue what the contestants are going to look like for a particular opening,” Severy said. The requirements are often ambitious, she said.

“If you’re preparing for an interview, you can say, ‘Actually, I don’t have any experience in this area. I’m very excited to know more about it. And I learn fast,” Severy said.

On top of that, she also recommended applying for some jobs that might seem lateral to one’s degree or skills, as they might serve as an entry point to a new industry.

In general, one should always apply for both types of positions, some for which one is overqualified and others which may seem overkill, Severy said.

“Sometimes people (recruiters) are pleasantly surprised that you have a different skill set than the rest of the candidate pool,” she added.

3. Good old job of career management skills

Building a community and networking are still the best ways to get hired, Severy said. “I don’t know if that will change,” she said.

Potential employers will be willing to compromise on certain job requirements, Harker said. “Employers are still struggling to hire,” he said.

And recruiting challenges will persist, so don’t be afraid to ask potential employers what their plans — if any — are in the event of an economic downturn, he said.

“Make sure they know, everyone you know knows, that you’re looking for a job and what you’re looking for,” Severy added. It’s a win-win for recruiters, and for you.

4. Find ways to make yourself valuable

To avoid “last in, first out” anxiety or some employers’ policy of prioritizing layoffs for new hires, workers should always try to find ways to build self-esteem, Severy said and Harker at MarketWatch.

A junior worker should always be in learning mode, familiarizing themselves with the culture of the company and their supervisor, and asking lots of questions.

“There are no dumb questions,” Severy said. “Later in your career, you are expected to know all of this. But when you’re a beginner, not so much.

Meet your deadlines, be creative, find solutions to problems, and keep lines of communication open with your manager and customers, Severy said.

“When a manager has to make these really tough decisions, it’s harder to just look at the newbie and say ‘OK, you have to go’,” she added.

Always have a support system — a social and professional network — to rely on if things get tough at work or, worst-case scenario, you lose your job, Severy said.

Mixed labor market signals

Bottom line: The economic backdrop is mixed. Inflation soared 8.5% a year in July, reaching a 40-year high. Grocery prices and rents have soared, forcing consumers to cut spending.

However, since retailers and other service providers were still hungry for workers, some economists predicted that in the event of a recession, blue workers would not be affected as much, at least not in the way recessions usually work.

But the increased demand for blue-collar workers doesn’t mean those workers are necessarily safe, said Kate Bahn, chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit think tank.

She said that absent major structural changes to the economy, the small gains made by the lowest paid workers over the past year would likely disappear as the economy cools.

“Workers are still not where they should be in a healthy labor market because there is so much income inequality and wage growth is still quite weak for a lot of workers,” Bahn said.

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