I graduated from biomedical engineering on December 9, 2008 at the cusp of the Great Recession. Just right before, on September 29, 2008 the Dow Jones crashed a record total of 778 points.
If there was a bad time to graduate, that was it.
The strategy of my time was that if you do a co-op while you’re in college, you will most likely get hired by them after graduation.
I dreamed of creating medical device patents. So I spent 1.5 years co-oping for three medical device companies across the country. I even spent half a year at the holy land of medical devices, the FDA outside of Washington D.C., where all medical devices have to get approved.
By the end of the tunnel, it took me almost SIX years to get my bachelors. I got made fun of for calling my third year my “pre-junior.” But I was confident that by taking this long route, I would be hired with contract in hand by the time I walk to get my diploma.
I got my real job offer eight months before graduation. But it wasn’t the dream job.
My job was for a software engineer verifying controls for a jet engine in the aerospace and defense industry. It was an “okay” cubicle job, but okay is hardly a word that a 20-something-year-old wants to describe the rest of her life.
My husband’s story
My husband (then-boyfriend), an electrical and computer engineer, faced a very similar job market situation when he graduated.
His roommates were in the same boat, but they bought more time by pursuing masters and PhDs until the job market looked better.
My husband, though, was able to get into the machine tooling industry. It was not exactly the high-speed tech industry that a Carnegie Mellon grad like him dreamed of, but it worked for now.
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Neither of us was in our dream jobs, but we were in our early 20s and tried to make the best out of our careers while finding our way back on track.
Instead, it got worse.
In 2009, companies were cutting back on buying new machinery and my husband was laid off. Soon after, the military budget was cut so the jet engine program I was on was eliminated. I was also laid off.
We were so sad. Being laid off was so hard to accept 😢
At the time, career prospects with just a bachelors degree in engineering were supposed to be great. Instead, here we were, a bunch of nobodies collecting unemployment.
Turning point of our lives
What was one of the lowest points of our lives became a transition period to other opportunities.
My husband — who had not even taken a single biology class — decided to go to medical school.
I also had a fork in the road: I could go back to school like him, or I could work to support the man I was so in love with so his career pathway would be easier.
I chose the latter.
The beginning of a new career
Through some random ad on a major job board, I got a new job as an entry-level recruiter.
Shortly after starting, recruiting was going badly. I thought I had made a complete mistake. I got burnt out! Daily quotas I had to meet were like whips at my back and I almost threw in the towel.
But my husband was already in medical school and depending on me to support him!
Not wanting any gaps in unemployment, I held on and would quit only once I could get back into my original field. I kept applying and applying.
It finally started to look better
After some time building my recruiting skills, my résumé got strong and — get this —other companies wanted to interview me.
(Recruiter recruiting for recruiters, wut?)
I am now a full-time senior recruiter for a large Fortune 500 company working 100% remotely. I just tell people I work on the computer in our spare bedroom. Telecommuting is a great perk.
The least suspecting job became a blessing to me and my family during these training years. We lived off of his training salary and saved all of mine.
Ideas for work from home jobs
Jobs that you can work from home are great for medical families, especially those that are still training. There are many benefits such as no commute, no professional wardrobe, and being able to move anywhere.
The biggest benefit is flexibility. My husband could never drop what he’s doing at the hospital to pick kids who are sick in the middle of the day. But I can!
If you need some ideas of work from home jobs, here are a few:
Look into your current workplace. Remote positions like the one I am in usually start as a traditional job that transforms into a remote job.
Start businesses from home like photography, creative work on Etsy, or teaching online.
Freelance write, do social media management, build websites, or be a virtual assistant.
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The Great Recession was very good for us. But while we experienced it, it knocked us down on our butts.
Now we know that if the recession did not happen, my husband would not have come to the realization that he was called to medicine.
And I would (probably?) still be an engineer, which would have been location-dependent. I would have had a choppy résumé for each time we had to move. And my hours would be less flexible, making raising our now-born kids harder.
Hardships can be awful at the moment. But in the end, it can open up lessons and opportunities that will make you stronger and better.