This past summer, we ran an interview series called Great Recession Grads. We caught up with seven women from the Class of 2008 to learn firsthand about the various professional and financial challenges they've faced in the past 10 years.
We've heard time and again that those who graduated during the height of the Great Recession are screwed: The hit affects earnings for decades, and many economists worry this generation will never catch up.
But have things really gotten that much better? Even as the Class of 2018 enters the best economy the U.S. has seen in a decade, one thing that's been sorely missing are pay raises. Even as the economy booms and the unemployment rate is the lowest in a decade, real wage growth isn't happening (except for those at the very top). The starting salary for Class of 2018 is expected to be just over $50,000. According to data from the firm Korn Ferry, that number wasn't drastically different for the Class of 2008.
This suggests that the financial crisis of 10 years ago has permanently changed the job landscape for Millennials and Gen Z: Some sectors never recovered; some workers didn't either — they're still working at the depressed wages they started at.
It's worth revisiting the interviews to think about how the next recession will affect young American workers. The 2008 grads we talked to told us that they're worried about growing income inequality and rising education costs. They took jobs that they didn't want because of the lack of opportunities available as industries were shrinking. They feel "behind" in their careers, having to work dead-end jobs before landing that "career" job. Their careers were far from linear, shattering any notion they had that career paths are cookie-cutter. They learned how to make ends meet, even when freelancing full-time.
The Great Recession Grads have come far in the past 10 years, here are some of their stories.