Recession in the 90's

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RIght now times are very uncertain. People are afraid, and I have only the greatest sympathy for what they are going through. In 1994 when I graduated from Villanova, I moved up to the Brooklyn Heights in July only knowing one person, my best friend Brad.

For those that weren't out of school back then the job market in the early 90's was fairly daunting (and wrote about here before). I went to a recruiter who was located midtown, handed over my resume, and she looked it over a bit. She was in her 40's, blonde, but haggard like years of working in that office just wore on her. She was working in a very bleak, dingy office. I remember the flourscent lights just putting a low, dim glaze over the shared workspace of her and her co-workers. I sat there in my ill fitted suit, tugging at my starched collar.

She looks at me, then looks at my resume, which was less than impressive. Sure I went to Villanova, but my major was English. Not exactly the most impressive major unless I was looking to teach kids under 10 years old. My college work experience was interning on Capitol Hill for Arlen Spector in 1992 and working every other summer as a bus boy or waiter in Ocean City, NJ.

The recruiter says to me, in a less than enthusiastic tone, "After reading your resume it looks like you were just another frat guy in college who had a good time and didn't accomplish very much."

My heart sunk. I kind of always thought it was you go to college, study, graduate, get a job. No big deal. Work your way up. Put in long hours, but there's a payoff and one day you have an office, are doing well, have fun, meet a girl, maybe two, get married, have kids, keep working, eventually maybe becoming an executive in the company, buy a house, kids grow up, you grow old, retire and by 65 living in Florida.

Naive? Sure. But in many ways my life just fell into place. High school graduate? Check. College graduate? Check. Job?

Job?

Ok, after the recruiter had a few other choice words for me, I left the office a defeated man. I remember I had another interview and the company sat me in front of a computer and wanted to test my words per minute (WPM) typing speed. What the heck kind of job were they going to find for me?

Here I am, again, a college graduate. You think that your life is just rolling along and getting a job would be a breeze...hey! I have a college degree!

Uh. No.

I glumly do the computer test, I have been typing since my Commodore Vic 20 days, and even had a semester of typing class from LaSalle High School, taught by Brother Linus Finn, the girl comes back to the screen and says, "Wow, you hit 100 words per minute!"

So, i'd make someone a great secretary. Kill me now.

I left that recruiter and kept trying to find a job. Weeks pass. Brad is working for JP Morgan. I'm not necessarily envious of him, but I envy that he's working a "real" job.

I had some money from my graduation party. It was $1500, and quickly I was running out. It was September and after 8 weeks of recruiters, sending out resumes, and trying for any job, I was getting no after no.

Finally, an ad caught my eye in the classified section of the New York Times.

There was a new company called "Starbucks Coffee", and they were hiring "baristas".

Oh, you heard of Starbucks?

Remember folks, this is 1994. Starbucks had 3...count em...THREE stores in NYC: World Trade Center, Upper West Side and Midtown. That's it. But they paid fairly well, actually had a limited health care & 401K for their baristas.

Here I was, in a recession and was learning to make coffee as my first job out of college. Starbucks trained me at their Bleeker Street training center for two weeks, with 15 other students on how to make the drinks at the store and understanding coffee beans, etc.

Then I got my first (real) job offer. First job was being an admin assistant for a foreign medical university in the Caribbean, which paid a very meager salary. I took that job on the advice of my father.

He told me times were tough, but just get my foot in the door, anywhere. Get something on the resume, and it's much easier to find a job when you already have a job.

I didn't start that admin job, because a week later, around October, I get a call from a headhunter named Scott Lyons. Won't ever forget him. He called and said he got my resume (I have no idea how, I don't recall sending it to him, but I sent out a lot of resumes back then) and had an interview at "Corporation X".

I was working at Starbucks and interviewing at Corporation X.

I remember stepping off the elevator at Corporation X and it was like something out of a movie. Bright, gleaming offices, with black onyx marble, glass walls and a very cool vibe. Up until that point I have been visiting these old school 1960's era office buildings with their tired looking workers, archaic 80's MAC computers and their less than desireable locations. Corporation X was on Park Avenue in midtown. There was one elevator that went express, and opened right into their office. I was floored and immediately wanted to work at THAT office.

Long story short...I got the job after three interviews and three very long weeks. I visited Scott Lyons, at his office near Wall Street. Up until that point, I never met him. I had a $80 bottle of Bourdeaux, shook his hand, thanked him and left.

Been at Corporation X for almost 15 years now.

Moral of the story is that for me, it was only 3 months of job searching and certainly CANNOT compare, exactly to what people are experiencing today.

But what I can say is that I was ready to do ANY job during that time. Nothing was beneath me. I was ready to serve coffee if I had to. If I lost my job at Corporation X, i'd get a job bartending or as a waiter. Beat the street again and look for my next job.

I definitely feel like a lot of people out there feel like the way I felt in 1994. Things are getting derailed. No one cares. Just gotta keep your head up and realize that the darkest part of the night comes right before the dawn.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on February 25, 2009 12:58 AM.

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