Opinion - Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow.

What college graduates need to know entering the job market post-coronavirus

Key Points
  • For the 2019–2020 academic year, there will be a total of 3,898,000 college graduates in the United States.
  • On the heels of historic jobless claims, these Gen Zers will attempt to enter the workforce at one of the most precarious economic environments since the Great Recession. 
  • Using technology to network and taking extra courses now can help these graduates hit the ground running once things get back normal.
Graduates walk before the commencement ceremony at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 12, 2017
REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

This May the oldest members of Gen Z will be graduating (virtually) from college. On the heels of historic jobless claims, they will attempt to enter the workforce at one of the most precarious economic environments since the Great Recession. 

It is estimated that an increase of nearly 6 million students from the 2015-2016 academic year. Sadly, these nearly 4 million graduates will be following in the footsteps of the millennial generation.

As a millennial myself, I understand what it's like to graduate from college, only to be met with a devastated economy and depleted labor force. After receiving my bachelor's degree in 2007, I moved to New York City a year later to work in, of all professions, personal finance. I know how scary it is to look out into the world that appears to be falling apart at a time that's meant for taking your shot at achieving the American dream.

Even though things didn't go according to plan for my generation, things eventually improved. Yes, it will take time for us to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but there will be a recovery. In the meantime, here are some measures Gen Z can take now so they can hit the ground running once things get back normal. Whatever that is.

Live within your means

One of the biggest financial mistakes I see people make, even in good times, is living beyond their means. While I understand that many people don't have a choice right now, limiting spending and avoiding debt is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your future self. This could mean making uncomfortable decisions, like living with your parents for a prolonged period of time. It also means making smart choices with the  money you have, from clothes to entertainment. Now is not the time to spend needlessly.

Continue to increase your knowledge

Just because you graduated doesn't mean the learning stops. Honestly, it never does. When things recover, you're still going to want your resume to be at the top of the pile, so think about what additional knowledge and experience you can gain while not working and staying at home. Online courses can be affordable, if not free, and will push your knowledge beyond what you've learned in college. Increasing your knowledge increases your value to potential employers. Moreover, it demonstrates your work ethic and ability to deal with adversity. 

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Tap your creative self to generate some side income

Technology has opened more doors than ever before. There is an unlimited number of ways to get creative, even if you're stuck inside. Yes, it's easier said than done, but if you can turn a hobby or passion into a small online business, you can generate incremental income to offset expenses. You could also tell your story in a weekly blog or on social media, further increasing your value by building your personal brand. And despite current circumstances limiting us now, our unprecedented access to the world through the internet can set us free to improve your life for the future.

More from Invest in You:
How to invest during coronavirus pandemic, according to Ric Edelman
The secret to landing a remote job — and who is hiring 
Here are free online college courses you can take while stuck home during coronavirus

If there's anything I learned from starting my adult life during the Great Recession, it's that no matter how bad things might look or be at the moment, there's a world of opportunity still waiting out there. Giving up or getting down in difficult times solves nothing. The most determined and resourceful of us are the ones who get to roam the greenest pastures when we inevitably make it over the other side of the fence.

— By Douglas A. Boneparth,  president and founder of Bone Fide Wealth and member of the CNBC Digital Financial Advisor Council

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.