I graduated college in 2009. And if your memory is long enough, you probably don’t need me to tell you that that was a bad time to look for a job.

Finding a job out of college is difficult enough. But for me, and the millions of people entering the job market at the same time, it was slim pickings.


Most employers required years of experience for entry-level positions. Gaps in your work history was a surefire way to never get a call back.

But those student loans weren’t going to pay themselves.

We set out to whatever tasks we’d get paid for. I got a job canvassing door-to-door for a tutoring program. I worked for my friend’s catering company. I busked in the streets of Chicago. I became a substitute teacher. I interned on my church’s worship team. I wrote freelance. I worked a string of short-term jobs ranging from basic retail to residential therapy.

My resumé got embarrassingly long. Any interview I had was spent deciphering the timeline of my job history and interpreting how the skills I acquired therein would be helpful for the job I was applying to.

The hiring managers weren’t always convinced.

But in the years I spent bouncing from one career path to another, I accidentally built a collection of skills that would rival any entrepreneur. And after a while, I realized that I had a choice.


I could either work my ass off for companies that obviously didn’t value my labor, or I could strike out on my own and follow my passions.

I would be broke either way. But at least I’d be broke and happy.

Ten years removed from the recession, it’s clear that my experience is not unique. I sometimes feel like most of my peers have also turned their skills and passions into marketable careers.


I have friends who roast fair-trade coffee, design incredible cakes, and run their own dance companies. Not to mention my wife’s makerspace.

This isn’t just true of right-brained artsy types, either. One of my college friends is preparing to quit her job to start her own cleaning company. Other friends have started investment firms, restaurants, and delivery companies.


As diverse as the companies around us are, though, we all have one thing in common. All of us are thriving on skillsets forged in the adversity of a dying job market.

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