1. Experience: self-educate in an emerging technology in your chosen field. You have the advantage of being unbiased to legacy practices. With an emerging technology, no one has experience. In today's world of cheap hardware and open-source software, it has never been easier for motivated people to find a way to contribute. Treat the learning process as an extended interview, including your project emails and contributions.
2. People: you're already at the bottom, nowhere to go but up. Don't further handicap yourself with low expectations, reality will be happy to reduce your expectations for you. Aim as high as you can imagine and work down as necessary. Rank the top ten companies or organizations (globally) with people who are experts in your chosen field. Identify some of these people by name and learn about their career path and current projects. Find a way to contribute to similar projects. Work backwards from their social network to your social network and try to have F2F conversations with local contacts who are best-of-breed.
3. Budgets: use your F2F contacts to obtain intelligence on budgets. In a poor economy with layoffs, the remaining people often have too much work to handle. Creative volunteering and compensation ideas can get you involved in real-world projects where the experience is worth 10X the dollar value comp. It all starts and ends with people, be they HR, managers or customers. So focus on being useful and building relationships with people. The most valuable information is often very transient (e.g. time sensitive hiring opportunities) and communicated only by word of mouth.
4. Recession: some of the best engineering creations have come from highly constrained environments. If you can be successful in an environment of fiscal discipline, you will only be more successful when boom times return. The same cannot be said for those who begin careers in boom times and are shocked by their first major downturn. There is no better time to start working than now. It doesn't mean you'll find a job quickly, but you will learn much more than by staying in school (which also costs money, even if deferred).
10 years from now, business schools will have course material dedicated to the lessons of these unprecedented economic times. New grads have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to experience the kind of business environment where fortunes will be lost and won, as economic hierarchies adjust. Don't miss the excitement by hiding in school!