The millennial generation has been the hardest hit by the recession. We are also the most optimistic about our future economic prospects. According to the Pew Research Center, about nine-in-ten either say that “they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals.” This, despite the fact that “fully 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades”.
Our generation has not arrived at this optimism unassisted. As part of the 10 to 29 year-old millennial age bracket, my parents inculcated me with the idea that the world was “my oyster” and that whatever elusive, non-existent path I wanted to raze through the jungle of commercial real estate, they were not only in support of it, but the more creative and far-flung it was, the better. I thought I was destined for success.
Upon approaching graduation, I was shocked to find no entry-level positions for my creative liberal arts education. At a disparaging career session for seniors, I asked the question “What jobs are there for English majors?” The woman who led the session looked at me like I was severely lost in the employment wasteland that had beset college seniors. She pointed to the screen on which were listed a myriad of confusing titles. “Well, it sounds like copywriting could be your fit. Would you like to write advertisements for Kleenex?”
No, I would not like to write advertisements for Kleenex.
“Do you have a portfolio with samples of advertising work, or a double major in business?”
No, I had no experience in business. Could I be a journalist?
“Journalism is…not a great career right now.”
She looked at me like I had just bombed an interview and was unqualified to enter the meat market of life, “Well, I don’t know then”, she sighed. “How about looking into teaching?”
I am not alone in my optimism that a job should provide meaning and fulfillment. The Pew Research Center describes millenials as “confident” and “upbeat” in our approach to life, and many millenials seek jobs with the goal of “changing the world” or experiencing personal fulfillment (Pew Research).
The luxury of my middle-class generation has been just this: we have gotten exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it. But is it such a surprise that we feel entitled to jobs? We have been told all our lives that we are special, that the opportunities in America are endless, and that we are the solution to the world’s problems of poverty, disease, and malaise. Our parents have let us pursue our creative passions, often insinuating that we could be the next “great” dancer, the next star football player or writer.
And we believed them. We believed them because we were being carried by their tide of economic success, and it seemed like the wave would never end. Now that the housing boom has ended and the generation before us has been left to downsize, buoying in an ocean of insecurity, we are left to pack up our dorm rooms and hope that someone--anyone-- will hire us.
Fortunately for many of us, disillusionment has actually become the catalyst for finally growing up. Many of the class of 2010 that I graduated with are sunk in school loans, pursuing jobs like gold-smelting, painting or other odds-and-ends. These jobs are often less-than-what-we-hoped-for, with long hours doing what is not the right fit. Even though you might find us bemoaning our jobs, wondering if we will ever get to do something that we like, you will also find us hunkered down, doing the best we can to be the best we can. Despite the criticism that we get for being a spoiled generation, entering the work force with a sense of entitlement,you might just want to give us a second chance.
If you do, I think you will find that this economy has changed us. That, though we enter the workforce with a slightly annoying enthusiasm, we are also learning a lot about being adults. We now know that life is not about getting everything we want, and that saving for material things instead of buying them on credit is better. The value of our families and friends has not diminished, even as the value of the stock market has plunged.
Perhaps we aren’t the next creative geniuses, the next famous dancers or entrepreneurs, but we are certainly no longer disillusioned, and we are more than ready to do our part. Though you might find us living in your basement again, (About one-in-eight older Millennials say they've "boomeranged" back to a parent's home because of the recession.) we’ll be the first to quickly claim that this is temporary: after all, we’re no longer kids, right?
Tags: millenials optimism generation
blog comments powered by Disqus