Often I run into older people who look down on my generation like we all have contacted a mysterious plague that has miraculously been contained to just our age group. They, and many online experts, express how we are lazy adolescents with the Peter Pan syndrome, sleeping on our parents couch and dreaming we are in the Never Ever Land of entitlement.
This post is to stand up for me and all the other twenty somethings out there trying to find our way. I’ve heard a lot from the peanut gallery, and think it’s time we put out our story.
A little of my background…
From early childhood I was told that I could do and be anything I wanted if I set my mind to it. My image to go with this phrase was always a grown up me who kicked down opportunity’s door , refused to take no for an answer and achieved instantaneous fame. I had a plan. I was to excel in school continuing with my higher education until I had a Doctorate degree from a top school. At this time, every magazine in the States would beg me to write articles for them. I would pick one, write until I had learned all I could about the business then venture out and start my own publication. This was my ultimate success story fantasy.
And then reality set in. In my senior year of University I began researching journalism graduate programs and found out that the admissions committees of the schools I wanted to attend were looking for experienced journalists in the field. Unphased, I applied to my top choice and was unsurprisingly rejected.
I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t crushed. I was devastated. This wasn’t the plan. But I was realistic enough to see that I had not put in enough work to deserve to go to the next level. I reevaluated my goals and created a new plan, to get a job in the field and work myself up to a point where I was ready to get to advance to graduate level studies.
My quest for a job and career start began. To my dismay, instead of success, I was slammed in the face with the phenomenon that I call Plight of the Twenty Somethings.
1: People want experience.
Quickly I learned that, just like graduate school, the different media outlets only want to hire people with at least three years of experience. The three years I wrote for the University paper, in their eyes, didn’t count. However, this is not just in my field. I constantly meet people who tell me they were deemed unqualified enough to start work in their respective career choices. It’s the ultimate conundrum- you don’t get hired because you don’t have enough background, but you can’t get experience because no one will hire you.
2: Jobs are scarce, but the bills are plenty.
While our careers are stuck at a standstill, life still moves on. Like always, rent is due at the beginning of the month, credit cars need at least a minimum payment, cars need gas, our bodies need food and College Foundation is ready to start collecting on that loan we borrowed for the education that would get us ahead. The easiest solution is to defer the loans and move back in with our parents until we get on our feet, which many do. Yet this is not an option for everyone.
Then what? You work where you can. The Center for College Affordability and Productivity recently released a report that showed nearly half of recent college graduates work jobs that don’t require a degree. No surprise here. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when in doubt you stick to what you know. For some this is continuing with that job they worked since high school. Others find lower level work in the sales and service industries. The military suddenly becomes an attractive option because of the guaranteed benefits, a notion I find validated by the increase in persons in uniforms on my Facebook timeline. Those who want another type of war zone turn to teaching in urban schools that are battling low performance scores and high teacher turnovers and are willing hire anyone who will brave the trenches.
We are told we are in a economic crisis, and with high employment rates you can’t be picky by only choosing to do what you love. Financial planner Lise Andreana was quoted in an interview by U.S. News saying, “I think a lot of twentysomethings are out there looking for the dream job when really, they need to buckle down and just take a job, get some work, and get started.”
The problem is that you become complacent with the fact that you are making money even if that means giving up on that vision you had for your life.
“Silly rabbit, dreams are for kids,” and it’s time to grow up and be a mature, responsible adult.
3: Temporary jobs build resumes.
Those of us that are “idealistic” and don’t buy into this ideal that our dream job will never exist contract ourselves out for little or no money in hope that the sacrifice will launch us forward. New York Times article, What’s it about the 20-somethings, said that the average person of our generation goes through about seven jobs in our 20s and one third move to a new residence a year. This is because temporary jobs are easier to find, and sometimes you have to travel to get them.
The most sought after is the internship. The employer has the chance to try you out for a trial period, sometimes paying while other times not. Hopefully, you get a full time position afterwards. If not, you thank them for the experience and knowledge you have gained then move on to the next opportunity.
Other ways to put ourselves above the competition is to give back and do fulfilling work through service organizations such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps or international travel. It’s not that we are “forestalling adult life” as the Times article alluded. A lady who believed this once told me during my service year that although she appreciated the work I did to keep her child on the right path, I needed to quit being afraid and get a real job. Her belief shocked me, because the truth is that volunteering is a way broaden our horizons and gain knowledge of the outside world. It also opens doors for you that otherwise would not have been possible.
Which brings me to my last point…
4: Times have changed.
In the olden days persons were born, raised and sent off the school. When they graduated, they got a job, married, had children, retired, maybe traveled and died. Today, that linear progression is antiquated.
For one, people are living longer and don’t have to move as fast. Second, these goals are not for everyone. For instance, some may want a job that let’s them travel and marriage and children may or may not be in the life plan.
Yet the big reason it’s antiquated is because things just are not that easy anymore. That family business you may have once inherited have been taken over by franchises and those industry jobs everyone could count on have been replaced by technology or moved to China. We are told that college degrees are the new high school diplomas. News hit last week that a McDonald’s restaurant was requiring cashiers to have a bachelors degree. The claim was later refuted by company representatives, but it’s no secret that this is where the work force has headed.
So where does that leave us in “emerging adulthood,” new development phase coined by a psychologist professor Jeffery Arnett? Tying to make things happen before we’re 30.
We were raised to believe that change only happen if we create it, and our skies were the limit. However, before we actually launch into the atmosphere we have to overcome the obstacles that come with building your rocket ship.
Maybe we aren’t moving at the desired place and maybe that dream job doesn’t exist. But no one says we can’t get close as possible, and I’m proud many of us are not giving up trying.
Life is a journey not a destination, and I’m okay taking my time to figure things out. I still believe in the dream that can do what makes me most happy. I’m not willing to let that vision for my life drift further and further away until it’s impossible to reel it back. Right now, money is not at a higher hierarchy than passion, and I’m okay being a “starving artist” for the time being. Why? Because I’m learning so much and doing way more than my ancestors would have thought was possible. That is success in itself.
If all this makes us immature and lazy, then so be it. I’ll proudly be that.