GREAT EXPECTATIONS, BROKEN

16 Nov

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LISTEN | Educated And Jobless: What’s Next For Millennials? | NPR NEWS

Lately it seems not a day goes by that I don’t encounter something relevant in the news about 20-somethings. It may be that since launching this blog I’m paying more attention to the subject matter, or that this is just a very timely topic. Probably both. But as the one writer for this one little site, I can only cover and share my perspectives on so much (see BALANCE post from last week).

Busy-ness aside, I could not let another day pass without sharing this story from NPR’s All Things Considered which aired last Saturday. Whatever your generational cohort, I wholeheartedly urge you to listen to the podcast. In my opinion the story is spot on in uncovering today’s 20-somethings experience – as uneasy as it may be. It resonated with me so deeply that the entire time I was listening I could hear the little voice in my head saying “yes, yes, YES!” I was so happy this story was being told.

So here are some of my key takeaways in a nutshell (but seriously, please listen for yourself):

  • Millennials were brought up receiving high praises from mom, dad, teacher etc. which translated into great expectations about what we could do with our lives. Essentially if we we worked hard and got a college degree, the world would be our oyster. Unfortunately the days of “I can do anything I put my mind to” are over.
  • Undergraduates haven’t traditionally chosen their major based on job availability. The most popular paths are degrees in English, Sociology, Communications and the like because they are viewed to allow for more flexibility when the time to think career comes around. I knew I should have applied for that degree in Bowling Industry Management. ;-)
  • 25% of people ages 25-34 live with their parents.

  • 20-somethings like myself who didn’t meticulously plan out their first jobs during college years – and choose their majors accordingly – are struggling to hold down jobs that really only give us mediocre satisfaction, and at times, feelings of under-appreciation and  low self worth. We want to climb the corporate ladder but when the opportunity isn’t there (mainly due to the current job market and economy), our expectations are broken. Yes I know everybody has to pay their dues. But with really no sign of things getting better in the near term, it looks like we’re apparently going to burn out by 30 (women especially).
  • That “perfect job” can be seen on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – you name it. The digital closeness of someone doing something “cooler than you” fuels the false perception that the ideal career does still exist. And we’re still looking. Our expectations have simply not caught up to the times.
  • 20-somethings may be at the forefront of redefining a satisfying existence. Find joy in other facets of life beyond career. At 9 minutes and 50 seconds in, psychologist Barry Schwartz puts it quite nicely.
I’d love to hear your takeaways and thoughts after listing to the story. So please share them by commenting below. Enjoy!
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20 Responses to “GREAT EXPECTATIONS, BROKEN”

  1. Kim Sklar November 17, 2011 at 9:26 AM #

    People under 35 are worth 65% less than they did 25 years ago…yikes!

    • Jordan November 18, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

      I had the same “gasp” reaction when I heard that stat too Kim. Yikes is right!

  2. bizzyschorr November 17, 2011 at 10:21 AM #

    Haven’t listened to the podcast (yet!) but based on your takeaways, I am with you 100%. the followup question is, “now what?” Now that the world is no longer our oyster–even though we played by all the rules–what do we do now? I get the feeling that most of us are not equipped to figure out how to succeed, or even how to define success, in this very different world.

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 7:54 PM #

      I’ve been thinking about the same questions. It seems like the new reality is “there are no rules.” And since we were brought up in that former “play by the rules” environment, we’re a bit of shock. No one prepared us for this cutthroat job market. The competition is fierce and it won’t be getting any easier. That’s why I chose to head back to school in a program that will hopefully help me stand out. I think that’s the reason why a lot of us are here. My definition of success is ever evolving, but right now it has a lot to do with standing out in the crowd and doing something unique.

  3. Kevin Michael Martin November 17, 2011 at 11:27 AM #

    As a millennial who engages in risk daily and has had difficulty finding jobs in the corporate sector in the past I learned quickly to move on and just live it up. There is a disconnect with the other generations and the millennial peeps. But no matter what, I think that our leadership in politics and education have set us up for failure. We were given the whole American dream story, graduate high school, go to College (it has to be a good college), graduate with the right degree, and find a job. Ba hum-bug. We are a generation that wants to connect differently, live life happy and free, and usher in a better world. I would rather starve doing what I love than become wealthy working in a job that I hate. I am thankful for the hard work of our parents, they created a world with monetary wealth, it’s our responsibility to create a world rich in meaning.

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

      Thanks Kevin, couldn’t have said it any better myself. I’ve had multiple conversations with my parents and elders about this and I always come away thinking “stop being selfish, you’re lucky to have a job in this environment.” But what I really wish for is to feel super passionate about the work I’m doing 40-60 hours a week. Of course we all want that to some degree I think – it’s just finding your niche and making it work for the lifestyle you want to live and for those around you.

  4. Kat November 17, 2011 at 11:43 AM #

    This totally makes me think of an article on Cracked.com
    http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-we-ruined-occupy-wall-street-generation/

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

      Great article Kat, thanks for posting. “#5. Making You Ashamed to Take Manual Labor Jobs” is the one I most relate to.

  5. flairlee November 17, 2011 at 11:43 AM #

    I chose the major of my undergrad according to my will. I like the job being related to media industry, and I am so glad to get rid of those scientific stuff.But when I graduated, I was faced with so many options. How to get a good job? How to prepare for it? What’s to ideal route of it? Also,the gap between expectation and reality just beat us down in the beginning. We fell that we are lost and confused. I really like the quote”20-somethings may be at the forefront of redefining a satisfying existence. Find joy in other facets of life beyond career. ” maybe the only comfrot is that we are free and young, so we have right to make mistake, and to take the risk of it without fear. Maybe the success or failure is just the result, Either the struggling or joy of growing up is the most precious and unforgettable thing we will recall in the rest of our life.

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 8:35 PM #

      You make a really valid point Flair. Maybe we 20-somethings just need to accept that we’re young and this is how things will be for a bit longer. It’s o.k. to make mistakes and feel uneasy about our futures. Looking back years from now we’ll probably appreciate that we had to go through these tough times because they will make us the people we will become!

  6. VueSociety (@vuesociety) November 17, 2011 at 10:28 PM #

    just read the burnt out by 30 woman, :)

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

      So what do you think? Aren’t you already burned out?! ;-) I think the burn out syndrome applies to men too, so I wonder why they were excluded.

  7. Elizabeth W November 17, 2011 at 11:25 PM #

    This just serves to scare me even more, after three years of being underemployed and living with my parents. That said, I feel like the MCDM program will give us the chance to be successful, if we’re willing to put in the effort. Hopefully.

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 8:32 PM #

      When I stated this blog I had no idea how much news and press was out there on the subject. But now my inbox is now flooded with Google news alerts on millennials, 20-somethings and Gen Y’ers. And reading the articles usually puts me in a pretty depressed mood. None are positive or uplifting – which is part of my goal with this blog – to change the negative perceptions out there about us 20-somethings. At least having the opportunity to write about my experience and garnering support makes it a bit more manageable. I encourage you to read Jill’s comment below about “not being a statistic.” It really puts things into perspective!

  8. Jill November 18, 2011 at 12:08 AM #

    As the parent of a millennial and the employer of a millennial, I do indeed understand the challenge of the current job market. That said, I think millennials need to buck up and embrace the challenge. I stand by the advice I gave to my sister many years ago when she ended up divorced with a young baby. There was no shortage of women’s magazine articles providing evidence of the slim chance that a woman like her would remarry. My advice to her was “Stop reading women’s magazines! You are not a statistic. You are unique. You are fabulous. And there is more than one right guy out there. So, go live your life. Keep your eyes open. And enjoy the ride!” She has been remarried for 20 years and has 2 more kids.

    I entered a tough job market in the early 90s, as well, and after plenty of rejection, I found my first media job at a radio station after “occupying” the lobby and politely refusing to leave until the news director agreed to see me. I waited 4 hours until the end of his shift and I left there with a job. My advice to millennials is don’t get discouraged, get creative. You are unique. You are fabulous. And there is more than one job out there that that you are uniquely perfect for. So, keep looking. Do what you need to in the meantime to hone your skills, get connected, and stay alive. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

    Last bit of advice. Write a targetted and compelling cover letter and ensure your interview is peppered with moments aboutbwhybyou are the perfect candidate for the organization to achieve its goals. Don’t just answer the questions. Have something to say totally focused on selling you as the perfect person for the role.

    If the millennials reading this are anything like my millennials, you CAN do anything you set your sights on. Just keep at it and you will live your dream…just stop looking at the stats!

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

      Thanks for sharing this Jill. Your personal stories are very inspiring and I hope my fellow 20-something readers will take your advice to heart. I know I did. “Not a statistic” – sounds like my next blog post title! ;-)

  9. Rodika Tollefson November 18, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

    Being part of the Gen X generation and having entered the job market during the booming early ’90s, I get a new appreciation for this generation really struggling with these issues just 10 years later. I’m also the parent of the second crop of millennials, who still have a year or two of high school left, and by the time they finish college are probably going to have even bigger challenges in getting jobs. I admit I still tell my teens they can do anything they put their mind to, but the new reality is that this sort of statement has to have a lot of caveats added to it.
    A couple of years ago I visited my sister in Eastern Europe (she lives in Europe’s poorest country) and learned that young adults who graduate from college don’t even think about moving out of their parents’ homes because they can’t get any jobs without having connections (it’s a corrupt country so that’s how they get jobs often times). I am surprised to learn that this is now also the reality for that age group in this country too. The stat in the NPR story that 55 % of the post-college millennials are unemployed is saddening.

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 7:19 PM #

      Thanks for you sharing your perspective on this Rodika. I agree and think it’s generally the parent’s role to be a cheerleader for their kids. But your point about not sugar coating the new “life after college” realities is also so true. I’m just not sure if it’s a widespread practice among most parents yet. It seems my age group (25-30) did not hear that message very loud or clear, but I imagine the younger millennials might be since their situation has been graver (as you note you’ve been doing with your high schoolers). I hope the situation you describe in your families Eastern European country is not the path the United States will follow, but if it does we likely won’t see the helicopter parents phenomenon going away anytime soon.

  10. Deric November 21, 2011 at 4:36 PM #

    With less jobs to go around and subsequently less experience to gain (which most employers are looking for) it’s no doubt that millenials are up against the wall. But I also think that with this new normal comes a whole new set of standards. And these standards will be set by millenials and that’s the interesting bit to see.

  11. Bertha November 24, 2011 at 6:21 PM #

    I think this site contains some really good information for everyone :D.

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