Job Hunting: Time for Millennials to Get Off the Fence?

by Vault Careers | July 07, 2010

The New York Times reports today on a particularly depressing aspect of the recession: evidence that the latest generation of workers to emerge from college is finding it difficult to get work, and is simply being left behind by circumstance.

Opening with a snapshot of one 24 year old job seeker's struggle to find work, the piece hits on many of the issues facing young careerists today. While generational differences are played up, however, one of the main themes that emerges is the idea of expectation: the job seeker in question chooses to pass up a $40,000 a year job because he worries it might "stunt" his career. His father and grandfather, meanwhile, tell tales of their own careers that involve largely getting started by accident and maneuvering as best they could once they were in a field.

That underlines a fundamental difference in approach—and attitude—that bodes even more ill for the current crop of graduates than the woeful unemployment figures suggest. We've all read the stories about how the millennial generation expects to be able to shape their lives to a degree that previous generations (my own included) would have found unthinkable. While it was difficult to grasp that concept prior to the recession, seeing it in action at a time when 9.5 percent of the country's willing workers can't find an open position is particularly jarring.

The article makes obligatory mention of the fact that millennials "are better educated than previous generations and they were raised by baby boomers who lavished a lot of attention on their children”—even going so far as to use this point to explain the "optimism" of the generation in the face of the recession. What it doesn't sufficiently explain, however, is how that "better educated" generation can rationalize that not getting any experience of the corporate world at all is better than working a "dead end" position with the opportunity to at least make some contacts and bolster a resume.

Of course, a member of a different generation explaining the inherent danger in that kind of logic always runs the risk of being accused of being too down on the younger set. With that in mind, then, perhaps the most compelling reason is the graphic that accompanies the Times piece, which shows that unemployment among the millennial generation—18 to 29 year olds—"approaches the levels of that group in the Great Depression."

If that's not enough to make one rethink a strategy of waiting for something better to come along—and risking falling further behind at every step of the way—not much will.

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault.com

Filed Under: Job Search


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