As we progress from year to year, school to school, through the ranks of our public (or private) education all the way to a grand finish in college, we are constantly being advised and groomed for a successful career. The promised land is not so easily reached however, and increasingly our generation is struggling under the weight of various factors that are not always under our control.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “millennials”, people born after 1982, are entering the workforce significantly later than previous generations. Additionally, the average age when workers make a median-wage salary of $42,000 has risen from 26 years old in 1980 to 30 today.
To what can we attribute our generation’s sticky situation? The recession economy we have been in for the past five years certainly has had a hand in increased unemployment across the board. Whenever you talk to older people about the dismal job market, they probably wave off your doubts, as if to say, “This will pass.”
We cannot single out the recession as the only cause of our generation’s woes- there have been boom and bust cycles in our economy since the beginning. Instead, as the article suggests, we must look to the structural changes in our society. These changes are primarily due to our emphasis on achieving higher levels of education than in the past.
Combined with the increased cost of education, this emphasis is harmful to a majority of “millennials” who have been fed the idea of attending college their entire lives. So if they do not have the resources to pay for it, tough luck.
There have been too many horror stories of graduates buried under enormous debt from their student loans, or graduates unable to find employment for us not to take notice. From what I have seen, some students remain hopelessly optimistic about their future, despite the empirical evidence to the contrary.
In the past, a college degree certainly meant some sort of gainful employment, even without being at the top of your class. Today, many graduates are living with their parents still searching for a relevant job. This delayed entry into the real world puts us at a disadvantage in terms of how much later in our lives we will have to work, and the extent to which we will be able to change our society. Think about how much time you will have to pursue a passion or become politically engaged if you are just trying to make ends meet.
Without a solid plan for your post-graduate life, chances are you will be one of those struggling to find a job or pay off loans. Having a plan does not necessarily mean plotting out every move you make for the next seven years, but it should at least include some basic research on job prospects in various industries.
I hate the idea that some people forgo choosing a major they are truly interested in for fear that it would hurt their “employability”, but we all need a certain level of pragmatism to make it out there.