Yes that is the latest misconception, complaint about the millennial generation, that unlike the youth of the 1930’s to the 1950’s-‘60’s, who were thirsty for the open road, willing to traverse the country in search of opportunities, today’s teens and twenty something’s are so lacking in willpower and glued to their technology they can’t even be bothered to get a driver’s license. Also in the latest researched backed whining about the generation older people seem to love to hate, how many 20 something’s live at home vs. in the 1980’s, how many have become homebodies attached to their hometowns even if it means giving up a dream and settling for a crappy, medial level job. Ok first their complaint, even as recently as 2008, was that late born gen X-ers and gen Y had done everything but hold a job, leaving employers needing workers but having no idea how to deal with these newest people entering the workforce, prompting programs nationwide teaching this generation the basics of how to get a job, removing piercings, covering tattoos, how to answer interview questions about why you want the job with something other than my parents want me to get one, including etiquette lessons in some cases. Similarly many were seen as economically unstable, an employment risk because they hopped jobs too much trying to find what was right for them Now their, the people looking at current phenomenon, issue is the type of job 20 something’s hold, the professional risks they won’t take, the fact they hold on to “bad” jobs longer; worse yet is the duel blame placed on the economy and the blame leveled at young people for contributing to the stagnation of the economy with their job and living arrangement choices, calling it the occupy movement we should be worried about leaving any millennial reading this likely screaming make up your mind.
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It is difficult to know where to begin unraveling the monstrous misunderstandings put forth by the New York Times article or the subsequent opinion pieces it generated; besides the fact that things have changed drastically since the 1960’s economy and changed even faster in the 30 odd years of the post 1980’s economy, perhaps generation Y has caught on to the things we were too ignorant and naive to comprehend. Among them, not everyone who goes to a new town with 50 bucks in their pocket turns out the be a success story; those were always rare, regardless of how many you saw touted on Oprah, and rarer still as we progressed to the end of the 20th century and into the 21st. People are much more likely to go to a new town with that much money in their pocket and end up homeless, on the streets lacking any way to get a job because they suddenly are without an address to put on an application, resources to generate cover letters, résumés, and are sans basics like hygiene products. This is not just a probable outcome of young people going to Hollywood, ending up on Sunset Boulevard, the topic of an ABC special probing not only the pitfalls of those who did make it but the hidden, desperate lives of those who didn’t. It’s not exclusive to those headed to Nashville hoping to be a country star, headed to the Vegas strip hoping to do great things, ideas that are waning for young minds today in the wake of deaths like Michael Jackson, Whitney Huston. It can happen anywhere, in any town, looking for any job; thus putting the author of the Times piece’s example about young Nevadans facing 13% unemployment who for $200 could hop a bus to North Dakota where a welcome sign and a 3.3% unemployment rate would await them or the Ohio young man dreaming of being a teacher unwilling to move all the way to Arizona to land a job choosing instead to take a job at a local tire factory, in new light, new perspective. To begin with where does our unemployed Nevada resident come up with $200 to purchase a bus ticket; further, if you have a job, why are you going to forfeit an income, steady work history for the pipe dream of what might be better somewhere else, particularly in current economic conditions, never mind in some place so cold. Neither is it as simple as just the funds for the bus; once you arrive, you have to either have family in the area willing to put you up until you gain employment or the funds for a motel, room in some sort of boarder situation until you get a job and receive your first few paychecks to have first and last month’s rent, deposit for an apartment. Not only that but if the unemployment rate is so low in areas like North Dakota, it could mean they are close to an employment saturation rate, meaning there won’t be any more jobs for people who move there hoping for work.
Even if you apply for jobs ahead of your arrival, try to ensure there is a job waiting for you, actions our Ohio hopeful teacher to be may have tried to take before deciding against a move thousands of miles away, it doesn’t mean the job you thought you had won’t fall through, an employer won’t at the last minute go with another candidate, potentially leaving you in a new city where you know no one, have little or no money, no connections, something ironically that can mean more than credentials in this day and age, no knowledge of resources to help you. It’s not just risk aversion it’s common sense, and just because you get a job doesn’t mean it was worth relocating. Many people who do so end up with minimum wage, medial jobs barely getting by, struggling often times with a higher cost of living than where they came from. Let’s say all goes well and you get a job in or close to the field, the salary you were aiming for, let’s also say you have a few possessions other than clothing, things you can haul on a bus trip; where do you keep them while you look for a job in another state? Assuming your parents agreed to hold your belongings while you are gone, how then do you get them across hundreds of miles, afford a U- Haul to go get them on top of food, utilities, rent, for where you currently live or the time off work from your new job to retrieve the items? Another problem, you’re a woman 100-150 lbs. soaking wet, you are disabled, your alone and have no friends where you are going; how do you place large pieces of furniture, lift those heavy flat screen TV’s, take things up indoor or outdoor flights of stairs? Depending on a moving company is a recipe to find things lost or stolen, broken, costs extra to place furniture if they are willing to do it at all and because your moving out of state, parents may be financially of physically unable to help you, making things much more complicated than a simple bus ticket, complexities we seem to be all too willing to forget in favor of calling this generation lazy, complacent.
Bringing us to the next point in the realities regarding the millennial generation; aside from the hope our children have learned from our mistakes, learned the value of family, community for health and wellbeing, vs. 18 hour days, CEO jobs and no time for anything or anyone else, we are seeing the effects of the first generation of children born to older parents, parents who waited until their 40’s, 50’s to have kids who now may need extra care by the time their child is a teen or 20 something, a possible reason why they are such homebodies; others may have younger siblings their low wage, middle management job help support until they can leave home. Addressing why so many are still at home, it has less to do with technology over driving licenses, technology that shouldn’t be so quick to be dismissed as it is how much of the job application information is transmitted, how businesses and webpages, money generating endeavors are begun, and much more to do with the massive student loan debt they take out thinking they will become well educated headed for a middleclass, upper middleclass job and lifestyle only to come out working retail, server, barista, sales positions when they can find work at all. So they move back home with mom and dad where they don’t have to pay rent, utilities, maybe not buy food, pouring their money into paying down their student loan debt; student loan debt interestingly enough, now surpassing credit card debt in this country. Upward of 2 million baby boomer, senior citizens still have student loan debt either trying to pay off their own or helping their children. A situation punctuated all the more by degrees that should be taking people places that aren’t; prime example a lawyer hoping to work for legal aid and help people working as a server suing his law school, speaking out about their misrepresented 80 to 90% placement rate using temp work, paid internships, non-degree related work to come up with those number unbeknownst to students. Next a biology student with a BS hoping to work in a lab coming up against jobs wanting either field experience or specialized certifications, being told by a job placement worker to continue his education. Two instances in a sea of such scenarios while colleges have become greedy mega businesses more focused on the number of students they can get packing the seats, fees they can charge for nearly everything, raising tuition twice as high as projected inflation, than teaching people, than being a beacon of learning.
And before we start bashing young people once again or take the Mitt Romney approach voiced at a rally not long ago where he advised students to shop around, realize you’re going to have to pay it, the money you borrow, back again it’s far from that simple; college isn’t just about getting in it’s about surviving once you get there, finding a program where you can do best. Going in your home state to school will no doubt reduce costs yet is not always an option for high demand degrees with a greater likelihood of getting a job but are only available in certain areas degrees in hospitality, human resources, advanced medical coding among only a few. Individuals getting more conventional degrees that still have residual employment power business, marketing, sales, advertising, are faced with the cold hard truth that the only thing they may be able to use to distinguish themselves from the droves of others holding the same degree is the prestige of the school they attended. To say nothing of the folly of asking 18-22 year olds to understand numbers the equivalent of what their 30 something counter parts will pay for their mortgages, even with financial literacy courses required in high school it doesn’t equal comprehension or eliminate the rock and a hard place students find themselves in knowing they need a degree to get ahead but also knowing that degree is so expensive, knowing they could end up working minimum wage regardless. Never confronted is the fact degrees aren’t worthless, dumbed down or that students are learning when they go on to higher education but employers refuse practical job training, especially for college students; they mistakenly think degrees mean no need for training yet also refuse to provide internships, apprenticeships. So the majority come out holding a degree that’s little more than a piece of paper, jobs going to the lucky few who could land that coveted practical experience via sparse programs still available.
That being said, of course this generation believes in luck, however; it’s not just the product of a popular TV show “That’s so Radom” or that random has taken on a meaning stressing the illogical and coincidental in life, it is exactly what one commentator wrote in response to the go nowhere generation New York times piece. In his take on millennial work, life habits entitled “When Milinialls Give Do They End up in Law School?” Elie Mystal said the following: Umm… so you’re saying that Millennials have looked around and made an accurate calculation about how fame and money is generated in modern America? I mean, is there any doubt that in our reality TV, dot-com bubble, ringless King world that luck plays a huge role in whether somebody makes it or not? I think Millennials can be forgiven if they notice the “luck” that’s involved in turning “cat pictures with text” into a huge success, while “cat pictures with thought-bubbles” ends up on another successful venture that makes comedic use of the word FAIL. If only somebody had worked harder! You also can’t blame Millennials for not standing in awe of the “work-ethic” shown by those who had the supreme good luck of winning the birth lottery. Mitt Romney is a serious presidential candidate because his Daddy was president of American Motors, and Mitt was able to parlay every advantage in life into a billionaire dollar career in investment management? Random!” If that wasn’t enough to convince young people today of the importance of fate in where you land in life, it goes beyond cat pictures with text or thought bubbles becoming a successful business, Justin Bieber vids on You Tube that eventually landed him a recording contract, the success of JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Christopher Paolini, Diary of a Wimpy Kid author, Jeff Kinney or the photo sharing/editing site Facebook just bought and put on the map making them worth millions; it comes down to the practical in millennials lives. The nonchalant chatty Cathy’s they sit next to in class who do everything but pay attention, somehow manage to graduate going on to long lasting careers as personal care attendants, home health aides, CNA’s dental hygienists even social workers largely based on their ability to relate to people. Classmates with nearly identical activities, grades one gets an internship, a scholarship the other doesn’t working 3 jobs just to attend school; the first goes on to the top of the career ladder, perhaps fortune if not fame, the second a middle management job, an unfulfilled life. Such is the fate of many who can afford college to begin with, somehow afford to finish unlike those who have zero access to money for school, who run out of funds before they get their degree both being thus unwanted by the employment system.
On the whole the sedentary, homebody, go nowhere, don’t take risk attitude we see in young people today is not the result of an economic resent unique to them, it’s not generation why bother, it’s generation why are we going to destroy ourselves? It’s generation we’ve seen what doesn’t work why are we going to repeat it; remember lots of these children’s parents tired what the author is suggesting and ended up in the less than satisfactory situations described throughout what you are now reading. It’s not a product of too much belief in luck, not enough will to put in the effort; we are seeing the effect of the first generation of parents for quite some time less economically capable than their parents, less able to cosign a loan for their teen to get a car, less able to afford the parent/teen contract employed in the 90’s early 2000’s where the teen would either cover the car payment or the insurance and the parent would pick up the other item allowing the teen to be mobile, have a license, the freedom of a vehicle. Teens as an age group have one of the highest unemployment rates since the 1980’s making them less able to buy that $500/$1,000 piece of junk and fix it up in order to drive; those who do have jobs increasingly are using the money they earn to aid their struggling families in paying bills, not saving for supplies for a jewelry making, photography class in high school, an I-pad, never mind a car. We are seeing the effects of graduated licensing programs, teen driving restrictions, city wide curfews for persons under 18; one of the drawbacks of driver’s ed. is teens now know the ramifications of speeding and parking tickets, couple that with the economy alongside the technology allowing us to do everything from make and keep up with friends to shop at the touch of a button, they believe it’s too much hassle not enough reward. We are seeing the first generation of parents in a college degree based job market that are less able provide a college fund, less able to do something as simple as cosign a student loan for their child; increasingly parents make just enough money to get by, just enough their child doesn’t qualify for standard financial aid, leaving them option-less when it comes to higher education. Sadly it isn’t generation go nowhere; it’s generation nowhere to go.
Further this generation is not looking for adventure, freedom; they are looking for stability, security, predictability things many didn’t have growing up. They are looking to survive and thrive in a different way, being able to ride out a bad economy, the rough spots in life with a solid job, savings, frugality rather than pouring all your eggs in one basket and hoping things work out, like the people in the 1930’s to the 1980’s did. Aside from the positive, inevitable changes time, progress and, yes technology, have made to how people live their lives, if we really want to change things we don’t need to pull the plugs on teens, 20 something’s technology, reopen route 66; we need to restore economic opportunities so parents can afford to cosign a loan for a car, pay insurance or car payment while a teen pays for the other item, can cosign a student loan, provide a college fund. We need to at the same time restore job opportunities for teens so that all who want a job can get one, and restoring opportunities for parents means a teen with a job can focus on that high school class they want to take but must buy their own supplies, can focus on a car payment or fixing up an old Junker, they can use work as a means to begin their own college fund, supplement financial aid, avoid large student loans. If we want kids to be mobile like they were in the 1960’s then we need to have the driving rules of the 1960’s; you pass your driving tests, written and practical, you get a full license, none of this you need 2 years road experience first, you can’t be on the road after certain hours. And when you get that first speeding, parking ticket they cut you a bit of a break, explaining why you don’t want to do it again, instead of coming down on you with a legal, traffic equivalent of the fury of God’s own thunder. But most of all we need to remember Augie March and Tom Joad are fictional characters from literature not real life, and while it could easily be called historical fiction, it’s still fiction. Real life has many more ups and downs many more tragic stories than happy ones no matter the generation, no matter the decade no matter the era.