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The Real World: The Challenge for Millennials

Unemployed-College-Grads“Do Millenials Stand a Chance in the Real World?”  Talk about an article setting off a round of reaction!  That recent New York Times magazine piece spurred several posts in response, and then responses to the responses on web sites from The Atlantic to Forbes to Jezebel to Quartz.

A Yale senior lamented  “We Millenials Don’t Stand a Chance”  in the recession-era job market. Makes you wonder if a Yale biology major is struggling to find work where does that leave our English and Art History grads?   Soon-to-be Yale alum Bijan Stephen was dismayed by the stats and surveys cited in the Times piece: Millenials are not finding decent jobs so they not spending money (hurting the economy) and not saving money (bad for their future homes and retirements). As a result they are falling further and further behind, and that means a lifelong, negative impact on their earnings, and the distinct possibility  they will be the first generation not better off economically than their parents.

Just weeks from graduation and still unemployed, Stephen writes:

“…recent graduates face challenges that didn’t exist in the ’80s that make our situation worse: for example, the rise of unpaid internship culture (and the commensurate decline in entry-level positions), as well as the requirement that workers be constantly connected to their jobs via smartphones. I’ve done my fair share of internships, desperately trying to gain the necessary experience to land an entry-level position. Isn’t the whole point of an “entry-level” position the fact that one doesn’t need prior experience to hold it?”

We could commiserate along with Stephen but why add another voice to the depressing chorus? Instead we searched online among those reactions for some useful advice. Perhaps you can pass these along to your unemployed/underemployed adult child or just read yourself for some good ideas and positive vibes!

The shout-out message to young people was to look to tech and other high-growth companies for openings. Before they protest, remind them that there’s no sign in the window that says “computer science majors only.”  These fledgling companies stock their HR, marketing, sales, planning, customer service and other departments with non-techies. They need people, not only with high IQs, but also those who possess great EQ (emotional intelligence) and who can write reports, do social media, and pitch a customer.

Quartz reader Eric Gibbons, a 2010 NYU grad who majored in decidedly non-tech politics and history, started his career with an unpaid internship at an advertising  network for a new mobile product. Four months later he was hired.  He writes:

I’m now working with my former bosses again at a 10-person startup, and the mobile opportunities available to recent grads are still as boundless as people’s desire for new games, new photos, and new updates on the world around them.

Another Quartz reader, a 2011 Ohio State University grad, noted that startups provide plenty of opportunity, even  for business majors like himself.  Kirill Sajaev commented:

I would urge students nearing graduation to not despair but look five years ahead and imagine in what areas the job market is changing, and look for employment there—and think creatively. When resources are short, companies will value creativity and innovation.

In Forbes, columnist Alex Kantowitz urged new grads to focus on the advantages that come with their youth including familiarity with technology and the ability to circumvent bureaucracy using online social media.  Even part-time “gigs” can payoff, he wrote:

They should view every gig as a valuable introduction to someone who might hire them.

In a New York Times piece, Cliff Oxford, founder of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs,  explained that  he likes to “hire  Great Recession graduates”  because of their willingness to work long hours without “outside distractions.” We gather he meant that 20-somethings generally don’t ask for time off to for school event or soccer games.   Oxford took some flack in the comments that he was “Grinch looking to steal cheap labor.”

He followed up with another piece where he defended his stance and argued that the willingness to take a chance with a fast-growth company and adopt a first-in, last-to-leave work ethic holds  the promise of a significant payoff:

I think the Great Recession graduates will do better than their parents on every economic level over the next 10 years because they are willing to take more risks on the front end. And for that, for being more entrepreneurial, they will be — and should be — rewarded for taking that additional risk, with both raises and equity.

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