I was once one of those people. And this is my story...I have a master’s degree and five years progressively higher-level marketing communications experience. I went back for an advanced degree thinking I’d graduate more marketable – experienced, yet young enough to be a sought-after candidate. I thought the current economic problems and unemployment rate wouldn’t affect me because I’d done what it takes to set myself apart.
I was wrong. It has taken me a full year since graduation to get a full-time job. My job search began during my last semester in school – and lasted 18 months.
There’s a collective thinking out there that unemployment happens to “those people” and not to me, because I’m different. But the truth is, I wasn’t different. It was just as hard for me as it is for so many – especially in my generation. According to a Pew Research Center study, 37 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 are unemployed or out of the workforce. The unemployment rate for adults ages 20 to 24 is a whopping 15.6 percent. Without a doubt, the Millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 1991 – is being hit hard by this recession.
We simply cannot get our lives started.
Many critics blame us for our joblessness, calling Millennials lazy, entitled and instant-gratification junkies. As reported in the Akron Beacon Journal earlier this year, the average salary offered to employees with a bachelor’s degree is 1.7 percent less than in 2009. New hires are starting at a lower pay scale and will suffer wage losses of more than $100,000 during their careers. In addition, according to the book “Strapped,” men 25 to 34 with bachelor’s degrees are making only $6,000 more than men in 1972 with high-school diplomas. The statistics are shocking. And it’s hard to listen to our generation being stereotyped as globally lazy when we’re faced with these kinds of obstacles.
I can’t blame those of us who have simply given up.
And while the negative descriptions of Millennials may be true for some, they’re not true for all of us. I’ve been making my own money since I was 12, and I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in three years (10 days after I turned 21). I’ve worked professionally for six years, including during the time I was getting my master’s. During my professional career, I haven’t known a time when getting a job was easy, so I’ve consistently done creative, outside-the-box marketing to make myself stand out and highlight my value to an employer.
While I was seeking employment, I volunteered my skills, ideas and talents in an effort to keep myself relevant and to continue to build my portfolio. In addition to utilizing standard job-searching techniques, I used innovative approaches to job searching, such as sending a Starbucks $5 gift card, along with my résumé and a note suggesting we meet over coffee. I spent hours looking for jobs on the Internet, tailoring my résumé and cover letter for each job.
I grew increasingly frustrated as days turned into weeks and weeks into months – and I wasn’t receiving any kind of feedback. It was especially disheartening because my efforts had worked in the past. In two of my previous professional job searches, which also took place during a depressed economy, I was offered multiple jobs and could choose which position was best for me. During this job search, however, I often couldn’t even get an acknowledgement that my information was received, let alone reviewed.
As for my creative, unconventional efforts, they did garner feedback – some positive, some indifferent and some negative, including scathing criticism that left me shocked, depressed and caused me to temporarily give up. However, it was my creative approach, along with good fortune and networking, that landed me my current position.
I cried when my current boss offered me the full-time position. And I’ve never been happier professionally. I was especially lucky because I worked in my position part-time for six months, so I truly knew it was where I wanted to be.
I’m so grateful to have again joined the ranks of the employed. I no longer cringe at the thought of seeing people I know and having to have the simple conversation of, “So what are you doing now?” I no longer have to pay for health insurance on my own. I no longer have to borrow money from my parents to pay for my car.
I feel like I can finally start my life and build my future.
My sympathy and frustration for the unemployed in my generation is heartfelt. I wish more people understood the challenges we face. I wish older generations would understand why those of us who do want to work are having such a hard time. And please, stop telling us to move! Some of us want to stay in Northeastern Ohio and in Akron – an area in desperate need of retaining young talent, residents and progressive citizens who want to contribute to society.
It’s true. Some Millennials — like some Gen Xers and Baby Boomers before them — are lazy, unmotivated and lacking a work ethic, but a lot of us just want an opportunity.
And the ability to move out of our parents’ houses.
Writer Abigail Keating is currently working for FirstMerit Bank as a performance and learning consultant in their corporate training department – and loving it.