I tend to read a few news articles daily, usually on CNN because I like the formatting of their website, but in past months I’ve actually found the comments section to sometimes be more informative, and always more entertaining. One topic that seems to be discussed quite a bit in these comments regardless of what the article is about (though typically it has something to do either with finances or the government) is college kids.
There is an endless battle it seems of old vs young. The older generation claims the younger one wants everything handed to them, that they’re the “entitled” generation, that they don’t know how to work hard, that they’re living off their parent’s income in the basement playing video games. The young fire back stating that they do indeed work, that their college degree hasn’t landed them a job, and that they’re not in the basement playing video games.
From my perspective many of the older generation take for granted the ability they had to simply go out and land a good paying job with pure hard work. Many jobs that they were able to get straight out of high school (and sometimes not even requiring a high school education) such as secretary or laborer, now require some form of specialized training or previous experience. Very few jobs exist that don’t require at least a 2 year degree or technical training. Even jobs that used to pay well as long as you had a 4 year college degree are now becoming tougher to land because they either require a Master’s degree now or multiple years of experience.
If my generation and those coming after me are considered an “entitled” generation it is only because we were brought up to believe that we merited things. I grew up being told that as long as I was smart and worked hard that I could get into college and land whatever job I desired. I was told this by my parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who was familiar with my educational achievements. I rode that wave of ignorance throughout high school, collecting awards in history and English and finally graduating as salutatorian in 2005.
I headed off to college, confident that my intelligence and hard work would pay off like everyone said it would. I completed 2 internships, one of which was for my dream job of being a high school athletic director. I put in a full semester, 600 hours of work, which was unpaid, thinking that it would surely seal the deal on my resume as being qualified for jobs once I graduated. Spring of 2009 came and I collected my Bachelor’s degree with honors and an honor society medal around my neck.
I applied to various positions with confidence, sure that I would at least land a job interview. A year passed. I grew discouraged. The hours at my part time job, a grocery store, fluctuated immensely anywhere from nearly 40 to barely 20. Had it not been for my parents letting me live at home and even paying my car insurance and cell phone bill, I would have been in some tight financial spots. When I did finally land a few interviews they all came up empty. What I found most frustrating is wanting to know why exactly I hadn’t landed the job; if I knew then I could at least build upon that to try to get the next one. In spring 2011 a position became open at another branch of the grocery chain I worked for and I was able to take a full time position. This felt like a total blessing as I could now have health insurance through the company (I was paying for my own after graduation) and have a set amount of hours and guaranteed pay each week.
I am now employed by a bank and make the best salary I have ever made in my life which given I was excited to hit double digits at the grocery store isn’t saying too much. I live comfortable and am ok with my job most days. I’m sure having a college degree helped me be chosen for the position though there are still times I’m resentful feeling as if it didn’t truly pay off to obtain one (usually when I’m making my monthly student loan payment) because I’m not working in my chosen field. Sometimes I wonder what I could’ve or should’ve done differently, but I feel as though I did everything I was told growing up. I studied hard, took challenging classes, got a college degree, and did internships. At times I feel a bit cynical, that I was lied to growing up, and that people should encourage the younger generations but err on the side of caution before making anything seem like a guarantee for the future.
To those in the older generation who think that us younger “kids” can just walk into jobs like they did, I really wish they’d look at society a little harder. Being smart, working hard and even getting a degree isn’t a no-fail plan for anything anymore. All of my friends from high school followed this same method and while a few have gotten careers in their chosen fields and others have at least found passion in their work elsewhere, none of them lived in their parents’ basements playing video games. Many of them, like me, struggled to even land interviews after graduation let alone entry-level jobs. We are not alone as many of the upcoming generation are falling into the same trap; believing all it takes is hard work and they’ll get everything they want. Maybe instead of the older generation making that empty promise they should be working to find ways to make that closer to a reality.