When I came across Jenna Goudreau’s recent Forbes article, "Why We Need to Take 20-Somethings Seriously," I expected to read a rebuttal of the negative stereotypes often tossed around to describe Gen Y.
That’s not what I got. Instead, I found myself reading a lecture aimed at 20-somethings themselves. While Goodreau admits that my generation has graduated college with mounds of student loan debt into one of the worst economies in decades, she also blames us for the fact that half of us are unemployed or underemployed. Stop being an indecisive wannabe rebel, she seems to be saying. Stop working at Starbucks, stop pushing back your career, and go get yourself a real job.
Here’s the thing though: We want to.
Yes, quite a few of us are sticking it out at unpaid internships while making ends meet as baristas, bartenders, and banktellers—hardly jobs that demand our advanced degrees. But that’s not by choice.
We know the types of careers we want, but getting there has proved far more difficult than we were led to believe. We were told that working hard in college would get us a good job; that student loans wouldn’t matter because we’d be able to pay them off. Today, neither of those statements is true.
It’s not for lack of experience or accolades. We’re Phi Beta Kappas, we’ve got Fulbright scholarships under our belts, we’ve published research, worked internships and part-time jobs on top of full class schedules and still graduated magna cum laude. And we didn’t accomplish all of that just to pad our resumes—it was work we found satisfying.
And now, we make $12 an hour while paying down $25,000 in loans. We’re still trying (and failing), over and over again, just to get a toe on the path to our dream jobs. We’re stuck moving back into our parents’ basements or crashing on more fortunate friends’ couches.
So, yeah, it’s demoralizing. And to be told that “not making a [career] choice is a choice?” Demeaning.
We make choices everyday. We get up and go to the jobs that hardly inspire us and barely pay our bills. We continue to build our portfolios in whatever way we can, continue to network, continue to send out our resumes. We haven’t bought anything in the past year that we couldn’t wear to an interview. New shoes? No way.
Believe me, if we could “choose” to get on the path to a “real” career, we’d do it. In a heartbeat.
Just last weekend during one of the teary breakdowns that have become increasingly common as I contemplate how far I am from where I wish I were, I admitted to my fiancé, between sobs, how terrified I am of becoming complacent.
“You’re not going to give up. You know exactly what you want. It’s going to get noticed,” he reassured me.
He’s right. So, my fellow 20-somethings: Hold on and keep going. It’s got to get better. The one thing Goodreau’s post got right? Real life does start now. Keep making something of it.
Photo courtesy of Jerry Bunkers.
Little brings Emily more of a thrill than taking a so-so sentence and making it shine or giving an alright paragraph more of a punch. She’s a self proclaimed word-nerd whose penchant for language took her from barista-ing in a bookstore café during college to serving as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in a high school just outside of Madrid after graduating with a double major in English and Spanish. Since returning to the States over a year ago, Emily has worked as Associate Editor for The Daily Muse and established a Spanish language social media presence for one of Southwest Michigan’s leading credit unions. Recently married, she, her hubby, and their crazy cat, Angel, call the shores of Lake Michigan home.More from this Author