Baby Boomers vs. Millennials: Generation Opportunities
I’ve had a bachelor’s degree in English since 2012. My anxiety over graduating lead to perfectionism which unintentionally granted me honors. I didn’t have time for friends. I did work, but it was part-time in order to focus all energy on the degree. After all, the point of the degree was to gain more knowledge, and thus better employment.
Despite all this work and dedication, there was one major problem: The economy I was graduating into wouldn’t catch me. It’s not like I wasn’t given warning. A lot of graduates would smile at me when I told them that I was majoring in English. “Good luck finding a job” was a commonly heard phrase. At first, it sounded cruel. After a while, I accepted that this was probably a reality. Months after graduation, I understood they were right. This is the way things are.
Every year that goes by, older generations don’t become wiser. They hear us say, “I can’t find a job,” and “I work part-time,” or even “Full-time isn’t enough,” but still it falls on deaf ears. Article after article is released on the economic struggle of this generation, yet older people tune out statistics, saying, “Work harder. You’re lazy. You want to live at home. Excuses, excuses!”
Recently, I needed to vent about not being able to live on my own to an online support group. Rather than being met with sympathy, an older woman with no experience with this situation decided to “help” by judging me for living at home. She told me that if I have a degree then I am choosing to work a minimum wage job. Next, she told me that it’s my fault that I only work part-time. You know, because I was hoping to live off a part-time minimum wage salary. I’m lazy, of course. After that, she told me that I’m “not being optimistic enough.” Actually, I’m being a realist. I’ve researched apartments in my area more times than I can remember to determine how much money I’d need, and there’s no way I could afford thousands of dollars per month, plus a few more hundred on a down payment for my pets, and that isn’t including food, gas for my car, and other expenses.
Clearly, I’m a clueless, lazy young adult with no goals.
We should all wonder how I convinced so many brilliant professors to give me As for six years, let alone a bachelor’s degree!
Following that terribly insulting advice, she suggested that I “save a little.” Well, like everyone else in my situation, I have been all along. I may not have to pay rent, I may be saving far more by comparison by not having to pay for many things by living at home for now, and I’m quite frugal when I do spend, but it hasn’t paid off enough to look at my money, and say “I’ll be fine on my own, someday!” In fact, in this economy, unless I were to be a well-off rich kid, I’m pretty sure that would be impossible.
If I had been making a living wage this entire time, maybe, I could put a dent in it, though. Of course, perhaps, that money would be garnished for student loans, anyway—a reality many office workers (meaning those in a so-called “real job”) making above minimum wage salaries deal with. We’re screwed no matter what!
Let’s talk about why I work part-time. First of all, after a lot of research, there is no way to make enough money in the U.S. working full-time as a minimum wage worker. It’s impossible. Second, if I did work full-time, it would take away from opportunities to possibly do work elsewhere in my available time. I have been trying to be a freelance writer/editor/proofreader for a few years, now. It hasn’t worked all that much, but I’d love to do more. If I were doing that in my free time, that would be more realistic. I would actually make more money, depending on how many clients and how frequently, compared to working more hours for less, whether for minimum wage or in an office, but the office job would be preferable to a minimum wage position.
If you think I’m exaggerating about needing time in my schedule to get an office-type job, allow me to share a repeated experience I had during a previous minimum wage job. Since applying to office jobs has been useless, I signed up with a temp agency. Of course, they would call with opportunities while I was at work, when I couldn’t answer the phone. A little side note to those inexperienced with today’s minimum wage jobs: “Breaks” aren’t always guaranteed, and rarely given on your own schedule. It’s best to take a break when things are slowed down, so you aren’t leaving your coworkers with a ton of needy customers, if you ever get such a moment.
Due to this situation, by the time I’d call the agency back, even if it was only an hour later, they would respond, “I’m sorry, the position was filled.” If I were working full-time, but by some miracle a better position came along, or I were finally able to do my freelance—which would be the ultimate preference—I’d like to be able to do that, rather than turn it down or be too busy to answer my phone because I work so much.
Now, for why I haven’t been hired for office jobs. When I have been called for interviews, the turn out is often the same: rejection for a lack of experience: The decent college, the honors, the useful degree itself is all useless. They only care that I have the right experience. Often, I’m called for interviews because they think there will be more to my resume than provided. Again, with this economy, employers for these types of jobs are battling between older generations with lots of experience and young graduates with knowledge of new programs, but they want both. My situation isn’t unusual. It’s a cliché that I hear from many fellow graduates.
For those of you thinking that I should simply do anything I can to get an office job, let me share my singular office job success story:
There was a time that I did have a temporary office job from that agency. It only lasted a month. If I had that happen, again, what would I do once that job was over? Would the part-time position I dropped to take the office position still be there for me? Would I have to be unemployed, again? Sometimes, it’s safer to be employed by a minimum wage job than by a corporate position that’s free to use you for a month.
Generations and Money
One of the reasons why many baby boomers cannot fathom why millennials can’t support themselves is because prices and income were completely different in their time. According to an attn article, up until 1978, one could work minimum wage during the summer to pay for a year in college. Today, that sounds like a joke. College tuition prices and everything else has increased, while minimum wage has stayed about the same.
Meanwhile, some give into weak excuses as to why the minimum wage shouldn’t increase. For example, the idea that minimum wage is “just for teenagers.” The amount of teens employed by these jobs is dropping, while the adults has increased. In reality, these jobs are filled by adults twenty-five years old and older who have no other choice. According to this Media Matters article, regardless of the employee, the main point of minimum wage jobs is to provide a minimum living wage. It’s inhumane to argue that anyone of any background or opportunity doesn’t have a right to survive off the money for the work they do.
A question for judgmental baby boomers:
How can millennials be "entitled and lazy" if most of us are college graduates being rejected from jobs that we went to impressive schools for, while only able to work minimum wage jobs that will never pay us enough to ever buy a house or car, let alone survive?
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