I'd like to take a moment to comment on an article I read recently on the New York Times. This article, like many I've read before, tries very hard to answer the question on their readers' minds. What the hell is wrong with young people these days?
They phrase it more politely than that of course, but it's pretty clear what they're driving at. They want to know why young people won't settle down, finish school, find a job, get married, and have kids. I've read dozens of articles in major newspapers with this exact same question, this exact same complaint.
I'm going to focus on the issue of finding a job, because that's the issue I happen to be the most familiar with (and also one of the most common complaints). I also think that most of the other issues are tied in with that one.
This article is actually slightly encouraging in that it acknowledges that the economy is doing poorly, and expecting young people to just go out there and find a job right away isn't exactly realistic. This realization comes a little late in my opinion. Even when the economy was doing well, there was always a real shortage of entry level jobs.
I graduated with a computer science degree in 2005. I was surprised at how little help I received with finding a job. No one pointed me in the direction of companies looking for interns or entry level programmers. Nobody gave me any advice on how to design my resume or interview well. I went online looking for advice, but I found most of it to be either obvious, unhelpful or contradictory.
I applied for several companies that I never heard back from. The one interview I did get didn't go anywhere. Since then I've been applying for programming jobs off and on without any success.
I signed up with a temp agency and managed to get a few different job placements. None of them were amazing jobs, but I would have been glad to stay with them if they had hired me full time. None of them did.
While I was a temp I worked at a lot of different places for a variety of different bosses. Some of them were okay, but some of them were downright capricious. I remember being told by one company that the person I was working for was an impossible man with unrealistic expectations. I wasn't the first person who had been let go with little to no reason, and the HR person was getting frustrated trying to find someone who could satisfy him.
Most of the time I would work hard and finish an assignment much earlier than was expected. My reward for finishing my responsibilities in a timely manner was a swift return to the unemployment line.
At which point I would come home and read another article about how young people are just too lazy to find a job.
As the economic meltdown continues, we're going to have to learn how to solve these problems. If we're ever going to return to full employment, companies are going to have to suck it up and start hiring inexperienced workers. They can't rely on some other company to train their workforce for them.
At the same time, middle aged men and women are going to have to get over their naked hatred of lazy twenty-somethings. They'll have to learn how to put aside their prejudice and understand that, properly employed, we can be valuable and productive members of society. They just need someone pointing them in the direction of a job that needs doing.
I don't think we're going to solve any of these problems anytime soon. I expect this financial crisis will continue for quite awhile. In the meantime I expect that the older generation's disdain for the younger generation will continue unabated. Of course, this disdain is only reinforcing the economic crisis that hurts all of us, but I don't think the older generation has quite figured that out yet.
Here's to hoping they figure it out before unemployment hits 25%.
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