Where do we go from here?

Seeking post-grad employment isn’t as fun as I always imagined.

Bronwyn Miller

In case you are due for a “What the hell am I going to do with my life and how will I eat” freak-out, look no further than the March 26 New York Times article, “Do Millennials Stand a Chance in the Real World?” Spoiler alert: We don’t.

As the Times reported, economists share a “persistent fear” that our generation has entered a “permanently lower earnings and savings trajectory,” which is a fancy way of saying that we’re going to be dead broke and definitely not as rich as our parents ever were.

It’s not like wealth has ever been my primary goal in life. When we were younger, I took that whole “dream job” thing seriously, and money wasn’t the top factor in my choices. I didn’t make it to the 2012 Olympics as planned, but the goal of being a writer stuck with me. When I decided to study journalism in college, my 18-year-old self did not doubt that if I studied hard, I’d graduate and get a job doing what I loved.

Four years later, I’ve done my best to make myself a so-called “competitive applicant,” garnering experience relevant to both my majors through internships, jobs, extracurricular activities and leadership positions. More importantly, college has helped me discover my passions and identify which career path I would like to follow. The problem is, as I prepare to leave, I’m not sure where the next step in that direction lies.

When a few of my fellow liberally educated friends and I undertook a recent search for summer employment, we found ourselves regretting never getting food service experience. As we look at which of our friends are making money, college grads included, the servers are leading the pack.

It’s a sad reality check when we’re discounting our entire college careers and feeling like where we went wrong was never working in a restaurant. However, I’m concerned that the main issue is often not that we did not adequately prepare for jobs in the fields in which we are interested but that these jobs don’t even exist in the traditional sense. In today’s blogosphere, for example, writers are a dime a dozen, and paid opportunities are few and far between.

What we’ve concluded from our preliminary job search is that our best chance for “employment” out of college in a field even remotely related to our ideal careers in media is an internship — paid only if we’re lucky. While the “follow your dreams” narrative of our youth is still playing through our heads, we are also graduating in a climate that has conditioned us to be eager and thankful for employment, no matter what it is or how short-lived it might be. Our grown-up years have been dominated by disheartening discourse regarding economic recession and high unemployment rates, coupled with the fact that many of us fearfully watched our own parents experience job loss or another form of economic struggle in the downturn. For many recent or soon-to-be college graduates, myself included, these conflicting motivations have resulted in a high level of anxiety. Do I pursue my dreams, which might require moving across country for an unpaid or minimum-wage internship accompanied by little more than a vague allusion to the potential for real employment? Or do I pursue what’s safe and apply for any and all jobs close to home, even if they do not necessarily align with my career goals, just to feel a semblance of security?

 Even though Millennials are the most educated generation, it hasn’t come easy: We’re graduating with a nationwide average of $27,000 in debt. With the dismal outlook for a first job that many of us are experiencing, it’s no wonder we’re also the most stressed out generation.