Thursday, September 08, 2011

Moving Beyond Generation Limbo, the Lost Generation, etc...

“What it’s like for 20-somethings to go looking for meaningful work- and not find it.” Welcome to the Lost Generation. The other day The New York Times came up for another name for us: Generation Limbo.

So what’s a well-educated 20-something to do? About 14 percent of people who graduated between 2006 and 2010 are unemployed. A greater chunk work in dead-end jobs that pay little more than the rent- if even that. Indeed living at home with mom and dad have less to do with laziness and everything to do with graduating college, prepared for a world that isn’t yet prepared for you.

But the real danger goes beyond the obvious financial woes and dilemmas. Long term unemployment or lack of meaningful employment can give rise to a way of thinking that internalizes the problem as less to do with an economic crisis and more to do with personal shortcomings.

So what can be done in times like these to avoid both the financial and emotional toll caused by lack of meaningful employment?

Consider moving.

Maybe it’s time for a scenery change, and nothing says employment with that change of scenery like Minneapolis, Houston, or Washington D.C. according to Forbes Magazine’s “America’s Best Cities for YoungProfessionals.” Good Magazine just released their own guide of best cities forthe young and broke, with cities like Austin and Philly making the list.  

Keep a schedule

Going to bed late, waking up late, and passing 72 hours in your pajamas is enticing for all of about 72 hours. After that, you’ll need something to stay positive. Set a schedule. Work out regularly. Schedule time for job searching and cover letter writing. Pencil in informational interviews, and be deliberate in scheduling time to grab lunch or coffee with friends and acquaintances who can help you on your search (and maybe pick up the tab for lunch or dinner).

Countless studies show that it becomes increasingly difficult to transition from a job that requires no degree to one that does. So while working for pay is ideal, if you can afford to volunteer part time or full time in a field more closely alligned with your career goals, look into it. Is there the possibility your volunteer work will lead to full time work? Check into it with an organization you've always wanted to work for.
Go back to school
If you were planning to go back to get an advanced degree anyway, well, there’s no time like the present. Depending on what you’re planning to study, there might also be great scholarship opportunities, usually based upon academic potential. So in your schedule, provide significant time to study for the GRE or GMAT.
Teach English Abroad
Always wanted to study abroad but never got around to it? In a way, now is your chance. Teach abroad, experience a new culture, hopefully even save up a little money, and add international experience (and maybe new language skills) to your resume. WorldTeach and JET are the names most people have heard of, but check out Matador Notebook for other leads.
Reach out to your Alma Mater
Call the career development office at your alma mater and see what sort of assistance they can provide. No longer live in the area where you completed your undergraduate degree? If you went to a Jesuit university, I know you can usually contact a career center at a local Jesuit university or college to gain access to the reciprocal services they offer to students and alumni of other Jesuit schools. Didn’t go to a Jesuit university? Call your school’s career center and see if they have any similar partnerships.
Looking for more advice?
Brooklyn based blogger Allison Jones has some great easy to follow advice in a blog post on Brazen Careerist.
And finally, going back to where we all started, keep a positive outlook, however trying that becomes. These trying times are no indiciation of your ability or work ethic. In the words of James Carville- “it’s the economy, stupid!”