American Dream Is Elusive for New Generation

I don’t even know where to begin with this article from the New York Times. It tells the “sad” story of a college graduate who has to live with his parents because he can’t get a job. Except that he did get a job, and he turned it down.

The daily routine seldom varied. Mr. Nicholson, 24, a graduate of Colgate University, winner of a dean’s award for academic excellence, spent his mornings searching corporate Web sites for suitable job openings. When he found one, he mailed off a résumé and cover letter — four or five a week, week after week.

Over the last five months, only one job materialized. After several interviews, the Hanover Insurance Group in nearby Worcester offered to hire him as an associate claims adjuster, at $40,000 a year. But even before the formal offer, Mr. Nicholson had decided not to take the job.

American Dream Is Elusive for New Generation

There are so many things wrong here. Let me start with something simple. Why is he sending out four or five resumes a week? When I am on a job hunt, I can send out as many as five an hour. It’s clear from this fact alone that this kid is lazy and inefficient.

Well, there is one other explanation for how few applications he is sending. It could be that he’s just very picky. He claims that he’s willing to work anywhere, but apparently he’s not willing to do any job. He has some sense of entitlement that because he went to college he should immediately start in a high up position. Welcome to reality! He’s probably could apply to hundreds of jobs a week, he just doesn’t want those jobs because he thinks he’s too good for them. Guess what? Someone who will prefer to stay at home than to make $40k is an asshat. I wouldn’t hire him to flip burgers if I owned a McDonald’s.

The author of the article, Louis Uchitelle, places all the blame squarely on the economy. Oh, it’s so hard for these kids to find jobs. I don’t know what Louis is talking about, this kid found a job and turned it down. Blame the kid for being a douche, not the economy.

I graduated from high school in the year 2000, so I did not enter the job market until after the .com bust. I took the first job I could find. It paid $40k. I was working within a few weeks, and moved out soon after. Twice since then I have changed jobs. Each time I started my job hunt I have found new jobs in a matter of weeks for significant increases in pay. Even in this horrible economy, jobs are aplenty in my field.

Now, I don’t want to blame the kid entirely. I also want to blame his parents, and our whole society. My generation grew up with everyone telling us we should follow our passion and be whatever we wanted to be. They filled our heads with lies. This kid obviously still believes those lies. Not everyone can live their dream, most won’t. If we all lived our dream we would have too many astronauts and not enough farmers.

They also told my generation the lie that everyone should go to college, and that it’s a magical job ticket. Back in my parent’s generation going to college was special. Not everyone did it, and not everyone graduated. Thus, if you did have a degree, it was actually sort of a magical job ticket. Nowadays almost everyone has a degree, so the value of said degree in the job market is significantly reduced.

Because of these lies, my peers not only went to college, they majored in whatever they felt like. Many of them majored in things that provide absolutely no marketable job skills. I knew a person with a communications degree working at Gamestop, so awesome. Could have saved the money spent on college and gone to Gamestop right after high school and been a pretty big manager with four years of climbing the ladder. Four years of on the job experience is worth a lot more than four years of school.

Even worse than that, a lot of kids have gone to college with no direction. They went to college because it’s the thing to do, and their parent’s paid for it. They have no idea what they want to major in, or what they want to do with their lives. They toil in useless liberal arts classes doing nothing worthwhile, and perhaps never graduating. Even if they pick a major, they change their minds wasting thousands of dollars and years of their lives. The college doesn’t care, they’ll take your money.

Now, I did go to college. I went to RIT and majored in computer science. That happened to be both my passion and a marketable skill. It was easy to see from day one who was going to succeed and who would fail. There were kids who went home to their parents every weekend to have them do their laundry and feed them. There were kids in CS who had hopes of money, but no skill or interest. There were those who could work very hard and make the grade, but didn’t truly care about what they were doing.

The retention rates were horrible. A frighteningly large number of kids changed majors, transferred to other schools, or dropped out. They just couldn’t hack it. When actually forced to live independently and work hard, they quit. They boomeranged right back to mommy and daddy. It’s good, in a way, that we don’t have more job openings for these kids, as they would likely destroy whatever companies were fooled into hiring them.

I remember years ago I read a magazine that was left in a bathroom. There was an article in it about a couple who couldn’t get by because they were burdened with debt from college. At the time, their income was slightly less than mine, and their student loan debt was roughly equal. What was the problem? They had huge credit card debt. They had a gigantic house, kids, cars, luxuries. They lived as if they had a six figure income when they were in the lower five digit range. Yet the article blamed the economy rather than these people. They could have made a case using a better example, why did they choose these morons who were living so far above their means?

I think our friend in this article is quite a similar to that couple. He currently lives with his six figure parents. If he takes that $40k job, then his luxury level will decrease significantly. He won’t eat nearly as well. He won’t have as nice a television. He won’t have as nice a car. He won’t have an XBox. He refuses to step down before he takes a step up. Previous generations were forced to step down, by being drafted into war. The current one would rather leech off their parents.

And who can blame them? The parents must take a huge share of the blame. Why do they allow their kids to leech? They’ve spoiled these children their entire lives, why would they stop now? They’ve never forced, or even permitted, these children to live independently. They never will, unless they are tossed out in the street.

It’s well and good to have these kinds of stories out there. Tell the stories of the unemployed. Tell the story of any interesting person you can find. Just don’t go blaming the economy when the person is clearly at fault for their own problems. Find a better example. Find someone who has a marketable skill, is applying to jobs like crazy, and hasn’t even been called back. I think maybe the reason they don’t have such an example is because it doesn’t exist. Those people already have jobs, and the rest are not worth hiring. There isn’t a shortage of positions to be filled, there’s a shortage of quality labor.

I leave you with this relevant TED Talk by Mike Rowe. Make sure you watch the whole thing, or you won’t get it.

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