Is Gen Y Really That Bad Off?

graduation from collegeI don’t want this post to come off sounding that I think being a recent college graduate and finding a job is a piece of cake. I am simply questioning everything I am reading so that hopefully we can have a discussion. With that said, I think the media is overblowing this entire crisis. Yes, there are many recent college grads and young adults that aren’t working, aren’t working in the field they want, or are in a low paying retail type job. But here are some facts:

The unemployment rate for college graduates hovers around 4%. Again, there are those in crummy jobs or are underemployed. But you can’t tell me that the overwhelming majority of young adults are in go nowhere type jobs.

The typical recent college grad has student loan debt of just over $20,000. That is about the same amount I had when I graduated college. The stories you hear in the media of the people with hundreds of thousands of debt are not the norm but the outlier. They seem like the norm however because that is all you hear about. Why? Because the media is trying to get a reaction out of you. You aren’t going to react to Johnny having $10,000 of debt, but will react if Johnny has $125,000.

Time heals all. In this I mean that I’m sure other generations had it bad. But over time, you forget about how bad it really was. For instance, I can think a few major snowstorms we had on the East Coast in the past five years. They were huge. But it’s hard to remember the Blizzard of 1993, and that blizzard was bigger than any of the recent ones we experienced. My point is as time goes on, we forget the details. It’s human nature.

Related to this is technology. Today, people tweet, text and post on Facebook everything about their lives. We have 24/7 news channels that have to talk about something. We have news websites that have to continuously post fresh, new content. You know that so-and-so’s uncle’s son’s brother can’t find a job. You also know a few others as well. You hear and see all of these people talking about how they can’t find a job. I’m sure it was just as hard in the past, but because we are always connected and hearing about it, it makes it seem much worse.

People are delaying getting married and starting a family. I question whether this is truly because of the economy or if it is society. Back in the day, you graduated and got married and started a family. Most women stayed at home while the man worked. Now women want careers, which is great. As a result of focusing on their career, it’s only natural that they are going to put off marriage and starting a family. It’s not solely because of the economy. But the media makes it seem to be that reason.

This is the first generation that is entitled. Let me explain. Shortly after I hit my teens, the trend started that everyone is a winner. Even the loser gets a trophy. Because of this mindset, recent grads are expecting to graduate and land in high power jobs earning six figures. But the world doesn’t work that way. You start at the bottom and work your way up. Just like high school, you start out as a freshman, getting picked on and beat up by seniors. But as the years go on, you become the senior and get to be at the top of the ladder. In the corporate world, many start out in entry-level positions and then as you begin to prove yourself, you get raises and promotions. I just wonder if many recent grads expect to land great jobs as opposed to busting their rear to succeed.

Final Thoughts

As I pointed out in the beginning of this post, I am not trying to come off as saying everything is peachy keen out there. I am simply questioning the media’s insistence on these stories and whether or not they are clouding our belief on how it really is out there.

Readers, what are your thoughts on this? Do you think it is very bad out there, or is the media sensationalizing thing to get better ratings?

10 Responses to Is Gen Y Really That Bad Off?

  1. It’s good news/bad news for Gen Y. The bad news is it is factually true, they are having a harder time of it in the traditional workforce. Here’s the chart to back that up: http://bit.ly/OjWFo5

    The good news is they have technology working for them in two ways:

    1. They’re aware of their problem so much more than any previous generation. Like you said, 24/7 media, which focuses on the bad news, makes that you simply can’t miss it. And, as we know, forewarned is forearmed.

    2. We’re in the midst of a society changing revolution every bit as profound as the industrial revolution. And Gen Y has a front row seat to get in on those new careers. You know, things like social media, SEO, stuff like that, careers that bring a level of flexibility and control over your own destiny big companies could never offer.

    I think Gen Y will be OK, at least the ones willing to work. That part has never changed…

  2. It seems the media focuses on the extreme outliers, those who have been unemployed for 2+ years after college. Those with $100k+ of debt. Those having to work 80 hour weeks to scrape by (not sure if I read that or made up a dramatization).

    A better way to look at it, however, would be to compare high school graduates with college graduates. From all the studies I have seen, this gap is actually INCREASING. Quite the opposite of what you would expect from the alarmist media. The wage earnings gap between college and high school continues to remain or grow larger than ever yet the sensationalist media likes to focus on college-educated but poor. After all, ~40% of Generation Y will graduate with some type of college degree (Associates, Bachelor’s, etc.)

  3. I agree that the ones willing to put in the work will be OK. Thanks for including the chart as well.

  4. I think it depends on who you talk to in life. Most of my peers graduated and have awesome entry level jobs right now. But they were also top students.
    I do believe it’s harder to get a job as a college student, especially since college and master’s degrees have become a commodity. Everyone has them. You really need to stand out from the crown in order to land a good job.

  5. I think to improve your odds you can simply make sure you pick up a part time job or internship. Those intro positions may not always be the best but they can lead to other positions that may open up. With some planning ahead you recent college grads can increase their odds of landing that job they really want. That isn’t to say that it can’t be hard but I think it’s been difficult for other generations as well. Taking $100,000+ in student loans is an entire different subject. I’m sure some people have their reasons but I think a lot of that can be reduce by working a little and applying for scholarships.

  6. Jobs are really hard to come by and you really need to stand out or be excellent. Competition is so steep. But yeah, they got the technology and as long as they work hard enough, I think they can make it. They will find a way somehow.

  7. I think the problem comes from the schools themselves. During college, they always told us, “Your major averages $45,000 per year the first year out of college and continues up from there.” I’m not sure where they are getting their numbers, but that is not the case (at least right now).

  8. Sarah says:

    I understand what you’re saying… but I question your use of the statistics. For example:

    The unemployment rate for ALL college graduates is 4%. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is between 6% and 7%. (Still not terrible, but I think the more startling figures have to do with underemployment.)

    Your estimate of average student debt is also low. The average student loan burden for the Class of 2011 was $26,600 and includes all graduates for that year – including the 1/3 who didn’t take out any student loans.

    As for the expectation of “landing a high-power job with a six-figure income” right out of college, I have never met anyone with this expectation. Most of the people I know are thrilled to get something in their field for $30,000 per year because they have been stuck in minimum-wage retail jobs for so long. Part of this is a mismatch in education vs. the types of jobs available, and part of this is the fact that the market is so competitive that most “entry level” jobs require 3-5 years of experience. (Really.)

    Regardless, you are correct that the media tends to focus on the extreme outliers rather than the norm. But that goes for any type of news story, not just those involving Gen Y.

    In summary: Our generation is facing some very real challenges, although most of them can be overcome with patience and perseverance. (Being willing to move out-of-state is also helpful.)

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