Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Lost Generation Looks for a Job

I'm concerned.  No, I'm down right worried about the 20 somethings who are looking for work right now.  I have two in that category so I know first hand what they are experiencing.  They have the misfortune of starting their work careers in a sucky labor market.  Hell, it's not even a market.  It's more like a yard sale.

This young man, who looks a bit like my oldest, is dutifully scanning the papers, which would never happen since everyone their age group searches on-line.  Newspapers are so old school, ya know.

Ahhhh, the old days.  You got dressed in your Sunday best and went door to door, filling out applications and using your Miss Manners, uh, manners.  My youngins crawl out of bed and plod off to the computer, the new human resources/personnel office.  Do they even have people in HR anymore?  I'm just seeing a computer randomly selecting applications and then shooting them in the air.  The ones that land on a desk get picked up in passing by a manger who needs some new peons.  The rest of the applications get used for cat litter boxes and bird cages.

When my oldest son graduated from college, he had one interview at a car rental of the biggies.  He had two interviews and didn't make the cut.  Having rented from this particular company, I figured that he didn't fit the profile.  He didn't chew gum, yawn in anyone's face or have limited interpersonal skills.  At least that's the experience I had with one of their "customer service" people the last time I rented a car.

And so, a dozen on-line applications later, he settled for a job with an office supply chain.  He had to take a personality test for that one.  Really?  Was the fate of the free world on his shoulders?  Did they really have a commitment to hiring just the right person for this minimum wage job?  I think it's more a test of endurance.  If you can sit at the computer for an hour and answer all of the questions without putting your fist through the monitor, then you're the one for them.

Poor kid.  He wore the silly red polo shirt that didn't fit his 6'5" frame.  He reported to work at 5:30 a.m. to unload the truck.  He answered questions about which pens were on sale.  He patiently waited on senior citizens who just wanted someone to talk to.  And every two weeks, he stared in dismay at his paycheck and wondered, "What's it all about?"  Heck, I've wondered that over paychecks that were a lot bigger.

 The younger son had the same experience...minimum wage, random work hours, silly uniforms, no advancement jobs.  And to add even more insult to the situation, some jobs are "seasonal" which is corporate gobbildy gook for a job that ends right before you are eligible for unemployment.

Out of desperation and with an added bonus of adventure, they both worked jobs at Yellowstone National Park.  These jobs are considered seasonal, but if you complete the contract, approximately a six month commitment, you get a bonus and unemployment.  Having worked there myself, I can tell you that even though many people work in parks to enjoy nature, it is also a refuge for young adults who cannot find work in their states.  Quite a few people move from one park to another, living a nomad life of sorts.

My sons went back for a second season because they couldn't find work in Ohio, other than the above mentioned minimum wage jobs that do not provide benefits, dignity or advancement.  The oldest son has decided to pursue his dream of finding a job with a minor league baseball team.  The pay is low but he is willing to give it a shot before he gives up and thinks about graduate school.  The younger son is planning to go back to college to get a degree in Criminal Justice and possibly go to police academy.  I don't know where that came from, but maybe he got just a teeny bit of my social worker genes in a more macho version.  Don't tell him I said that.

None of my sons' friends have careers or anything close to it.  I don't think any of them have health insurance.  And I know that none of them have a clue about what to do.  Some day, in the far, far future, the economy will improve, I have my fingers crossed on that one, and these young men will be closed out of the job market.  Those faceless human resources people will toss their resumes aside with disgust because they don't have the experience they want.

How can you get experience when there are no jobs!!!!!!!!!  Would the HR people be happier if they had just stayed unemployed instead of waiting tables or stocking shelves?  I know this will happen as well as I know that useless lap kitty will barf in my shoe sometime this week.  The companies will forget that little unemployment disaster that was in all the headlines for a couple of years.  They will go back to asking questions like "What is you worst personality trait?"  They won't understand that working minimum wage jobs does build character.  Any job that you show up to day after day, especially if you hate it, builds character.

I don't want to be right about this one.  I would love to see the doors of opportunity open up for these young people, my lost generation, but I'm worried.  I think we're going to have them in our basements for some time to come. 


  1. For me it was giving up on what I wanted to do and going to work for my dad in construction. In the end I am doing OK but I wish I had gone on to college and pursued my dreams a little bit harder!

  2. It is sickening how the younger generation with educations has to work for minimum wage, it's also disheartening that I would be in the same boat if I didn't return to school... well maybe add a dollar an hour but no benefits.

    I am grateful to live in the richest province in Canada, one where the oil business is getting out of its slump and things are full steam ahead for the new year. We thrive on the oil business, the money is fantastic but the work is tough. What worries me is what will the rig workers do when there's no oil left, when we've used up all of our natural resources? Then what? It won't transpire in my lifetime but it's going to come crashing down one day and that bothers me.

    I wish both of your sons all the best of luck in whatever it is they choose to pursue and I hope that their futures hold decent jobs for them. Until then, you shouldn't have to shovel snow, take out the garbage or cut grass. Yup the grass is always greener when you don't have to cut it yourself.

    Now time to get to work or I won't have that degree I'm chasing! Take care Judy, we'll chat again soon. I might be paying you to write me a paper real soon! lol

  3. Judy, you are absolutely correct on all counts here. Checking with my sons in S. Carolina and S. California, the travails of "job hunting" are prevalent there too. Fortunately, they are both employed and the Calif son is in his 3rd year of college. His plan is to teach in a state where teachers are being laid off. When I left Ohio in 1972 for the "Golden State", it was a land of opportunity and remained that way until 2006 when the housing market collapsed. That event, coupled with the economy and the outsourcing, has turned the state into a carbon copy of Ohio with warmer weather, better roads and less rust. For the first time since 1964 when I got my first part-time job, I don't have a fix, and you know I pride myself in being a "solver of problems and a seller of solutions." Hell, I can't even find a job for myself despite all my extensive sales and management experience! I don't blame this situation on "age bias" because kids 40 years younger can't even find entry level positions. I would be interested in any thoughts or suggestions for the younger generation your readers might have. I'm getting a $7.00/month raise on my Social Security benefits this month, so I'm all set for the future-NOT! Will continue to sell scrubs! Mike D

  4. Oooh--I know what you mean. My son graduated from college 2 years ago and has YET to find a job worthy of his 4 years and 40,000. It's all about key-words and Internet searches and cutting and pasting resumes. It's awful. I miss newspapers and the opportunity to see yourSELF,not just what you've typed into some "field" on an online application. Well written!!


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