The Post-Recession Generation

In the past year or so, I have been acutely aware of the fact that the Great Recession transformed the world that our generation knows. I am utterly convinced that people who graduated from high school, college, or graduate school in or before 2007 entered into a vastly different job market than people who finished their schooling before the housing bubble burst and all of that. I remember thinking back in 2009 how happy I was that I wasn’t doing to finish my degree until 2010 when I believed prospects would be better. We’re here in 2012 now, and instead I am wishing that I’d been born in 1985 so that I could have finished school before everything fell to pieces. Now, there aren’t really “entry level white collar” jobs available. Finding a job for those of us in this bubble means either a job working for minimum wage, or a position that requires at least three years of related work experience. If you’re math skills are decent, you’ll realize that three years’ or more of work experience is pretty near impossible for anyone younger than 25.

I’ve read a lot of literature about Millennials and started (and half-abandoned) my own little sociological exploration of our generation. They bought into the belief that obtaining a college degree was the gold standard, a necessity for pursuing what remains of the American Dream. When the economy collapsed, they had to face the fact that a degree isn’t worth as much as they were told, and that they have to have the perfect combination of luck and work to find a position that is 1) full time, 2) decent paying, and 3) fulfilling. Many millennials live with their parents. They have part time jobs and tons of student debt. As far as work is concerned, we seem to not care much about pay checks, want meaningful work, and want the ability to be ourselves without having to fit into a mold. We’re willing to work hard, realize that we may change careers many times, and we want a work/life balance more than generations past have. We want to have time to play after work, as well as time to invest into relationships.

Since moving to WA, I’ve thought about my knowledge, my skills, my experience. The one thing that I know for certain is that I want to help people have better lives. It’s a vague goal, but right now, it’s all I’ve got. I thought I wanted to teach, but after student teaching, I didn’t think I could handle the real deal. I’ve got a background in English, and in Education. Really, where can that lead me? I pursued  Education with such single-mindedness that I can’t figure out how I could do anything else. Right now, the idea of doing sociology research on this generation and our experiences sounds great, but there’s a voice screaming in the back of my head that there’s no practicality in that desire. I think the voice is my father reminding me of his presence in my life.

How do you find a vocation/job/career that uses your strengths, pays the bills, and makes a positive impact in the world? Is this next graduating class of 2012 going to join the classes of 2009, 2010, and 2011, laden with debt and overwhelmed by the current economic state of affairs? How many more years will pass before our bust returns to a boom, and what will happen to this generation if the next five years pass the way the last three have?


And, because I feel like I need to give credit where credit is due, this was somewhat inspired by this post and my regularly scheduled hours that I spend worrying about what happens with my life after my AmeriCorps contact is up. I just can’t shake the feeling that things are still going to get worse before they get better. emoticon sadface.