Prompt: What’s your biggest pet peeve about the way that people write about your generation?
Millennials are squandering their money, buying avocado toast, guzzling wine, and putting off adulthood by holing up in their parents’ basement and riding on the Affordable Care Act’s generous allowance of healthcare until the age of 26. At least, this is how people describe my generation, but we are not deserving of these false judgements.
I graduated college in 2016, ready to give back to the world all of my knowledge and skills. I moved back home, eager to find a job and gain real-world experience. This was a far more daunting task than I originally realized. The majority of the job positions posted required 1-5 years of relevant professional experience or a Master’s degree. Though I was fresh out of school, I was optimistic that someone would take a chance on a talented, recent graduate. With each rejection, my optimism diminished. I eventually took a semi-professional job at an insurance company to at least step into the working world and save up enough to rent a house with friends.
Looking into graduate school programs, the word experience haunted me again. I had taken this time after college to figure out a career path. Yet, I found my plans delayed again as the Masters programs that appealed to me heavily weighted or required 1-3 years of relevant professional experience. How was I supposed to gain experience when no one would offer me the opportunity? This conundrum placed me in the path of applying to yearlong volunteer programs to obtain the necessary experience for graduate school, adding an additional cost of a year of my time and an inability to save money except the small education stipend at the completion of the program. While I honor volunteer work, I realize that I am privileged to be able to afford this type of experience because, unlike many of my peers, I don’t have unpaid student loans.
Differing from the dilemma I faced, some of my peers were offered positions in their field, but only on a part-time basis. Without a sustainable salary and benefits package, these friends have been forced to take on additional part-time employment in retail and service positions. The long hours and chaos of transporting from location to location leaves little time to look for a more stable situation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a small group of millennials who have settled into financially comfortable careers in the technology and software industries, where recent grads can easily earn six figure salaries at the start of their first job, oftentimes surpassing the height of their parents’ combined income. This has created a unique generation with polarized experiences based on incomes.
Neither of the stereotypes, the lazy, coasting millennial or the lavishly living millennial, are true to the experiences of the majority of us who are hardworking people trying to find ourselves and entries into our careers. So please forgive my rare indulgence of avocado toast and see me for the motivated person I am.