Led to believe that unemployment among the young is something that only our generation has witnessed, we further propel the idea of out-of-our-hands type of crisis. Naively blaming the economy, many young people are stuck into what seems to be a transitional limbo – no longer a child, but never fully an adult. Employment, for better or worse, does play a rather critical role.
Justifying the numbers – what lies behind these huge rates of unemployment
Intellectualizing our predicaments there seems to be rationale for everything. But when you see this phenomenon among the youth sweeping across many cultures and countries, the problem might as well be of sociological origin as much as it is caused by economic circumstances.
The list of reasons why young people fail to make themselves capable of earning an income, though it is tempting to imagine that it comes from recent origin, is shaped by cultural and economic currents at play that go back for several decades. However, there are three main reasons I’d like to look at.
The state of the economy in a post-industrial society
Oftentimes pundits point to the economy to explain this phenomenon of arrested development. Surely the state of the job market, particularly for men, looms large in the difficulty of getting out on one’s own and setting up a household. 23% of modern men remain unmarried over their lifetime, compared to 17% of women — a gap between the sexes that has been widening since 1960.
Part of the reason for this disparity may be the fact that while 78% of never-married women say that a steady job is the most important thing they’re looking for in a potential husband, the rate of male employment has fallen by over 10% since 1960, and the median hourly wage for men ages 24-34 has declined 20% (after adjusting for inflation). So more and more women are looking for men with steady jobs, but steady well-paying jobs are harder and harder to come by.
Overall, a record number of men and women ages 24-34 have never been married, and over a third of this cohort cite concerns over financial security as the reason why they haven’t gotten hitched.
~ Brett and Kate McKay, Art of Manliness – Why growing up is hard to do (but why the world still needs adults)
What Brett and Kate simply point to is the fact that maturity does go hand in hand with being able to support yourself financially. However, as they continue with the argument, the economy takes the back seat when we consider other factors of society and culture. And though finding a job depends heavily on the current stage of the economy, it is more tightly connected with personal maturity and how culturally conditioned we are to go and find one.
While there wasn’t a singular transition in the global economy and things moved gradually throughout the decades, we see a rather huge shift when comparing today to a decade ago.
The society, for better or worse, has indeed changed. We went from what was earlier an industrial society, to what is now something more, something different. The game, thus, has changed, and the tools and platforms that we used has shaped and molded a different one in the process.
The internet and technology as a whole contributed a fair share, and the model of education we so arduously cherish, simply failed to deliver.
In the society of today, you have to be able to pick yourself up. You cannot wait for someone else to do it for you- Or as Seth Godin, bestselling author and entrepreneur, says:
Pick yourself. Don’t wait for someone to pick you. If you have a book, you don’t need a publisher to pick you, you can publish it yourself; if you want to write, write; if you want to sing, sing; if you want to start a movement, start a movement. You can now make an impact if you want to.
The job market might as well be dead for certain positions, but that doesn’t mean there are no jobs available. Maybe it is time to stop looking for what we want and instead create it. Or, if this proves impossible to do, simply find the next best replacement.
Ambition on steroids – Why it is important to make a choice
From antiquity until the 19th century, young men had few choices as to what to do with their lives – they would almost assuredly get married, have kids, and work as either a farmer or a tradesman. Even as a young boy, they had a clear idea of what the landscape of their adult life would look like.
As our culture and economy became increasingly varied in the 20th century, the options for the course of one’s life began to seem almost limitless. We are consequently reluctant to choose one path over another, for stepping through one door means closing many others. It can feel safer to keep all possible options open, even though this perpetual limbo prevents us from making any real progress in life.
I hope Brett won’t mind quoting him again, for what he writes stays very close to the truth. It seems as though, without any exaggeration, that all we do in regards to our professional lives is tilting towards one scenario or the other. Tilting, but never fully deciding to take a step in one particular direction. This, repeated just enough is a perfect exercise in frustration. Choices, if not made, can stretch into infinity, and the society we now live in instead of marginalizing such behavior actually rewards it.
Education provides you with infinite choices, elaborating heavily on each. And so we take one class after another, one master degree after another, earn one certificate before the next. This cycle gets rewarded with respect, giving us the feeling that we are actually doing something very productive with our lives, making us ambitious enough not to settle for “anything”. So, holding off for something better, we never really get to start at all.
A generation not used to work
Once again, this is not a unicorn type of problem. Many of our fathers and grandfathers refused labor, and our generation is not, in any way, unique in this respect. What is unique though, are circumstances that tend to support such type of behavior.
Kids today are not used to do anything else rather than getting themselves educated. And this cycle can last, in some cases, for almost one third of a lifespan. What in turn happens, is a molded individual who is led to believe that society owes him rather much and, in addition, refuses to settle for anything less than what he anticipated.
Therefore, some agree that this fact in particular dwarves all others in significance when it comes to huge rates of unemployment.
Why doing something is better than doing nothing
Apart from the obvious? – Ok then, let me see…
Starting a different mental cycle
Agreeing to a start earning for a living is one of the ideal signs for maturity. No doubt, it signifies responsibility and taking care of oneself- a characteristic that most adults unanimously share. Having said that, an individual, once into this cycle, shifts perception rather dramatically.
The habit of doing something, creating something rather than consuming, makes traction on its own, and it usually translates into better opportunities down the road. Though it is difficult to fathom for many, now, holding off for something better instantly becomes a coward’s sport.
When one waits for something better, the criteria usually tends to rise with time passed and opportunities rejected, only to suddenly drop vertically. I now wish I was better at math, so I can present this into a formula or a diagram of some sort. Not going to. For it is very close to a different analogy- you turn most dates down, and you end up alone and frustrated. In such scenario, blind dating is a gift at the end.
Cash flow, where everything we need comes from changing dollars for goods, is the most essential requirement for independence. We cannot even think of starting a union, starting a family, without being able to support that union, yet alone ourselves.
It is not uncommon for young adults to live with their parents, preparing to get up on their own feet and start elsewhere. But it can become very alarming, especially for men, when they decide to prolong, indefinitely, this transitional period.
And while we cannot romanticize over the idea that such behavior is to be prescribed on finances only, it is true for the most part. Employed twenty-somethings statistically leave their homes more than their unemployed peers tend to. Marriage and starting a family prefer such statistic too.
Cash flow, aside from independence and increased chances for starting a family, has another advantage as well. For all those stay-at-home dreamers, people who actually earn money have better leverage when transforming their dreams into a reality. More money usually translates into being able to invest on your dreams and while not a determining factor, it does give somewhat more reassurance.
In the world of today, though it holds true for the past as well, connections play a rather crucial role in being able to improve one’s current situation. A job, any job, puts you in contact with more people than you would have been otherwise. And though we can argue to our heart’s content, and agree to disagree, no single contact is useless. Opportunities, at least in my life, have known themselves to appear from the most unusual of places and people, and I take it that your story doesn’t differ much in this respect.
Pick a job – one very useful strategy for employment
Just in order to sway the jury to the fact that getting a job is easy, even in the harshest of job markets, here is an exercise I strongly recommend you to do.
Take a pen and paper and brainstorm all the possible professions you can think of. Use an excel file if you like, and browse the internet for some ideas. After a while, as I’m sure you will be convinced, you will come up with so many job positions and careers that it will take you minutes only to read them from the top. That list, as we know, can only grow as you start writing again and think for couple of minutes more, i.e. there are more jobs than you can think of right now.
The next step would be to evaluate what requirements these positions have, and then cross off the list all career paths that you are obviously not qualified for.
However, cross off in the list only those that have requirements you are very far away from reaching. For example, if you listed both a lawyer and a masseur, and are qualified for neither, wait before crossing them both off the list.
A lawyer position would require a law degree and probably other things differing from one country to another (like for example passing the bar etc.). A masseur position though, might be available by only attaining a certificate and some couple-of-months practice. While you can easily cross off the first, I strongly advise you to leave the second. Do that with all similar job positions that have a lower barrier of entry.
Now go ahead and cross off all the job positions you really hate. Control your pen movement, for if you lack experience in most fields, and you are probably, everything is a no-no. Set forth to cross off only around one third of the remaining jobs on the list; the less, the better.
For all those job positions left, list as many options as you can think of. Let me elaborate:
Supermarket – list all markets in your area
Flight attendant – list every airline company in your city
A waiter – list all the coffee shops and restaurants you can think off
And so on and so forth…
This will reinforce the fact that there are hundredths of job positions that you can fill, or educate and train yourself for in the near future and then apply.
Each day, every day you will be sending applications. This is an ongoing process, so get yourself ready for continuous rejection over and over. On the flipside of the coin, be ready for success as well- put your CV together to the best of your ability, or pay someone to do this for you.
Business Insider gives a boat load of advice on how to get through an interview process and score high enough to at least pass the first round. I will not bother to link to a specific article of theirs, since a single Google search might prove more fruitful. My lack of engagement will teach you a lesson as well- don’t wait for someone else to do it for you- apply yourself.
How to proceed
I’m not an authority on the subject of your life, so I cannot pretend to be able to continuously give valuable advice. You can, for all I know, actually end up loving your new job and stay there for as long as circumstances allow; you can find new opportunities and jump to another ship, or learn some valuable skills and set up shop elsewhere on your own; you might pile up whatever savings you can muster putting aside and finally finance your bigger-than-life startup idea, or…
The thing is you will be positively reinforcing the habit of taking action, earning money on the way, and getting yourself exposed to myriad of new opportunities while building connections. Here is to maturity.