Wednesday, July 14, 2010

American Dream is Elusive for New Generation

This is an article from the Times that I have a lot of opinions about.  I am always interested in articles like this, and I'm pretty sure that I've posted a few in the past.  The article illustrates the trials and tribulations of the new generation of college graduates in the worst job market since the Great Depression.  I am a little older than these people, but am in the same boat, and have been for awhile.  I have issues with the choices of the individual who was chosen to put a face on this generation, but I'll get to him in a moment. 

The article talks about Scott Nicholson, who is a graduate of Colgate University.  His father is a general manager of a manufacturing company, and his grandfather is a retired stock broker.  Mr. Nicholson has been struggling to find employment.  I think that it's long since past time that this new generation needs to seriously open their eyes and realize that their path is not going to be the same easy, cushioned one that their parents and grandparents were able to take.  The loss of our industrial sector to third-world nations has resulted in a chain reaction in which one of the fatalties have been productive careers of virtually all stripes.  Another culprit, in my opinion, has been the migration of our young people into colleges. 

I can't remember where I read this, but back in our manufacturing heyday, the ratio of high school graduates moving on to secondary education was roughly 1 in 5.  I'm presuming that the other 4 would have probably sought work in a factory or even in a white-collar job, where a degere wasn't as much a requirement back them.  Today, the opposite is largely true, with 4 in 5 high school graduates going on to college.  This has created a large glut of newly minted B.A. recipients entering a job market that simply cannot support them.  I am one of those people.  Even with a secondary one-year certificate (in paralegal studies) on top of my B.A, I have not had a job interview in two years.

What makes this problem exponentially worse is that years of experience or advanced degrees seem to be a requirement for employment in this economy, putting the new generation of graduates and job seekers at a monumental disadvantage.  Years ago, I read in a book that in the near-future (which is now), that the bar for success would be set so high that only a relative few would be able to live that "American Dream" that we grew up believing in so much.  I have decided to give up looking for employment in the legal sector (which I spent a year training for in school, not to mention the money that I spent), due to the only jobs being available requiring ridculous amounts of experience (and even experience won't help you, if you spent 5 years working in say, personal injury law, and a job you're looking at requires that experience to be in matrimonial law) or being internships, in which case, you work for no pay.

Okay, I think I'm off my soapbox now.  As to the article in question, out of all the young graduates struggling to find meaningful employment, I don't think the Times could have picked a worse candidate for a cover story than this guy, Scott Nicholson.  He is a case study in how no one can feel sorry for themselves like rich white people can.  He has applied for roughly five jobs a week without much success, he hasn't been able to find the jobs he wanted.  Okay, so far, so good.  But then it's revealed that he was offered a job, for $40,000 a year, as an associate claims adjuster for an insurance company.  And he turned it down because he felt that he was too good for the position and deserved better.  As someone who is in similar shoes (and being seven years older, which makes my situation more dire than his), if I had gotten a similar job offer, I would have jumped at it, as I imagine most people would.  What makes it even worse is this:

 “I’m sitting with the manager, and he asked me how I had gotten interested in insurance. I mentioned Dave’s job in reinsurance (Dave is his brother--ed.), and the manager’s response was, ‘Oh, that is about 15 steps above the position you are interviewing for,’ ” Scott said, his eyes widening and his voice emotional.

So, he turns down the job, rather than taking it and working hard to take those "15 steps" to get the position in reinsurance that he did want.  That's bad enough.  Then, later in the article, it's written about how he was to become a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.  Then, a Marine Corps doctor noticed that he had childhood asthma and he wasn't able to enlist.  However, he was told that he could reapply if he wanted to.  But by that point, according to Scott, "the sheen was gone".  What a classic case of just being a whiner with an overly inflated sense of entitlement.

The Times may have come up with this article using the best of intentions, hoping to showcase one young person's struggles in this job market as something that we can all sympathize and relate to, but it turned out as something else entirely.  I found it very out of touch, to showcase this guy who thinks that being offered a $40,000 job (something that I can apparently only dream about) is a "dead end" and beneath him.  His father and grandfather seem to have good intentions and are offering good advice, but are also enabling him.   

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