As a Millennial, by definition, I’m an entitled, narcissistic, whiny freeloader who lives with my parents and has no concept of “work ethic.” I’m a precious snowflake who should be handled lovingly with cashmere gloves. I need others to reassure me that I am the best thing since gluten-free sliced bread. I don’t have a job because I can’t get my dream job. I refuse to settle for anything less. Oh well.
Does the introduction make you want me on your team? Shall we start over? My name is Shannon. I was born Jan. 22, 1982 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. I’m a Millennial. Over the coming weeks and months you will get another view of the entitled generation through my eyes and experiences. Perhaps you have already heard of us:
Time Magazine: “The Me Me Me Generation. Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they’ll save us all.”
My generation’s reputation precedes us. Of course, there are also articles and studies that challenge the unflattering generalizations and attempt to present a more balanced picture of Millennials. Many laud Millennials’ optimism, educational achievement, entrepreneurial spirit, egalitarianism and technological brilliance:
Pew Research Center: “Millennials A Portrait of General Next. Confident, Connected, Open to Change”
Our positive attributes are not necessarily paying off in this economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for those 20-24 is 12.6 percent. For 25-34 year olds the rate is 7.5 percent compared to 6.1 percent for 35-44 year olds and 5.7 percent for those 45-54. These statistics don’t tell us why the unemployment rate is significantly higher for Millennials. There are many theories, from late Baby Boomer retirement to the diluted value of a college education. I will use this blog to explore these theories and to tie them in with my own job search.
Now we come to the portion of the blog where I could indignantly state that I’m not the stereotypical Millennial before backing up that assertion with copious anecdotal evidence. I’d do this to introduce myself and to foster some critical thought about stereotypes, age, experience and unemployment.
Truthfully, I didn’t realize I was a Millennial until I was conducting research for this blog. I prefer Hall and Oates to New Kids on the Block. I have Thriller on vinyl, not tape or (God forbid) compact disc. My favorite Muppet is Grover, and everyone knows that Millennials prefer Elmo! I always thought I was part of Generation X. Independent. Ambitious. A lover of Pepsi. Apparently, I was born a few years too late.
Of course, I do conform to some Millennial stereotypes. I don’t consider myself narcissistic, whiny or entitled, but I am incredibly frustrated at the discrepancy between my aspirations and my reality. I’ve lived with my parents post-graduation, though I don’t currently. I’m well educated—I have a bachelor’s, a JD and an LLM. I’m also well-rounded. I was captain of both my high school and college cross-country teams. I have volunteered as a tutor for students of multiple ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities since the age of 15. I have studied abroad (Havana, Utrecht and Lund). I’m published. I’ve earned academic accolades and awards (Dean’s List, Order of Barristers, Jessup Moot Court). Oh, and I’m proficient, though not fluent, in Spanish.
Amongst many Millennials, I’m certainly not unique in my education or my accomplishments. I wrote about my background not to undermine my claim that I’m not narcissistic, but because you need to know that despite my education, despite my internships, jobs and international travel—I couldn’t find any work beyond substitute teaching and barista-ing for nearly two years.
I applied for jobs online and via snail mail. I networked. I didn’t limit my job search to domestic or legal positions. I sent resumes to all types of employment agencies. I worked at a coffee shop while volunteering as an immigration attorney. I sent handwritten thank you cards after interviews. I even met with my Representative’s Chief of Staff. Finally, a year and dozens of tailored resumes and cover letters later, I was offered a position through networking. The position is temporary. In December, I will once again be out of work. I’m not looking forward to fear and situational depression that often accompanies delving back into a full-time job search.
Nonetheless, as a Millennial, I’ll always take solace in my family, my friends and the words of Steven Tyler (from Aerosmith’s ‘90s comeback), “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I look forward to sharing my journey with you.
Where are you in your journey?
Shannon Alexander is a Millennial living in Washington D.C. Her employment experiences have been eclectic, ranging from crafting lattes in Arlington, Va., to serving as a CEO minion in Portland, Ore. All, of course, while engaging in her first love: complex legal research and immigration advocacy.
Image credit: CC by OUTEX Photo