lunes, mayo 31, 2010

No one needs you, Class of 2010
College grads face daunting obstacles that threaten to make them part of the first generation to fare worse than the one that spawned it.

By Joe Queenan, The Wall Street Journal

A few weeks ago I ran into one of my son's oldest friends. He had attended an Ivy League school, studying drama and music, and was now back living at home. He is a smart, talented, enterprising young man and I have always liked him, in part because he engages with adults in a way many young men do not. (For example, he actually makes eye contact.) I asked him if he had found a job yet and he replied, a bit sheepishly, "Not exactly."

He then explained that he was working as an intern at a street fair on the Lower East Side of New York City. An Ivy League education runs around $200,000, not counting meals and transportation. The internship paid about $250 a week. But presumably, it could lead to bigger things, like a full-time job at a street fair in New York .

Even so, it did sound like my son's friend was ever so slightly underemployed.

Over the next several weeks, hundreds of thousands of Millennials will graduate from institutions of higher learning. They will celebrate for several days, perhaps longer. Then they will enter a labor force that neither wants nor needs them.

They will enter an economy where roughly 17% of people aged 20 through 24 do not have a job, and where two million college graduates are unemployed. They will enter a world where they will compete tooth and nail for jobs as waitresses, pizza delivery men, file clerks, bouncers, trainee busboys, assistant baristas, interns at bodegas.

They will console themselves with the thought that all this is but a speed bump on the road to success, that their inability to find work in a field that is even vaguely related to the discipline they trained in is only a fleeting setback.

They may even spell this out in detail on their Facebook pages, perhaps accompanying it with a pithy quote like "When you're going through Hell, keep on going." They will do this right after they have finished deleting the summer-year-abroad photo where they're shaking hands with Hugo Chavez. In asserting that the sun will soon break through the clouds, they will be echoing what college grads told themselves last year, and the year before. This is only a temporary reversal. Surely, IBM or the State Department or Morgan Stanley will eventually respond to that glittering resume. After all, every company worth its salt needs a few Gender Studies majors!

The sun'll come out tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

It's only a day away.

More sophisticated young people may already suspect otherwise. With the obvious exception of youngsters born during the Great Depression, no generation in American history faces more daunting obstacles. Economists theorize that this may be that very rarest of things -- a generation that does not do as well financially as the generation that spawned it. Even the pasty-faced Pilgrim toddlers gamboling around Plymouth Rock in 1620 had better prospects than this one; at least the Massachusetts economy was still expanding back in the 17th century.

And kids entering the work force after the Alamo or the Donner Pass incident or the Panic of 1873 weren't saddled with the kind of debts kids tote around now. Back then, ordinary people didn't go to college. And back in those days, you could always pack up and move west, to California , let's say, where the streets were paved with gold. Now the streets aren't paved, period.
There are three formidable obstacles confronting college graduates today. One, the economy, though improving at a glacial pace, is still a wreck. There are no jobs, and the jobs that do exist aren't the kinds anyone in his right mind would have spent $100,000 to $200,000 to land.
Two, nothing in most middle-class kids' lives has prepared them emotionally for the world they are about to enter.

Three, the legacy costs that society has imposed on young people will be a millstone around their necks for decades. Who's going to pay for the health care bill? Gen Y. Who's going to pay off the federal deficit? Gen Y. Who's going to fund all those cops' and teachers' and firemen's pensions? Gen Y. Who's going to support baby boomers as they suck the Social Security system dry while wheezing around Tuscany ? Gen Y.

Americans have never shrunk from adversity, so in the fullness of time young people may put on their game face, create new industries, discover fresh roads to affluence and solve the nation's vexing economic problems. But all that lies far in the future.

The immediate problem is psychological: the sudden, shocking realization that work as it is constituted in the early 21st century is going to be hell. In the workplace, you don't get to pick your company. In the workplace, you do not get a trophy just for showing up. In the workplace, the boss gets to scream at you as a perk. Probably your first day on the job. Your boss, who doesn't have an iPad, isn't on Facebook and doesn't know how to text. Your boss, who doesn't particularly care for Lady Gaga. Your boss, who probably has a night-school degree.

Young people can be forgiven for thinking that the portrayal of the working world in comedies like "The Office" and "Office Space" is completely over the top. Now they're going to find out otherwise.
Reality is a mean trick that grown-ups play on the young. Companies really do schedule annual outings where everybody is required to see "Jersey Boys." Managers really do give motivational speeches with lines like, "If we can't enhance value for our shareholders, why on Earth are we here?" Young people really do have to work all day in offices where the plaintive voice in the tinny radio on the adjacent desk ceaselessly pleads, "Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock 'n' roll."

And drift away.

If you're a recent grad and you think you're going to hate your bosses, wait till you meet your coworkers.

You're going to be working with people who believe in UFOs. You're going to be working with people who play in REO Speedwagon tribute bands. You're going to be working with people who participate in French and Indian War re-enactments every summer. They're going to try to get you to join, mon beau chevalier. You really have no idea how awful this is going to be.
In olden days -- say three years ago -- young people could suck it up and endure this kind of fleeting torture, knowing that they would rapidly clamber up the ladder of success and leave the dregs of the work force behind. Not today.

Economists predict that it could take five years for employment to return to pre-recession levels. Five years of working with Parrotheads. Five years of playing softball with fat, middle-aged drunks. Five years of listening to "You Had a Bad Day" while you're trying to converse with irate customers. Five years of having a bad day.

Or maybe you were thinking of throwing in the towel, giving up on launching your career right away and spending a year abroad. After all, a year in a foreign country can give you a wonderful perspective on life that will come in handy in the years to come. So where were you thinking of going? Greece , where the unemployed were recently gunning each other down in the streets? Great Britain , which no longer has a fully functioning government? Sweden , which just officially slipped back into recession? Ireland , whose economy has imploded? Spain , whose economy has imploded? Or no, hold on, here's an idea: How about Iceland ?
Of course, there's always law school.

Never mind that applications are at an all-time high and that thousands of legal positions at investment banking firms have disappeared forever. Never mind that recent Ivy League law school graduates are now working as file clerks, substitute school teachers, census takers. Never mind that in order to pay back the $200,000 it's going to cost you to go to law school, you'll need to land one of those plum legal jobs at Goldman Sachs or AIG or one of those other firms that are no longer hiring because they owe so much to the lawyers they already did hire to defend them from lawsuits brought by the government's lawyers, public prosecutors who took those jobs only because Goldman Sachs and AIG weren't hiring.

Good luck getting your parents to pay for that one.

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1 Comentarios:

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10:36 a.m.  

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