Generation Limbo: What to Do While You’re Waiting It Out
In a recent article in the New York Times, we are introduced to Generation Limbo: “…highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects.”
While it is not new that young people are being hit hard by the recession, what is new is the exploration of the emotional toll it is taking on young people and the effect it is having on how they see their futures and choices. The article notes: “And so they wait: for the economy to turn, for good jobs to materialize, for their lucky break. Some do so bitterly, frustrated that their well-mapped careers have gone astray. Others do so anxiously, wondering how they are going to pay their rent, their school loans, their living expenses — sometimes resorting to once-unthinkable government handouts.”
What we are witnessing isn’t just a few folks out of work, but rather an unraveling of what it means to be an adult and the shock of trying to move forward. In addressing the challenge of becoming an adult in a shaky economy, how can young people find the work and support they need to thrive?
1. Try to go beyond the dead-end job: Getting cash is essential and there are ways to build a portfolio, grow your network and earn some money on your way to your dream job. In her article outlining seven out-of-the-box ways to generate extra cash, Heather Huhman proposes some ideas that can help you in the long term and short term. Freelancing, starting a small business and even blogging can help you generate income while sharpening your skills.
2. Tap into your alumni network: For jobs, for community, and for support alumni networks are a great place to start. See if there are any upcoming happy hours in your city or contact the alumni office of your college to see if they have events by industry that you can participate in. No alumni chapter in your city? Take this as a sign to start one. In any case, staying connected with your college will keep you busy and connected.
3. Look into free or low-cost professional development opportunities in your community: Colleges and universities often have conferences, lectures, and even fellowships to help young people develop careers they want and connect with others. Many nonprofits have young professionals committees or volunteer groups that you may be able to join. In other words, not having a job is no reason to stop learning.
4. Be open to non-career focused experiences: The biggest shock when you’re unemployed is this feeling that you’ve played by the rules, made a plan and still, nothing is coming together. While the biggest lesson may be that nothing is truly ever guaranteed, you can also use this time to explore aspects of your life that you may have been putting on hold, experiences that will have you rethinking your career altogether. In other words, acknowledge the shock and embrace the change. Are you defining adulthood and success on your own terms?
5. Know that you’re not alone: While it sounds like people are beating a dead horse when they discuss millennials and limited job prospects, it can be isolating to feel as if you have failed or not living up to your potential. When I see these articles, the most important element missing is how young people are working together to address challenges, build friendships, and try to make the best out of their circumstances. Organizations like Our Time, Brazen Careerist, Mobilize.org, and the Roosevelt Institute do a great job of connecting young people around shared experiences while helping them take action.
6. Know that there is nothing wrong with government assistance: When it comes to government assistance, our discussion often borders on poverty shaming. So I’ll just say this: assistance is there for a reason and there is nothing wrong with using it if you need it. Also, nonprofits provide a variety of free and low cost services, particularly in mental and physical health. Start with your local hospital and inquire.
I’m interested in hearing some personal experiences on how people have dealt with being unemployed. Share your insights, ideas, and resources below.
Allison Jones is a Brooklyn-based blogger and advocate for millennial leadership in public service. She blogs at allisonj.org on the future of nonprofit leadership. Allison is the external affairs manager at Explore Schools, a network of high performing public schools in Brooklyn and is on the board of the New York City Chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.
Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!