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Millennial Misadventure

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 on January 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. Millennial 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%. For 25-34 year olds the rate is 7.5% compared to 6.1% for 35-44 year olds and 5.7% 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 BA, 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 hand written 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?

Please welcome guest blogger Shannon Alexander. 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, Oregon. All, of course, while engaging in her first love: complex legal research and immigration advocacy. To read more from Shannon, check out “Baby Boomer,  Echo Boomer” and “Millennial Maligning.”

For the inside scoop from another guest blogger’s job search, meet Deborah. Take a minute (or two or three!) to check out Campus CareerFuel, dedicated to college students & recent grads!

About Shannon Alexander

Shannon was born in 1982, which makes her a member of the Millennial Generation, not Generation X as she previously presumed. She is an attorney by trade with a background in immigration and human rights law. Shannon loves reading, running and traveling. She has held library cards and run races all around the world from London to St. Louis to Lund.

7 Responses to "Millennial Misadventure"

  • Thomas Ngô
    September 5, 2013 - 11:42 am Reply

    I think it was really Portland that was the problem. There’s a dearth of jobs in the fields applicable to your experience. Plus, young people go there to retire.

  • Chris Alexander
    September 6, 2013 - 1:45 am Reply

    Dunno sis, I think the expectations of our relative age group are super high due to most our early memories being of the Clinton-era boom time, when a college education and a bit of initiative was sufficent to be able to get a job in the field of your choice. That is no longer the case: there are a lot more college grads, and there are a lot fewer (or crappier) jobs. And we’re simply too well qualified and goal oriented to settle for a ‘gig’ as opposed to a career.

  • Heather van Werkhooven
    September 6, 2013 - 9:10 am Reply

    @Chris: I think you are right that we DO have high expectations, but those in our parents generation were also able to afford a house on working-class wages. Income inequality and class bias are major contributors.

  • Sunny
    October 8, 2013 - 2:24 pm Reply

    I liked reading your blog because too many people don’t realize how hard it is to land a job right now, even with a top notch education.

    I like your quote, but Steve Tyler of Aerosmith is not the one who originated it. This phrase is part of the Yom Kippur Evening Service from the Reform JewishPrayer book, Gates of Repentance, which was published in 1973 (and may have earlier origin.) The complete inspirational poem, on page 283. is:

    Birth is a beginning
    and death a destination.
    And life is a journey:
    From Childhood to maturity
    And youth to age;
    From innocence to awareness
    and ignorance to knowing;
    From foolishness to discretion
    And then, perhaps, to wisdom
    From weakness-to strength
    Or strength to weakness
    And, often, back again;
    From health to sickness
    And back, we pray, to health again;
    From offense to forgiveness,
    From loneliness to love,
    From joy to gratitude,
    From pain to compassion
    And grief to understanding-
    From fear to faith;
    From defeat to defeat to defeat-
    Until- looking backward or ahead,
    We see that victory lies
    Not at some high place along the way,
    But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
    A sacred pilgrimage
    Birth is a beginning
    And death a destination
    And life is a journey,
    A sacred pilgrimage-
    To life everlasting.

  • Baby Boomer, Echo Boomer - CareerFuel
    November 21, 2013 - 6:24 pm Reply

    […] out Shannon’s introductory blog and learn a bit about this millennial in “Millennial Misadventure.”  And find  job-search resources for the young professional, visit Campus […]

  • Millennial Maligning - CareerFuel
    November 21, 2013 - 6:27 pm Reply

    […] Shannon’s musings about her Millennial Misadventures and, if you are in the mood to sit back and watch, check out our web series, “Startup […]

  • Millennial Mismatch - CareerFuel
    January 6, 2014 - 5:30 pm Reply

    […] If you enjoyed this series, Shannon has other blogs in this series including Millennial Mismatch, Maligning and Misadventure. […]

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