Friday, March 16, 2012

Ah, The Boomerang Generation

This is one of my favorite kinds of articles – more for what it doesn’t say, than what it does say. It’s titled “Three in 10 young adults live with parents, highest level since 1950s.” Yet another article about the lack of jobs for young adults. However, while it sounds frightening at first blush, the examples provided don’t particularly help the cause.

Here is their prime example number 1:
After graduating from Brown University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature and completing a Fulbright scholarship in Brazil, [Example] was left with a few dollars on her stipend and no job in sight.
You already know I’m biased toward STEM majors, but I’ll ask the question again. What kind of job exactly does one expect to get with a bachelor's in comparative literature? How much money do you expect to make? From my brief research online, it appears this is one of those majors where you need a PhD to make any worthwhile money.  I suspect most companies aren't going to pay $100,000 a year to compare Twilight and Dracula in Italian.  Maybe a quote from her cousin, who also hasn’t been able to find a job since graduating in 2009 (in an unmentioned major) makes things more clear:
“The choice is to go out and be in debt or to pursue your dreams and save up money at home, in a safe, stable environment.”
Ah, yes. The “pursue your dreams” argument. We’re seeing this one a lot nowadays, from all the special snowflakes who seem to believe that work should be fun. Rather than think logically about supporting themselves, they want to “pursue their dreams.”  The other, unmentioned choice, is to act like an adult and take a job in a field that actually might pay decent money, whether you enjoy it or not.

The point of the article is this:
“The rise in the boomerang phenomenon illustrates the effect the recession and the weak economy are having on young adults,” says Kim Parker, a senior researcher at Pew and the author of the study. “Young adults were hit particularly hard in the job market and are having to delay reaching some basic financial milestones of adulthood because of this.”
I happen to believe there is more to this than the recession and the weak economy, although certainly that contributes. The fact is, there are jobs out there. In fact, there is a shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing, so much so that U.S. companies are being forced to import workers to do the jobs. See here, herehere, here, and here.  I understand that manufacturing isn’t as glamorous as some other fields, but a job’s a job. Why aren't more people going into these fields?  My brother is a machinist and he loves his job. He also makes very good money without a college degree. We also have a shortage of STEM graduates in this country.  See here and here.   If you make a decision to go into a field like comparative literature, don't complain because you can't find a job.  And yet people keep majoring in these vague liberal arts fields, many of which require a PhD to do anything with, and then complain because they can't find a job, or the ones they can find don't command high starting salaries.  Talk about sealing your own fate. 

But let's get back to our special snowflake:
Because well-paying jobs are hard to come by, she says, “a lot of people are going where their heart is and trying to have a good experience. In the past, they would have been content settling for a [traditional job]. Now no one’s willing to make pennies at a job they hate, so a lot of people are pursuing the stuff they really love.”
I remain stunned that well paying jobs in comparative literature are hard to come by.  Stunned!  This circles back to the notion that a brand new college graduate who has no skills should be well compensated out of the gate.  I don't subscribe to that.  You have to earn your bones, so to speak.  But, when you have a generation of kids who have won trophies for doing nothing and been coddled, this idea that you might have to actually start at the bottom and get paid pennies seems to be a foreign concept.

So, what does our special snowflake want to do?
In [Example's] case, that’s journalism and music, which the 24-year-old is exploring with internships at Philadelphia’s CITY newspaper and at R&B Records, a mecca for audiophiles, which stocks one of the country’s largest collections of 45s. [Example] says she’s been “blown away” by the experience and is planning to return to graduate school soon for a master’s degree in journalism.

Of course.  She is going to go back to school to get another degree to accumulate more debt.  That sounds like a smart move to me.  (Especially since the newspapers in this country are doing so very well.)  In another few years there will be an article about her complaining about all of the student loan debt she accumulated that she can't pay back because she can't find a well paying job in journalism.  Another interviewee said this:
“I don’t think I'd be working 3.5 part-time jobs if I nailed down one that paid well enough and was something I really enjoyed,” says Brunner.
See, it has to pay well and has to be something you really enjoy.  Sometimes you can't afford to be so picky.

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