We all grow up within a given cohort, and it is those shared experiences (mediated and impacted by the decisions made by the generations that came prior) that determine not only many of the social aspects of our lives, but as well the marketplace with which we are faced. As alluded to by the title of this article, a growing phenomenon that us twenty-somethings are now burdened with is UNDERemployment (ie: we are overcredentialized for the positions that are accessible to us upon graduation).
Taking this simple fact into consideration, it is easy to see that ultimately all of these mythologies about our cohort being spread by seniors come down to fear: they’re scared we’re gonna screw up the very world they worked so hard to create – the world we’re inheriting – and frankly, they also don’t want us to take over the reins just yet (again, it’s nothing new that people get the willies when it comes to being labeled old and incompetent, read: they’re gonna be kicking and screaming all the way to the old-age homes). The ironic part of all of this, of course, is that they (ie: the babyboomers), purely because of their sheer numbers, are largely to blame for our predicament:
PROBLEM #1: THE ERADICATION OF MANDATORY RETIREMENT
But in all fairness, pensions have been cut dramatically in many fields, forcing seniors to take a hiatus from their golfing expeditions and air-conditioned Floridian lifestyles to re-enter the workforce. In addition, because we are in uncertain economic times (ie: thanks to the so-called war-on-terror, along with changing environmental practices, among other things), having a single job (or for that matter relying on a single family income) that is able to substantiate one’s lifestyle, in the first place, is becoming increasingly next to impossible (yes, I work three myself, and go to school part-time, I hardly think I’m lazy and unmotivated as the popular discourse would suggest).
But, don’t think for a second that our governments are innocent in this equation either. In fact, some governments go out of their way to ensure that corporations will maintain their headquarters within the territories under their charge to ensure that their economies remain solid. Consequently, white collar crimes, the disregard for environmental regulations, human rights violations (including the privatization of essential resources such as water), and the like get completely skated over as if they weren’t serious concerns. As ACDC put it: “money talks.”
Moreover, because we are increasingly moving in the globalized direction and the disparities in wealth between the poorest and richest nations continue to expand, it is in the best interests of corporations (read: more cost-effective) to outsource their labour. If you’ve ever wondered how and why it is possible that you can phone up what appears to be a local helpline for your cable, phone, or internet service, yet get connected with someone who speaks broken English at best, there’d be your answer.
PROBLEM #4: THE SOCIAL DEPRECIATION OF COLLEGE, THE TRADES, & OTHER SKILLS THAT GREATLY IMPROVE EMPLOYABILITY
For example, in London, Ontario where the available jobs for people of my educational level and age are largely in the financial, service, real estate or customer service sectors, I’ve got a girlfriend who merely finished grade twelve, and consistently has been employed in better paying positions. Why you ask? For the simple reason that she’s bilingual. Similarly, my older brother has never gone to university, likely couldn’t write a properly structured thesis for the life of him, and doesn’t have a clue as to how to study effectively, but guess what? He earns as much as THREE times what I do for the simple reason that he works within the trades.
Finally, if you come from a well-regarded family within your city, connections will often bypass the entire application and interview process. So, as much as I value my education, I question just how transferable and valued the skills that I have been taught are in the real world.
Alright, get to the point you’re all thinking, so here it is: they say that too little choice is debilitating, but I’d like to argue that the opposite is true as well. While some of our parents and grandparents may have been miserable with the changeless and predictable existences they led, in my view, it would have been a hell of a lot easier to determine your future direction when it was clearly plotted out for you. You either inherited the family business, or studied under a subject area which you knew would lead to a specific employment outcome, you either married your neighbour, highschool sweetheart, or the match arranged for you in advance, you had at least one child (preferably a boy), and were well into your rearing years by your thirties, at the latest.
These days the dialogues on the milestones one must hit throughout their life course range from stating that “40 is the new 30”, AND you’re supposed to be a worth a few million by 20. With all of these mixed messages, not to mention the catch 22 education/employment opportunities we have to contend with, I’m certainly not surprised that most of us don’t have it together just yet. Maybe it’s our parents who need to get with the program!