My old coworkers used to tell me, men my age have it really easy compared to them when they were my age. They made a point that all young men and women between 18-29 should at least once in their lifetime work on a construction site for a 40 hour week.
In their minds, that experience would make them more appreciative of what they have. Working a 40 hour week on a construction site will give you some grit, but this kind of labour is physical, while most of the labour we as millennials work is mental. The average millennial is given more opportunities in two areas, education and emigration, and boy do they go well together. There are more opportunities for us today, but the expectations we face are tremendous. We are expected to get into college, get a degree, get a career, buy a house, have a wife or husband, rear kids and hopefully think it was worth it in the end.
An entire industry of graduate positions has been growing steadily with many of the big multinationals posting entry level jobs as ‘graduate positions’ and they are advertised like an experience and not a job. Heck, go to a jobs fair in Ireland and nearly nobody cares about the CV you printed out, or talking with you about your experience, they are salesman trying to pitch you their company and to go visit the website and apply. I have been to so many jobs fairs and each time I came out wondering “why are they called jobs fairs?” It should be called a branding fair.
I went to the graduate jobs fair in Dublin last year and I was approached by someone from Twitter. It was hard not to notice them, they had one of the biggest stands in the entire conference hall. I was asked to take a selfie with the hashtag ‘jobsfair’ and the winner for the most ‘out there’ and ‘viral potential’ picture would win some prize that isn’t even worth remembering. I took the picture with the promoter and never uploaded it because I’d rather not degrade
myself for the sake of a goodybag I knew was never going to come. I asked about careers and jobs in Twitter’s Dublin office and she replied to me, i’m not joking, ‘they aren’t hiring in Dublin’. They were there to promote Twitter’s brand and to ‘get social’. Maybe next time they are hiring I should just send them a picture of Filthy Frank telling people to kill themselves and caption below it “I’m not looking for a job, just being social.”
Jameson, the Whiskey producer was at a language jobs fair as well, the only problem was they weren’t hiring either, they just wanted people to know they could apply for a graduate programme in 9 months. LinkedIn was there too, but they weren’t hiring either, instead they were offering to take your photo for €10 so you could hand them out to recruiters who didn’t want them. My personal favourite was Kerry Group. I met a pretty stand up guy and we were talking about positions in Kerry Group. He said I’d make a great fit for some positions he is aware of and that I should contact him after the event. I contacted him as he suggested by email and would you believe, he sent me a copied and pasted response to apply by the 31st of some month for their graduate programme. I emailed later and asked if he remembered me and our conversation, but his reply was the exact same copied and pasted response I got previously.
Yet, I am apart of the luckiest generation that ever dang lived. That is no lie, I am apart of a generation that is living longer than all other generations before it with better access to pretty much everything from education to medicine. Mental health is taken more seriously today than it ever was before. There is no denying we belong to the best age of humanity so far, though that is only if you were born in the ‘right country’. But that doesn’t mean life isn’t complicated. If anything life today for millennials is more stressful. The expectations we, society and the media has for us is crazy. We belong to a system of education which expects us to know what we want to do in life when we are between 16-18, which is absurd. If most of us look at back at ourselves at 16-18, we would wonder what the hell were we thinking. Back then I thought I knew everything, well not everything but I had no real concern for the flow of life. It wasn’t a relevant thing to someone who has yet to have gone round a bend where they can’t look back anymore. Yet, before that bend, we are expected to know what direction we have to take.
Once in college, if you are lucky you have picked something that actually interests you. Congratulations, you will probably never work in that discipline unless it is something very specific. Now here is the kicker of it all, you are expected to have a degree between say a 2.1 and a 1.1 and a few years experience. You want the job to get experience, but you need experience to get the job that you want to get experience you want. If you are an American, then I feel worse for you. We don’t have the same crippling debt because a lot of EU countries make education accessible to everyone. Half the people in third-level education in Ireland are on grants anyway, they don’t pay the reduced fees that our government helps the other 50% pay, though the tuition fee is rising, but it is still nowhere near the UK or US where debt is a ball and chain that can drag you down.
Having a degree is the bare minimum requirement for most recruiters, and the job market is full of people with a BA or MA. We are a dime a dozen. It is even worse if you want to work in media. Fresh graduates are in competition with people who were unemployed for a good while and have upskilled with new certificates and skills that a college graduate won’t have. If you do manage to get your foot in the door, there are the interview stages and if you make it in, you are in a job that is not secure and employers expect a lot from you while you are under a 6 month probation period. People say Millennials don’t think too far ahead, but how can you if your job isn’t permanent or if it is on a 3-6 or 6-12 month contract renewal. I have had employers try to entice me into roles because they have pool tables in the workplace and have Friday nights out. I honestly do not give a damn if there is a pool table, strippers or the best tapas in the world, I want a job that is secure enough for me to feel comfortable and gives me some meaning towards what it is I am doing in life.
There is always a hanging feeling that you have to do better out there. Ireland right now is said to be coming back to the glory days of when we spent like crazy and bought without thinking of bubbles, credit default swaps or mortgage backed-securities. Millennials aren’t given as much expectations to buy property as the last generation but there is still a subtle expectation. At one stage, Ireland’s economy was dependent on the housing market and I hope people my age aren’t as stupid as the last generation of lenders, borrowers and politicians who didn’t think far enough to see the brick wall they were going to crash into. The irony is, we are called a generation of people who don’t think far enough into the future, yet we are in the situation of a housing crisis with a lack of jobs because the last generation couldn’t see that their reckless spending was not sustainable.
Another irony is that we are painted as being an innovative generation that is tech savvy, but despite this we are lazy. It is weird, because to be innovative, you are required to be hard-working. Studying in school and college isn’t easy either. It might look like we are doing sweet nothing when we are reading those couple of thousand page books, but we are actually putting in the effort to get a degree that everyone else has at this stage in a job market. It is so demanding of you, you may as well emigrate. It is like the argument that foreigners are lazy people, but if they are lazy, how could they get a job? If you are the one who can’t get a job and have to blame it on someone whose first language isn’t English, then you are lazy.
We don’t have jobs for life today, and a lot of jobs don’t offer pension schemes. We jump jobs, not because we are too lazy to see it through, but because that is the market, jobs aren’t permanent. We give our mental labour that is tiering and it has taken us over two decades of schooling to learn important skills for working life, yet we use very little of it because heres the spoiler, school and college teach you nearly nothing you need to know about the job market and world. The older generations weren’t expected to finish school, never mind get into college. They had jobs, not careers. But now, a lot of those people are years out of the workforce and they are seeing the opportunities for them are shrinking. It is tough out there and I don’t envy anyone who lost their job during the economic crisis and during the aftermath of massive lay offs, but we aren’t the people who deserve to be criticized, we are working with what we got and high expectations are not easy.
Opportunities like education are hardly opportunities today because most people have had it and it is the new basic requirement. I wouldn’t be surprised if that bar is raised and an MA is the minimum requirement for an entry level position. Most of us are getting out of college by the time we are 21-23, with an MA you would be anywhere between 24-25 depending on what you are studying. From the outside, it looks like we are just elongating our childhood into our 20s but it is anything but. I want to work in a field I enjoy, but those fields are tough to get into. Millennials are not self-centered, lazy and lucky. We just have more ‘opportunities’ to get through like hurdles before we come out the other end to a rat race for jobs. All I can say is that I am happy I didn’t go to college in America. That isn’t a jab at Americans, I am sure I would’ve had an amazing time going to college in the States, but I don’t think I could handle the level of debt I would put myself under by doing it. I can’t imagine the pressure and stress of owing tens of or hundreds of thousands of dollars for getting an education.
I think what scares me the most is waking up sometime in the future and still having a feeling of my expectations not being met, even though they were never realistic. Expectations are not always going to be met, they are like desires. It is great to have a desire in a carefully unreachable place, but to hold the desire itself is undesirable. We want desire for the simple reason we know we can’t have it, thus it becomes something sacred. To have your desire and eat it would send you into a state of fantasy that would turn into nightmare and to escape the nightmare you have to return to reality. Very few people will ever meet or surpass their expectations, because putting this bluntly, not everyone is suppose to. That is not to say don’t go for something and have a big dream, go for it, but be realistic with yourself and life. I have my own aspirations and expectations and I understand they are a bit unrealistic. We aren’t a generation that is obsessed about being famous, we are a generation struggling to find a middle ground between the expectations of the past, present and future.