Friday, December 9, 2011

10 Rules for the Abandoned Generation

The Abandoned Generation is the generation of twenty-somethings who are about to graduate or have recently graduated from college. We grew up being fed a blueprint for success: get good grades in high school to get into a good college so that you can get good grades in college and start a career.  We heard this blueprint repeated over and over at home and in school.  We believed in the blueprint.  We graduated with degree in hand, ready to change the world, but there were no jobs.  The economy collapsed. and the blueprint became irrelevant.  Many of us were passionate and talented and driven, but any posting for any job yielded hundreds of applicants from multiple generations and multiple disciplines.   Entry level began to mean two to four years of experience, and many employers that previously demanded bachelor's degrees began to demand master's degrees simply because they could.

We moved back in with our parents, if they would take us.  We took jobs at Old Navy and at Home Depot and continued to shovel resumes and cover letters into the black holes of online job databases.  Our frustration with the system is interpreted as entitlement.  Our failure to launch our careers is seen as laziness.  For the most part, the world shrugged and said, "Get a job."  Soon, the next generation will enter the job market with state of the art knowledge, recently sharpened in the academic arena while our specialized knowledge faded bit by bit each time we returned to the kitchen with an empty tray.

For our generation to recover, we must act.  We are on our own.  No one is coming to our rescue.  If we want the lives that we dreamed about, we must follow a new blueprint.  This is not about politics.  This is not about blame.  This is about change.  What follows is a list of 10 rules of survival for the Abandoned Generation, which I will describe in greater detail in later posts.  Please feel free to print, Tweet, and Facebook these rules, and feel free to add your own:

Rule #1: You are not a failure. Take any job you can while expanding your portfolio with study, volunteer work, and internships.

Rule #2: Ignore the baby boomers when they look down on you. If someone counts you out, move on and carry on.

Rule #3: Band together and pool your resources with someone you trust.

Rule #4: College is important but does not guarantee a career. Develop your skills and experience outside of class.

Rule #5: When the status quo solution fails you, invent a new one. The front door is crowded. Go around back.

Rule #6: Burn bridges. Yes, you should network, but you should not tolerate poisonous influences or endeavors.

Rule #7: Promises are bullshit. If it's not in writing it doesn't count. Future pay or future work? Get a contract.

Rule #8: Champion integrity. If you backstab your way to the top you are no better than those looking down on you now.

Rule #9: Never forget what this feels like. When you finally make it, do not turn your back on the people that are struggling the way you are struggling now.

Rule #10: Excessive optimism guarantees heartbreak. Stay positive, but at the same time accept the hard truths of your situation and resolve to persevere.

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