Psych (to yesterday’s post)! Happy April Fools! Don’t worry, no charges for this site! Hope you enjoyed your #Hoffsome day! Although I do hope disgruntled/underemployed Millennials do crash my site one day!
How I Lost Faith…
Five, ten years ago, I was a very hopeful and trusting person. While I will forever be an optimist, I’ve noticed that some things have changed dramatically in the last few years. I’ve become more cynical of promises made to me by politicians, and I have more interest in “how will this help ME” when I hear flowery political rhetoric.
I wouldn’t even consider myself particularly gullible – when all my friends were out celebrating Obama’s campaign of hope and change, I was the first to tell you that I had a feeling he would disappoint his constituents. He was simply promising too much and being unreliastic about how much he could get done in a quid-pro-quo political sphere.
However, I never expected to be disappointed in such concrete ways. As a Millennial in my mid-twenties, I feel that I am paying a lot in taxes, but not getting anything in return. And I’m also required to pay for health insurance, which is now MORE expensive than it used to be? I don’t have a big stake in the role of our military abroad- I was against all those wars and interventions abroad. I don’t think enough is spent on fixing the environment, a problem I will inherit and pass onto my children, but which leaders today don’t seem to worry about since they will probably be dead by then. And I didn’t sign up to live in China, Russia or parts of the Middle East where people expect that the government is reading their personal emails or listening in on their calls. I’m an American – I thought we were supposed to be free!
I think that a lot of my disillusionment has to do with growing up and entering the adult world. I am no longer in college or graduate school, where I did not have to worry about what I would earn, or whether or not I would have benefits, vacations or sick pay. However, I expected that I would find a job that would offer me all of those things, as well as a stable earning. I wasn’t hoping for much – I never wanted to be a millionaire. But I did think that there was a certain threshold that would be a fair way to compensate me for my education, internships and hard work.
Boy was I wrong! A couple years out of law school, not only have I been struggling to find ANY paying work, for any amount of time, but I have no hope of benefits or paid sick/vacation! I literally give the government 33% of my modest earnings for taxes, and have no support or safety net. I can’t seem to collect enough to collect any savings, let alone start planning for buying a house, having kids or retirement. I don’t have the option to be sick because I won’t be paid, and if I’m not paid, I can’t pay my rent or afford groceries. I have credit card debt and law school loans up the whazoo from my law school days when I had to put my rent on credit since law school loans didn’t pay for summer living expenses like rent, gas and groceries. And of course, paying internships were not an option for me.
The weird thing is that I’m WILLING to work crazy hours. I’m willing to give everything for a job so that I can pay off my debt and start saving. But the reality, at least for now, is that I’m becoming less useful to employers, as newer models graduate with similar skills as I have. And don’t have this weird two or three year gap from graduation and holding work that doesn’t boost my skill level or highlight my value to employers in a major way.
Another area of lost trust is in corporations. Having worked for some major companies during my time as a contract attorney, and nothing I’ve learned has quelled my fears or made me like corporations any more. Obviously, corporations don’t care about the footprint they leave or the little person, but I’ve come to think that our country, and world, is becoming more and more skewed away from the individual person, and towards the profit of big business. Why else is the middle class shrinking, and such a huge gap forming between the top earners (i.e. heads of big corporations) and the little people? Of course, some companies are making strides in ensuring fair pay/benefits or leaving a green footprint. Think – Starbucks and Trader Joe’s giving their employees benefits! Or think about those companies like Nestle that reduced the size of their bottles to be more sustainable! However, so far, this isn’t enough. This isn’t helping the situation with unemployed, underemployed people, and those who are employed without benefits or any kind of protection. So it’s a little hard to trust corporations, or want them to succeed! Boo Comcast swallowing up Time Warner.
So let’s not be bleak – what can we, as Millennials, do to get get ourselves out of this mess?
So if I can’t expect the government to offer me any kind of help, who else can I look to for guidance or support? I’ve reached out to professors, my law school’s career counseling office, and mentors for guidance or ideas of
where to apply. I’ve worked hard at networking. This has led to many an “informational interview” with lawyers and other professionals in different fields. Thus far, that hasn’t paid off- mostly it has led to a peak into other working environments.
It might be shifting away from traditional jobs, where you send in your resume and a nice cover letter, and towards gaining skills that are or will be more useful in the future. It might be time to accept that a permanent legal position might not be in the cards for me – unless I suddenly make more connections that are willing to hire. Instead, I can start considering the shift towards other work to gain more useful skills than my worthless law degree. For instance, it doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to see that the technical field is taking over (or already has). So I am starting to take classes in the tech field to build alternative skills. There are some fields that are open to hiring based on merit, rather than who you know, what your education is, or what kind of jobs you’ve held in the past. Those are the fields I’m starting to focus on – because merit I have. I’m willing to work hard. I’m not afraid of failure, or getting my hands dirty. I just want a chance to prove myself! And to be treated like I am worthy, not like a number not deserving of the respect or consideration our higher ups give their dogs. Just sayin’! I want to be seen as a human.
I’ve been seeing more and more colleagues and friends becoming complacent in an environment one can only describe as abusive and unfair. They’re accepting that we have no rights – as employees, as people. They don’t ask for more, and have stopped looking for a way out. I myself fight through periods when I am in a similar mindset. And who hasn’t been there? It’s discouraging to spend four hours on one job applications and not even get a response. It’s hard when you start thinking of yourself “as a temp” instead of thinking of your work as being temporary. Would have, could have, should have is like the poisonous snake that refuses to leave your side. But in the end, it’s our choice to stay positive and have faith in ourselves that will keep us going and get us out of this mess.
So remember, you HAVE value! You are MORE than your career. You’re an interesting, smart, courageous individual. You’ve proven that you’re a fighter because you’ve survived thus far. You have a personality – you can be funny, quirky, witty, fun and interesting.
So if we can’t rely on the government to act on our behalf, why bother voting?
“In the near future, the administration must do a better job to explain how the particulars of the health care program benefit younger Americans and to at least try to make progress even if through executive power on issues like climate change. It must be clear to young voters, if Democrats can overcome this political problem, that the GOP rather than the President’s lack of interest is to blame for the lack of progress. With Keystone, the decision is in Obama’s control. The President should also continue to work on smaller programs, such as student loans, where he has been able to deliver tangible results to this population.”
As much as I’m frustrated with big government not acting on issues that are important to me, or doing anything to directly alleviate the problems I am dealing with, I still think it’s crucial we Millennials VOTE!
My biggest complaint is that we don’t have a voice. Or, we have a voice, but it is being ignored by those at the very top. What worse way to LOSE your voice than disengaging completely? Strength in numbers!
What is the plus side of a relatively bleak outlook or at least slow start for many Millennials? Innovation!
What, the traditional workforce doesn’t have a place for us? Make your own place. The government won’t give you benefits? Learn to fend for yourself and rely on your own wits. End result = we are much more empowered, tougher and more creative than our predecessors. We know how to take rejection in stride, and pick ourselves up from a fall.
And let’s face it… while things may not be that great for us now, in a decade or two, we will be the leaders making big decisions and framing the debate. Let’s hope that once we’re up there we don’t forget the struggles we’ve gone through, or the teensiest bit of help we would LOVE to get from anybody! And hopefully we will mentor those who go through tougher times, just as our mentors today boost our morale and offer us guidance in countless way!
And good news – facing adversity will make you happier in the end. “[N]ew research suggests that people who have experienced hardships in the past savor things more in the present.” So thank that economy for giving you some perspective, and an ability to appreciate what you have, when you have it!
… And great minds think alike! I wrote this blog post last week – scheduling it for the day after April Fool’s to make sure people took it seriously, and just read this thoughtful and well-written article on Hello Giggles about student loans in America and the trouble all of us Millennials are having getting a job for which we went to school. Totally agree with this: “We’re just trying our hardest, and at the core of it, we’re thankful for what we have.” Let our voices be heard! And let us stay eternally optimistic!
What do you think – What options do Millennials have to voice their opinions and move up in the world? What valuable lessons has hardship taught you?
Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!