Jobless in America: An Anthology of Testimonials About Unemployment

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This summer, The Atlantic asked our readers to tell us what people don't understand about the job search. After reading hundreds of responses -- from the recently laid off, the long-term unemployed, and even dozens of employers -- we published six dispatches of your work:

1. The Unemployed Speak
2. Advice from Employers
3. Longer Voices of the Jobless
4. What It's Like to Be Jobless in Your 20s
5. The 'Mad as Hell' Millennial Generation
6. The View from the Boomers

After receiving such an incredible response, we wanted to make the entire collection of testimonials available in one place. So here it is. An anthology of joblessness in America in three parts: Voices of the Unemployed, a conversation between Millennials and Boomers, and Responses from Employers.

Thanks to all who have shared with us, swapped stories with each other, and even pitched jobs and tips to fellow unemployed via our email account. Best of luck to all of you.

This project isn't over. This is just a moment to take stock of your stories. Keep reading, keep leaving comments, and keep sending a note to our private email account aboutmyjob1@gmail.com.

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Voices of the Unemployed

"Possibly the worst thing about being unemployed is having to suffer through the pundit and the politician classes gassing on interminably about what it's like to be unemployed, what kind of people are unemployed and how they think and act, when none of them knows or understands one damn thing about it, nor do they even want to. Get down here on the ground, and try to go a year on $350 a week with no hope in sight, and then tell us why the lazy unemployed just need a good swift kick to get the country moving again."

***

"The most difficult part of the job search is waiting for permission to give up"

The most difficult part of the job search is:

1. that I don't live near a factory or outsource outlet in China, India, or Malaysia.

2. trying not to appear desperate for a job when I am, in fact, quite desperate for a job.

3. that I am subject to everyone's advice on how to get a job, but no real job leads.

4. that I am reminded that having a good job is not an entitlement.

5. that when I become depressed from my job search, I'm told told to cheer up or else give a bad vibe to prospective employers ... yet when I become happy through non-search related activities, I am reminded that I should be looking for work

7. that when I confide to friends and family that I have "given up" to pursue more fruitful interests,  it elicits a crushing look of disbelief, disappointment, and disgust

8. waiting for permission to give up.

If looking for a job is a full-time job, then are you "fired" when you never (after many resumes, networking events, and workshops) find a job?

"The worst thing is the impact on my kids."

I am over the bruises to my ego; I just ignore my mother-in-law completely now. The worst thing though is the impact on my kids. We were making $120K plus two years ago. Now, about $35K. Lost the house. Thankfully still in the same school. That said, the kids went from being respectably comfortable in their cohort to being comfortable if tattered (used clothes, battered rental, same old car, no summer trips, etc.). Thank God they are still young (just started third grade) but we're not having any sleepovers here no matter how much they ask. I am afraid for the social impact on them. They are so upbeat, so enthusiastic. They don't know we're in a ditch. It would break my heart if they figured that out.
***

"I think the most difficult part for many is going to be the fact that so many companies will not hire someone who doesn't currently have a job!"

***

"I graduated with a Ph.D. in Education from Purdue University. After a first month and a half, I was moonlighting as a janitor."

I graduated with a Ph.D. in Education from Purdue University in May and moved back to my home state of Colorado. I was fortunate enough to stay with friends who live in a large house in a well-to-do suburb of Denver. Every day, I spent hours looking for jobs and painstakingly tailoring my cover letters and resumes to jobs. After the first month passed, I was embarrassed that I could not find a job and that I looked like a mooch. Even worse, when I did have phone interviews I failed them spectacularly because I was so nervous because I knew the stakes were high. Not to mention I have a terrible phone voice. As the days passed, I kept looking at my phone willing it to ring with an offer for an interview. The phone was blank.

What people don't realize is that it costs us precious money to put together mini portfolios for interviews, or to print and mail certain documentation (such as transcripts). There are a lot of financial sacrifices related to job searching that are being made that on the surface appear trivial, but do impact a budget.

The worse thing about phone interviews is that they focus so much on behavioral questions and interpersonal work place scenarios. They never point blank ask what your story is or why you want the job. Being labeled "unemployed" is humiliating because it conjures up imagery that is far from reality.

I learned to be prudent with gas and did not drive my car unless it was absolutely necessary. I clipped coupons like mad and shopped at the dollar store. The worst part about living in a well-to-do neighborhood is that you begin to wonder what you did wrong and what others did so well. Did I spend too much time in graduate school? Will I ever be able to pay my student loans off? How long can I keep my car running? But you also gain more empathy for people who are in similar situations. It also opened my eyes to gave me another lens from which to view society's problems. I wasn't reading or researching about it, I was living it.

After the first month and a half, I landed a retail job part time and moonlighted as a janitor in the evenings (my co-worker has an MFA in Creative Writing, so we joked that we were the mostly highly educated janitors in Denver). I was proud to finally have work but the self-doubt increased. I was finally offered a job last week. I am excited and relieved, but I am still keeping my retail job on the weekends to pay off my student loans.
***

"Unemployment doesn't mean you have "free time". It's a FT job looking for work. And even when you aren't, you're occupied with other things in your house (especially if you have kids)."

***

"Even the employed (who have taken a job to be employed in this economy) are not having a swell time of it."

I was unemployed for 7 months (5 months to find a job in my pay range that turned out to be "false advertising" so I left to look for other employment which took an additional 2 months and a 90 mile move [had to sell one house and buy another]).

The employer that I worked for in 2009 laid off 30% of its workforce only to advertise for those positions using "Company Confidential" ads (and the dumbasses had a "mail forward" on the @yahoo.com email account that returned the true employer's identification on my "read receipt").  The job I took is so different from my previous and I have been expected to be a mind reader. The "personality" fit is so wrong for me, so I continue to look. That being said, as companies are trying to find ways to cut their budgets, they are offering previously "cut" positions with such ridiculous wages that it is hard to find employment in the "pre-crisis" pay range where the "personality" and skill requirements make for that perfect employment "marriage."  A lot of firms are now posting want ads with "Company Confidential" status, which potential employees are sure to avoid due to the "unknown" employer seeking applicants (i.e., are you applying for your previous job or are you applying to your current employer?).  As you can tell - I'm sending "blind applications" to "blind employers."  Even the employed (who have taken a job to be employed in this economy) are not having a swell time of it.
***
"Unemployment dehumanizes the real person. They lose the essence of their identity and value. To become a number, a label, a resume, a failure, a defect, unproductive, desperate, wishful, delusional, depressed, poor and separated from respectful society.  Being unemployed is to be silently disrespected. On a par with being homeless, mentally ill or addicted."
***

"Getting a graduate degree is the worst decision I've ever made."
I've read many articles similar to this one and have never responded to any of them but today I felt the need to respond, so here's my story: 

I'm an African American woman in my late 20s.  I worked my way through my undergraduate degree and finally received it just as the recession started.  As a result, few people were hiring then.  So, after spending nearly 2 years volunteering and helping out my family in whatever ways I could I headed to graduate school (a decision that I now consider to be the worst decision I've ever made).  I'm nearly finished with that degree and after a year of being a graduate teaching assistant in my program, personal reasons dictated that I relocate closer to my family.  As a result I've spent the last year unemployed.  I recently began working part-time at a big box store--on the sales floor making what I made at my last retail job 5 years ago--and I'm probably the most educated person in the store.  I can't get a management position because I don't have enough experience in retail--so I've been told on several interviews.  Apparently, teaching adult students--both in the classroom and as a volunteer tutor--are not skills easily transferred to the training of adult workers in a retail store. 

I'm starting to feel like something is wrong with me internally.  I know that I've made some poor decisions in my life (getting a graduate degree in women's studies is the biggest among them), but I'm still out here trying.  I've applied to literally hundreds of jobs, and for all of those hundreds of jobs I've had maybe four interviews.  Only one of those jobs paid a human wage.  I'm not asking for much.  I would just like to make $30,000 a year.  At least that way I could afford to sleep on a bed again.  Did I mention that I haven't slept on a real bed in over a year?  I go out of my way to help people, not because I want something from them, but because I've always been this way, and when I need something (and I don't usually ask for help), no one is ever there to help me.  

It's sad to know that if I didn't have to work my way through school and take extra time, I'd probably have a job now. It was that extra year that put my entry-level job search in the recession's beginning.  I look at my peers who are getting married and having children and generally living life and it's depressing.  They've got jobs, health insurance, relationships, homes; I don't even have a real bed to sleep on.  

So people can criticize the educational choices that I've made. I've criticized myself more severely than anyone else can.  I know my graduate degree was an awful, awful idea. Especially since my research ideas didn't get much traction in the department.  People can say that I should have become a nurse, or an engineer or whatever else, but when I started college and the economy was still good young people were sold the idea that they should 'follow their passions'.  The jobs were supposed to come.  I didn't take out a mortgage for a property I couldn't afford; I didn't participate in credit default swaps or create a Ponzi scheme.  I went to college and educated myself.  I've spent countless hours at libraries educating myself.  I've taken care of sick relatives and taught immigrants how to read and write in English--with no pay.  But I'm not responsible enough to run a retail store. I could have spent those hours drinking or partying or whatever else, but I've spent them trying to 'improve' myself in different ways because I seriously feel like I'm damaged goods.  Why else can't I pin down a full-time job with some benefits?  

I hope someone can find something of value in my words.
"It's an employer's market, so they can make unreasonable demands."
One ad stated, "60 day trial at minimum wage to see how it works out."  So you can fire that individual and find some other poor schmuck to take a go at it?  Would I state in my cover letter that I'd like to work 60 days at minimum effort to see if the job is fun enough to stay?
 
Or the laundry list of tasks is 25 items long, but the hours are 10-2 every day.  So you really can't find a second job unless you'd like to wait tables at night.  I worked for an organization that fit that description and yet, they'd call me at 4:30 in the afternoon and expect me to have info from the company computer spreadsheets for them.  I also brought in my own office supplies because they never got around to giving me any, or any training.  After 3 weeks I was let go; being told they thought I was more qualified for the position than I turned out to be.
 
And finally: "Here is your salary and the hours are 9-5."  OK!  Second week: "I meant to say 9-6."  OK.  3rd week: "do you think you can come in at 8am until we finish this project?"  Uhhh? OK.... "Maybe when it's too hot out anyway (Arizona) you might feel like working a few hours on the weekend?"  Not really. "Oh, I need someone who is a team player.  You are fired."
 
And the worst part is, how do you explain this on your resume without looking like a malcontent?
***
"It used to be that older, mature and seasoned workers had a closer connection to what the experience of being unemployed was like. But the more we've moved away from the "emotions" of the depression and have instead "intellectualized" this "recession" then the harder it is for working people to be able to "identify" with the unemployed. The empathy is non-existent."
***
"I'm in my mid-40s. Ageism is a HUGE problem in this economy where employers want young, inexpensive hires."
To be blunt, the hardest part about looking for a job is that human resources departments, filled with unnamed people hiding behind the internet, have completely taken over the process. I'm in my mid-40s, a writer (I know, good luck, right?) and when I was younger, you always had a name of an editor to actually send your materials to, and to call a week or so after you'd sent your clips and resume. Now, those folks don't want to hear from you. Bottom line - if you don't have a connection to the organization you're applying to, sending your materials to HR is like sending them into a black hole. In every case during my job hunt, I only got an interview or a polite rejection letter if I found a real live human being OUTSIDE of HR who had at least a mild interest in my talents. 

Problem number two: not being in late 20s or early 30s. Ageism is a HUGE problem in this economy where employers want young, inexpensive hires.

"I would gladly pay higher taxes for universal health care, if I could only have a job that would allow me to pay those taxes."

I was laid off in 2009 at age sixty. I don't think it was just coincidence, that most of the two hundred people laid off with me were over fifty, with health problems.
 
After ten months, I was able to find a temp job at much lower pay, with no benefits. I worked that job, until I qualified for Social Security, and retired.
 
There was no way that I wanted to go through the job hunting process again, at age sixty two, when the temp job ended.
 
I lay the blame for all the elderly layoffs squarely on the shoulders of our government, that saddles businesses with the burden of providing health care access to their employees.
 
We are the only developed nation that does this, and it's the primary cause of our jobs being shipped overseas.
 
I would gladly pay higher taxes for universal health care, if I could only have a job that would allow me to pay those taxes.
"I have been looking for a job for six months and no one wants to hire a 50-year old woman."
I am really sick and tired of this myth you have helped to create about the unemployed having terrible resumes and not being "positive" or "energetic" or whatever else is on your list. I am a very positive person, I have excellent qualifications, and take my work very seriously. But I had my hours cut through no fault of my own, along with others.

I have been looking for a job for 6 months and no one wants to hire a 50 year old woman. I graduated with honors (and I did not graduate in the seventies, I graduated in 1999) and I have excellent computer skills using a plethora of programs, which has done nothing for my prospects. Not to mention the laundry list of duties employers are looking for, barely paying above minimum wage.

Face it, this economy has changed everything, and workers have no rights and are powerless, too bad it's not easy to just fire someone, thank god for that paper trail. I have seen people fired after over 20 years of service, when my employer showed up drunk and decided to get rid of a fellow worker, because they" needed" to get rid of one of the higher paid people to save money. But we just aren't" positive" enough. Think about it, in this environment, when you can lose your career on someone's whim, workers are frightened and working as fast as they can.

"For those of us prone to depression, the job search can amount to a heroic effort"

The worst part will depend on your temperament and Myers-Briggs profile, but for an introvert (probably the majority of the unemployed), the worst part is the personal uncertainty: the virus of self-doubt triggered by job rejections, the effort to second-guess your personal dynamic with the hiring contact, the lack of a reality check as to why you didn't get even a rejection letter, the willingness to overlook any illegalities, the effort to convince yourself to get back out there and do better next time. The loneliness and social isolation, if your workplace even partly filled that need, if you have no family for moral support. For those of us prone to depression, the job search can amount to a heroic effort, even without dependent family members asking you the wrong questions.

"Your friends and family are going to wonder what is *wrong* with you."

As your job search drags on, even your friends and family are going to wonder what is "wrong" with you. Of course this is mostly motivated by sheer terror that they are going to be in the same position, despite their assurances that they are too smart or good at their job to be in your position. They may be right in some instances, but the upshot is that no one has real job security anymore, and it is devastating to many people to find out that they are totally disposable in a game they thought they could win. At least the currently unemployed know there is no winning anymore, just damage control.

"Don't use my name. I can't let Google search reveal I have an unlisted graduate degree."

Being long term unemployed, the most difficult and surprising problem is the uncertainty. Many routine decisions are complicated by the unknown. Contemplating relocation seems to rule out new romantic relationship possibilities. Can my car last five more years? Spend some money on home projects to get self productive and occupied OR save every dime? Take on acquiring a new professional skill even recognizing that payoff is relatively far off? Eliminate best credential from resume to remove "overqualified" from rejection reasons? All crucial questions with unclear answers. Don't use my name. I can't let Google search reveal I have an unlisted graduate degree.
"Yes, I've got a Masters, but I'll be a kick-ass assistant."
Maybe I'm overqualified, and yes, I understand that they're scared of hiring someone and training them and seeing them leave after six months; and that that process costs them money. 

But particularly in this economy, do they not think that someone who's overqualified is applying for  job because they NEED and WANT it?  That they'll work that much harder because they're grateful for the job and the income, and that if they're overqualified, odds are they're smarter and harder working and more professional than the slackers you usually get applying to crappy jobs?  Yes, I've got a Masters, but I'll be a kick-ass assistant.  Because to get that Masters, I had to work my butt off and be organized and know how to manage time effectively.

"In one interview the questions were so few I found myself giving mini-monologues. In another, the interviewer could not stop talking."

Recently I had to deal with a couple of interviewers who asked none of the typical interview questions.  In fact they didn't ask many questions at all. In one interview the questions were so few that I found myself giving mini-monologues to make sure she got a good picture of who I am. In another, the interviewer could not stop talking so I had to get in my story whenever she paused for more than 5 seconds. GAH! I couldn't wait to get out of there. She kept saying the same stuff over and over AND I swear to God at one point I thought I fell asleep. 

I hate gimmicky interviews. Never been to one but I see them in the ads. I've seen ads asking you to come in and audition or they ask you to answer silly questions. They weren't even for creative positions.  Recently saw one ad asking the applicant to answer why they are passionate about shipping and packing? Who the hell is passionate about shipping and packing.

Another thing that ticks me off are employers who demand you commit to them long term for 1 or 2 years yet they can fire you at anytime. No way.

"I want to work. I won't apply for a job I'm not serious about."

Employers never seemed to understand that if I was applying for a job, I wanted it. I can't tell you how many jobs I applied to where I was told, in my own follow-up from a non-response or rejection, "You were overqualified." "Or, we didn't think you were serious, given your education." I understand they don't want to lose me in three or six months, but I've got to eat and pay rent in the meantime. Not to mention I'm a darn good assistant and barista. Frankly, I probably would have stayed on in a part-time capacity in many "below-me" jobs if at all possible just for the extra help paying back student loans. I like to work. I want to work. And I won't apply for a job I'm not serious about.
Next Page: Millennials: The 'Mad as Hell' Generation

The 'Mad As Hell' Millennial Generation

"I have never known this desperation."

There are three stories, here: one is about the girl I was; the second, about who that girl became; the third, about what that girl doesn't know. They are all important to my narrative of unemployment. I am sure they are not entirely unique.

In the first, I am in seventh grade. Small (like I will remain). A good athlete, already: a runner and a soccer player. Later that year, I will make the school lacrosse team, having never played before. But right now, it is the start of basketball season, and the first year I'm eligible to play for the school. I am small - this is crucial: I do not make the team. I was cut before they put a ball in my hands. I am my father's daughter. I don't remember what he told me that evening; whatever it was, it refused to let me quit. I got better. I showed up, humbled and irate, at the same summer basketball camps as the girls who made the team. I ran (probably too much). I lifted (also probably too much). I worked with a speed trainer. The next winter, in eighth grade, I made the freshman team - I jumped an entire level. In eighth grade, I believed that raw ability and a ferocious work ethic knew no smallness.

In the second, I am in college - a senior. I've earned a scholarship to play lacrosse at one of the best programs in the country - at one of the best academic schools in the world. I have been hurt, now, for a long time. Hip surgeries, shin injuries, stress fractures - all have sidelined me intermittently since my sophomore year. College for me becomes learning how to be without the uniform. I spend hours in rehab. My backpack rattles with pill bottles - anti-inflammatories of every variety, painkillers, antacids, vitamins (glucosamine, chondroitin, E, B, Calcium +D) that unfairly promise hope. About to graduate now, it has been over a year since I last held a lacrosse stick. I redirected: I win several major university awards for my writing abilities. On my college graduation day, I believe what college graduates should: that I can turn any challenge into success. I have been blessed with talents; I have been tested in how to use them - in how to carry the characteristics of one into the other. I do not believe in fate: I believe that I have done the work, and it will pay off. It has been this simple for ten years.

The last story takes place this morning. Mornings are the easiest part of the day: they follow a routine, one virtually unchanged in over a decade. Wake up. Flex out the kinks. Change. Still half-asleep, guide my mess of blonde into a high ponytail. Slip on and tie up the running shoes. Bound out the door, reluctant at first, still sore, still stiff, a little cold on this early fall morning. Wander down the driveway, stretching a calf against the fence, a quad by the tree whose roots threaten the blacktop. I take a deep breath - and I'm off. This is the best part of my day: it is the only part that is quiet, the only part that is simple, the only part that involves that unique combination of talent (my speed, my lungs, my heart) and work ethic (this run, as so many runners know, is the result of tens of thousands of miles before it). For however long I run, the world goes still. When I finish, I will face a day without structure; a day marked by unanswered emails and phone calls and desperate Internet scouring. I have never known this desperation. I foolishly did not think I ever would. I believed that I was uniquely gifted, and uniquely focused.

I suppose this has been humbling. One can only run so many miles in a day.

"The repeated blows to self-esteem for people my age are staggering."

Pages of ink have been spilled to wax concern on the generation of young people born 1980 to 1990 who come into the real world with a sense of entitlement and an expectation of a trophy for second place. They claim we are unprepared for the harsh reality of the real world, which is cruel and mercurial. And the crash of 2008 gave them a perfect backdrop to frame these assertions.

It allows our parents and their peers to pay lip service to things like "the need to pay your dues" and "working your way up the ladder."  Most of my friends would be more than happy to pay our dues, you just won't get out of the way to let us.  "Interning will give you valuable experience and networking opportunities."  Yeah, that's cool man, but I got rent due on the first and a student loan payment that isn't even going to dent the principal due a week later. 

The expectation that my generation should be grovelling for un/lowpaid employment and thankful when we get it is ridiculous. And maybe that's the entitlement they talk about when they refer to us.  In the minds of baby-boomer's, it seems that "reluctance to work for free/low pay" is equal to "entitled." But I can't imagine that they'd do any better.

Let them spend some time sleeping four to a two bedroom, waking up everyday to apply to five to ten jobs, half of which they will never hear from, the other half of which will call them in for an interview only to admit that "we will most likely be hiring from within."  They can spend some time looking for work that will help them fill the gaps during their search, "free-lance" gigs that are run by shifty companies that swear the check is on the way and when it arrives the written amount doesn't match the numerical amount or temp jobs where they are spoken to like a child ("Do you know how to type?  How to send email?").

"I'm starting to feel like something is wrong with me internally."

The repeated blows to self-esteem for people my age are staggering, from the "Thank you for your resume" auto-responses to the bosses who undermine any shred of confidence we have any time we mess something up to seeing our peers who have the means to ride out the storm leisurely stroll through the worst economic recession since the 1930s.  People my age want to work, we really do, but we don't want to be in our mid-30s, pulling in a salary that will allow us to barely cover our expenses.  We want the opportunities you had, or, at the very least, we want you to be honest with us that a family and home of our own may not be tangible any more.  That's fine, it's ok.  You didn't cause this (directly, at least).  But don't tell us that your version of the American Dream is the endgame if it isn't available any more.

I'm an African American woman in my late 20s.  I worked my way through my undergraduate degree and finally received it just as the recession started.  As a result, few people were hiring then.  So, after spending nearly 2 years volunteering and helping out my family in whatever ways I could I headed to graduate school (a decision that I now consider to be the worst decision I've ever made).  I'm nearly finished with that degree and after a year of being a graduate teaching assistant in my program, personal reasons dictated that I relocate closer to my family.  As a result I've spent the last year unemployed.  I recently began working part-time at a big box store--on the sales floor making what I made at my last retail job 5 years ago--and I'm probably the most educated person in the store.  I can't get a management position because I don't have enough experience in retail--so I've been told on several interviews.  Apparently, teaching adult students--both in the classroom and as a volunteer tutor--are not skills easily transferred to the training of adult workers in a retail store.

I'm starting to feel like something is wrong with me internally.  I know that I've made some poor decisions in my life (getting a graduate degree in women's studies is the biggest among them), but I'm still out here trying.  I've applied to literally hundreds of jobs, and for all of those hundreds of jobs I've had maybe four interviews.  Only one of those jobs paid a human wage.  I'm not asking for much.  I would just like to make $30,000 a year.  At least that way I could afford to sleep on a bed again.  Did I mention that I haven't slept on a real bed in over a year?  I go out of my way to help people, not because I want something from them, but because I've always been this way, and when I need something (and I don't usually ask for help), no one is ever there to help me. 

It's sad to know that if I didn't have to work my way through school and take extra time, I'd probably have a job now. It was that extra year that put my entry-level job search in the recession's beginning.  I look at my peers who are getting married and having children and generally living life and it's depressing.  They've got jobs, health insurance, relationships, homes; I don't even have a real bed to sleep on. 

So people can criticize the educational choices that I've made. I've criticized myself more severely than anyone else can.  I know my graduate degree was an awful, awful idea. Especially since my research ideas didn't get much traction in the department.  People can say that I should have become a nurse, or an engineer or whatever else, but when I started college and the economy was still good young people were sold the idea that they should 'follow their passions'.  The jobs were supposed to come.  I didn't take out a mortgage for a property I couldn't afford; I didn't participate in credit default swaps or create a Ponzi scheme.  I went to college and educated myself.  I've spent countless hours at libraries educating myself.  I've taken care of sick relatives and taught immigrants how to read and write in English--with no pay.  But I'm not responsible enough to run a retail store. I could have spent those hours drinking or partying or whatever else, but I've spent them trying to 'improve' myself in different ways because I seriously feel like I'm damaged goods.  Why else can't I pin down a full-time job with some benefits? 

I hope someone can find something of value in my words.

"FUCK!"

I am in my mid-20s. I have a university education. I started working when I was 14. I have chemical burns and scars over my hands from dealing with caustic cleaning chemicals. I did not want that to be my life like my uncles. I had to get out. I worked very hard in high school and volunteered and was the member of clubs and all of that great stuff. I got into a good university and worked hard. I took a language course, took things that I loved. I worked through my degree - I was even a janitor in a building that I lived in, because I needed the cut in rent. I did that for no pay.

After these months of unemployment I have fallen into a pretty major depression. I live at home, I do chores, I look for work. As much as I want to get my life together, I have some great mental health issues to deal with - but have neither the money to purchase medication that may help me, nor the ability to pay for psychological or psychiatric help.

You want to hear the voice of the unemployed? I can give it to you in one word that ought to be printed but never is: 'FUCK!'

"I want to blame the universities and grown-ups who should have known better. Instead, like my me-first generation, I blame myself."

Subject line: MAD AS HELL

I'm only 23 and it's been barely over a year since I graduated from university.  Yet already the work environment and the consequences of the "real world" have warped and degraded me. All I have are feelings of disillusionment and betrayal.  If I were a mood ring, the color would translate to somewhere between quite desperation and self-loathing.  I work full-time at a temp position that under-utilizes me.  I make sure not to finish work to quickly, for fear it doing so will only shorten my employment. Before that I worked in retail.  Before long, I may end up back there.

Much of my rage is reserved for a predatory system of higher education and the failures of a generation that came before. I'm angry that a "state" university costs as much as it does. That many, if not most of the students who attend, treat the experience like a 4-year version of MTV's Spring Break. Massive grade inflation means one less standard deviation between myself and those who don't try. Lax entrance standards means that even in smaller classes, half of the students do as little as possible, have nothing to contribute, and see learning as a necessary evil, if even that. These "state" universities are more interested in funding nice football stadiums than maintaining up-to-date libraries or modern classrooms. They are more interested in your tuition than your education. And will continue to hound you for Alumni contributions long after graduation. 
 
Then there's the baby boomer generation. Guardians of the state, they have left it dysfunctional. Watchdogs of the economy, they have let it burn. Stewards of the earth, they have done little to curb its exploitation or prepare for a more sustainable future.  From Reagan on the country has lived "above it's means."  More tax cuts and higher spending. And every time the house of cards threatens to fall down, consumer spending  receives another stimulating injection in the hope of averting the dismal reality on the other side of of the bubble.  But this time there's apparently nothing left to do. This time the debt is just too big. This time, the baby boomers say from the comfort of lower unemployment and a stable mortgage, there's no escaping the pain. They are more concerned with keeping inflation low then the employment of their children. They are more interested in protecting their 401K and Social Security benefits than investing in tomorrow.  They spent our future and now need us to pay the costs.
 
But most of my anger is reserved for myself. I pursued a "Liberal Arts Degree" in communications rather than a B.S. in engineering or computer science. I spent all four years at a state university rather than the first two at a community college. I worked in the summer instead of getting an internship. I worked harder at my classes than making contacts and networking with professionals. Not everyone is suffering in this economy, and if I were going to college for the first time this fall I'd know how to prepare. But I didn't at the time and now I'm left to face the consequences. I want to blame the universities and "grown-ups" who I feel should have known better. They were the ones, after all, peddling the mantra of "go to college, study hard, get a job."  
 
Instead, egotistical like the rest of my me-first, entitlement ridden generation, I blame myself.

"Serving people drinks was more rewarding than this full-time job, and it is killing me inside."

In high school, I worked two jobs, took college coursework, participated in ten student organizations, held prominent leadership positions and earned a 4.0 GPA. I was rewarded with a scholarship to a top twenty university and had the whole world ahead of me.  In college, I studied Business. I was active in campus groups, had multiple internships and held a 3.9 GPA.  After seeing many of my older friends obtaining great jobs with signing bonuses and benefits, I decided to graduate 3 Semesters early. This was May 2008. 
 
After graduation, I began applying for my dream jobs. I started to get some responses, and then the economy tanked. I tried to follow-up with those who had expressed interest. No response. I extended my search to other cities and states and could not even get a phone interview. I then began searching for less than ideal positions. Not a call back to even be a Secretary. So, I became a bartender.
 
Eventually, I took an unpaid internship in a field I never imagined working in. There I was, Miss 4.0 Honors Student, working for free with freshmen and sophomores in college. After a year of promises that the position would soon become a paid one, I decided to move on.  Refusing to move back in with my parents, I picked up a second job. Then one day, I got a call. The company I had interned for had recommended me for a position with another firm. I couldn't believe it. Summer of 2010, over two years after I had graduated from college, I finally had a real full-time job.
 
Only this job was nothing that I would have ever wanted to do. I am still here to this day, only because I know how difficult it will be to find another. I continuously read articles about unemployed recent graduates and lend a sympathetic ear to my job seeking friends.  I feel as if I am wasting my life, sitting here at this desk, doing trivial work and browsing news articles all day. When people tell me that I am lucky for having a job, I want to cry. How can this mundane existence actually be envied?! I do have a roof over my head and health insurance, but my optimism about the work world has been severely damaged. I did not work this hard in order to obtain this outcome. Serving people drinks was more rewarding than what I do at my full-time job, and it is killing me inside.
 
It is terrible that so many of our nation's top youth are going through the same struggles.  Some say that we should not expect things to be handed to us, and that we should just stop whining.  That may be the case for some, but what about those of us who never expected anything?  There are thousands of us who worked hard and did everything that we were supposed to do.  We were told, "If you push yourself and work harder than everyone else, you will succeed."  We did not create the problems our nation is facing today.  We didn't vote for the politicians, we didn't borrow too much money, we didn't buy things we couldn't afford, and we didn't build the hopes and dreams of an entire generation, only to have them come crashing down. 
 
To those of you unemployed now, go find an internship. Freelance. Volunteer.  Do anything to make connections. If you are still in college and are not trying to get multiple internships before you graduate, you are a moron. Does it suck that you have to work for free? Yeah, it sucks and it isn't fair, but that is the only thing you can do right now. 

"You just have to buckle down and stop whining."

I'm a Gen Y'er and feel pretty content with American society. I went to a run-of-the-mill liberal arts college (without a prestigious scholarship), majored in the humanities, and set off to work. Before I started graduate school, I had several jobs, some good, some not so good. But I reminded myself that my sole goal in life at this point should be to make as much money as I can and pay off loans.

This piece makes it seem as though Gen Y'ers are all altruistic academic/athletic super workers, and they simpler aren't. Many Gen Y'ers complain about the lack of jobs, but refuse jobs they don't want to do. It's equally dumb to apply to jobs you're not qualified for (just because you have a college degree doesn't automatically qualify you to run a retail store, for instance. Granted, it's not rocket science, but it's understandable why store managers would want to hire professional and mature workers with experience).

I  understand that many regions are more depressed than others, but I still feel there are plenty of jobs out there to keep one busy. I washed dishes, I cleaned cars, I dug ditches, waited tables, and was even lucky enough to score a couple of high(er) paying internships at respectable firms. You just have to buckle down and stop whining.

"I truly regret what's happening to the Millennial generation but the world shifted out from under them."

In my experience, there has always been work. It is what you are willing to do that is the key.

When I went to university I found a job in construction, carpentry. By the time I graduated, I was a certified history teacher and a good carpenter.  My life path has lead me into three separate professions, construction, sales, and now landscaping.  I am 47 years old.

In landscaping, we have 177 employees.  Very few white or black Americans apply for these jobs.  It's hard work, it's hot. If you make the cut and are able to work through the winter, it's cold, but their is a path up.

I was fortunate in that fate allowed me to work in college with two very different skill sets.  In the mornings I spoke the language of the intellectual, in the afternoons I spoke entirely in the vernacular of the "real" world.  This experience allowed me to move between worlds.
 
I am sure the people profiled are very smart and well educated. And if they're as smart as they say they are, then they should have the intelligence and the physical dexterity to become an electrician, or a mechanic. Get your skills up and you'd be shocked... shocked at what kind of money you could make. There is honor in all work.  Start thinking in three dimensions and outside the box. 

I truly regret what's happening to the Millennial generation but the world shifted out from underneath them and their parents refused to recognize that going into massive debt in the 20's for a college education is not worth the trade off in a two-tier society.  

"My daughter and I are looking for a job at the same time."

My daughter and I are looking for a job at the same time. Now. She is a recent graduate from college, highly literate, well educated, a beautiful writer, with excellent people skills and a work history. I am an empty nester with numerous degrees, excellent people skills, and a long and diverse work history. I too came of age during the recession of the seventies. My daughter graduated in 2009 which was dubbed "the toughest labor market in years," and has found herself working at least two part time jobs to make ends meet. She has been looking for full time employment for at least 18 months. According to Sarah Murray of the Wall Street Journal, statistics show that, "Even those who land jobs will likely suffer lower wages for a decade or more compared to those lucky enough to graduate in better times." And for those of us in our fifties?  Many of us were laid off during the recession at an unfortunate age. Most are trying hard to get back to work and having a tough time of it and are constantly hyper age and gender conscious. Many fifty somethings were highly paid at a time when companies were cutting back and most will never find jobs that pay them a comparable wage. Many if not most, may never find themselves fully employed again before Social Security kicks in and those lucky enough to have vested pensions or fully invested 401k's.

The loss is clearly personal, familial and social. Personal, because job loss and an extended inability to find one, does serious damage to ones confidence and ultimately the ability to find a meaningful job in ones field. By the time a suitable job emerges, younger more facile and recently graduated will be entering the workforce. There are numerous other personal costs to an inability to find a job as well: the guilt about being unproductive, fractured friendships, inability to socialize with ones friends and ultimately ones deteriorating self-image and prolonged familial dependence (for the lucky ones).  Familial, in that many of those college graduates are moving home or being aided financially by families some in which at least one wage earner may be earning less or nothing at all due to the recession, thereby creating additional strain on an already difficult situation. In many of these families college loans of a considerable amount continue to pile up and go unpaid. Finally, the ultimate costs are social and cultural since so many with great educations, creativity and a vision for the future will not be contributing in a positive manner to the society in ways they had great hopes to, thereby not only creating discouraged workers but cynical and disheartened citizens as well. Ironic and maddening since we are constantly told that the country needs creative and energized workers for a rebounding economy.  Add to these woes a housing crisis, and the job situation is exacerbating misery and poverty amongst many in the middle class.
 
For the lucky recent graduates perhaps putting off entering the workplace with a graduate degree may be an option. Having raised my children to believe that they can be anything they wish and work hard to achieve, I nevertheless worry about my daughter and her generation giving up. I worry about her becoming bitter about the divide between the rich and the poor, given the fact that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is objectively increasing and middle class prospects continue to wane.
 
For those my age and older, many have given up on a retirement of travel and the occasional spa treatment or retirement at all. Most important, many of our generation are giving up the most precious gift, the gift of time and its quality with ones family. We know of more than one family continuing to live together in spite of divorce or dissolving family living situations.
 
While my daughter's generations' inheritance dwindles, I can't help but wonder how long it will take for them to become a radicalized element within our society as others in European countries have seemingly become. Positive engagement is difficult to sustain given the economic and political atmosphere on display today in the country especially when unemployment is six percent in some segments of society and up to 15 in others and there are serious ongoing discussions about doing away with unemployment benefits and social security.
 
Of course I have seen incredible creativity on the part of both generations in their job hunts that do sometimes pay off. More often however, I see a dispirited couple of American generations struggling with inadequacy and depression.

"After hundreds of applications for assistant positions, I received zero calls back."

I spent 15 months searching for a full-time job out of school. Over 600 applications in total, and I received a call back for an interview from 3 of those (1 was part-time). Over those 15 months, I stripped my resume from that of an award-winning broadcaster graduating summa cum laude to literally making up secretarial experience to make myself appear qualified for administrative assistant positions. Why? Because after literally hundreds of applications for assistant positions, I received zero calls back.

I was blessed to receive a call from a university just days later for an assistant position, and I have caught some breaks since, landing what I would call a dream job. Yet I lost a year of my life; looking back, those days don't seem to have any details besides applying for jobs and abounding hopelessness.

"I think we'll go down as a Lost Generation."

Being unemployed in your 20s is, simultaneously, a huge relief and a huge disappointment. It's very luxurious to stay out until all hours of the night, with no regard for an alarm clock! But also crushingly lonesome to realize, at 10AM, all of your friends are leading much more productive lives than you are. I've lucked out financially: between unemployment, being diligent about my savings account from the time I was - seriously - 11, and eating dinner at my mom's a few times a week, I don't struggle with my bills and most months even have enough money for a spontaneous trip to some other northeastern city. It helps to get out of your routine, and to stay busy, and to pretend that you're just on vacation. Pretend that you don't spend your other days like a machine, sending out resumes to anyone who might even consider hiring you.

I made what some might call a pretty grave misstep at 19. I decided to take a semester off school. Autodidacts are notoriously awful at sticking to schooling, and I'm no exception. I loathed every minute of it, and thought that a semester off to clear my head might help. That was almost 5 years ago, and I haven't gone back since. I can't count the number of times I've heard from my dad, "well, if you had just gotten your degree..." In some cases, he's probably right. There are likely a few companies that overlooked me because the "education" section is conspicuously missing from my resume, but I can't help thinking about all of the loans I'd have to be paying back right now. What if I were still unemployed, in spite of a nice piece of paper from a respectable university? I would be living back at home in the suburbs: no spontaneous trips, without the ability to walk anywhere I need to go, writing a check to the bank every month. That sounds like hell.

Overall, I'm concerned for my generation in light of this recession-depression-what-are-
we-even-calling-it-now. What if we, as individuals, don't fully recover from this? I think we'll go down as a Lost Generation before too long.

"Don't be sad and depressed. Be angry."

As a GenX-er, I sympathize.

I sympathize, because many of my experiences (and the accompanying emotions) are so similar to yours. And maybe that's why your generation is so often unfairly - or fairly - perceived as having a sense of entitlement. When you're fighting for your survival, it's natural to become fixated on your own plight and perhaps not see the pain happening all around you.

You say that you're willing to pay your dues if we would just get out of the way - but we have no where to go. The baby-boomers before us have remained firmly entrenched, their retirement savings pillaged by unchecked greed.

You say that all you want is a $30,000-a-year job, just so you can afford to live.  I have to catch myself, trying not to chuckle.  You see, that's all I wanted too - and that's all I got. My wife and I both have degrees, have worked hard and been loyal, dependable, productive employees.  And our reward for that has been more than a decade of making a salary that seems to hover perpetually in the $30,000 range. So when I hear that all you want is to step out of college, with not even a tenth of my experience, and make the same salary I make - well, I can't help but feel a twinge of indignation.

My generation was promised that things were going to get better and many of us were naive enough to bet on it. So we got married, bought houses, and worked 70-hour weeks. Now our jobs are gone, our houses are getting taken away, and our families are being torn apart. I'm not sure whether it's worse to have the rug pulled out from under you, or to have no rug to begin with.

I do know this- if you're looking for a place to direct your energy, try voting. Or better yet, take to the streets. Don't be sad and depressed - be angry.  It's not the previous generations that stand in your way. If you want to know where to direct your wrath, all you need to do is ask some questions. Why have the salaries of average workers (who have steadily become more productive) stayed stagnant for the past two decades, while the richest one percent have gotten exponentially richer?  Why has the average CEO salary increased 400% since the 80s and ours hasn't? Why do Republicans defend lowering taxes on the wealthiest Americans, when the wealthy already pay less taxes than they ever have? Why did a hungry homeless man spend 13 years in prison for trying to steal bread from a church, and yet the corrupt bankers responsible for our economic disaster are sleeping in their own beds every night and literally getting richer by the minute?

These questions should make each and every one of us furious. We should be marching in the streets and demanding change - forcing change if need be.

So why aren't we?

"The Baby Boomers' entire lives have been all take and no give."

Nothing infuriates me more as a Millennial than the self-righteousness of the Baby Boomers. Their entire lives have been all take and no give. Their parents lived through a Great Depression and World War II and stood up to grinding poverty, unfettered capitalism, authoritarian communism, fascism and the prospect of nuclear war. And what did my parents and their generational cohort do? 

1. They spent their teens and twenties having lots of casual sex and getting really high on lots of stuff. If they went to college, they probably treated the drafted soldiers who had to go to Vietnam with contempt and scorn when they came back. If they didn't go to college or into the military, that was okay too because you could have a stable, middle-class job with a twelfth-grade education back then. And even if they got stuck working a crappy McJob, the minimum wage was more than 50% more in real terms back then than it is today, and they paid less for things like healthcare and college tuition. 

2. They spent their thirties living like the characters on Cheers, promoting their careers and wearing suits with improbably big shoulder pads. Stagflation made defined-benefit pension plans increasingly difficult to manage, so unlike their parents, they were supposed to start putting money in things called 401(k)s and IRAs. Did they do that? Of course not! Reaganomics is going to expand the economy so much that we don't need to save for a rainy day! It's Morning in America damnit! And with all our tax cuts, we'll retain more of our lifetime earnings anyway. 

3. They spent their forties and fifties treating their children like porcelain dolls to which nothing bad should ever happen and no remotely negative thoughts or words should ever enter their precious little minds. Play at the park? There could be pedophiles. Little League? Everybody should get a trophy. That way nobody ever has to feel sad ever. PlayStation for Christmas? I'll just put it on the credit card. Remodel the kitchen so it's capable of gourmet meals we'll never actually cook? That's what home equity loans are for. 

4. In their sixties, they wondered why the paltry amounts they'd put in their retirement accounts weren't adding up to much. Didn't save for the kids' college either. Oh well, that's what loans are for. They'll get a good job when they graduate and pay it all back. Cut Social Security? What are you? A socialist? Ask me to pay more taxes to fix this massive deficit? What are you? A socialist? Maybe I can get one of those reverse-mortgage thingies to retire...Why can't my kids find jobs? Kids these days, so lazy and entitled. In my day, things weren't this easy...
Next Page: The Response from Boomers

The Response from Boomers

"Waah! Those horrible Boomers!"

Shorter version of Millennial rant: "Waah! Those horrible Boomers! I really want to live an entitled life like they had, and I deserve, but they messed everything up.  Instead, I actually have to start at the bottom like every other generation. How unfair!"
"Communications? What is that? Get a PRACTICAL DEGREE."
Kids, bashing boomers, seriously? The ones who run businesses, who own businesses? Did they spoil their kids rotten, yes, but only because we had a series of recessions like this we had to work through doing any work we could find. It was not days of wine and roses. The people who did well financially hardly had a chance to come up for air. 

The worst thing you can say is that we left the youngsters on their own too much, because we worked, worked, worked. All I remember of my life is working, no benefits for most of it, no vacations for most of it. I saved my own retirement. 

Did we buy things to make up for time lost with the young people in our lives? Guilty. But if the young people are too buck-headed to follow our example on work, whose fault is that? This article doesn't mention how much more likely the "millennial" generation is to be unmarried with a kid. Don't be naive - that is going to make your hiring prospects much more diminished. It shouldn't, but it does. Single-parents take off a lot more work, and many work sites don't want to deal with it, and don't have to deal with it. 

I see a lot of millennials spend a king's ransom to get completely impractical degrees because they think these should be real degrees. Communications? What is that? Who has a job in "Communication?" You have a better chance with a English degree, which is tougher. But be aware the only people who get job offers with an English degree are the top of the pile, the "A" students. So it is now, so it has always been. 

Get a PRACTICAL DEGREE. Practical degrees are tough. Science. Computers. Engineering. Health care track. All of these are the toughest most competitive degrees. Stop being in denial and telling the Booomers how things are. Listen to the boomers who are trying to help you. Should the government stop giving loans in certain subjects -- absolutely. Then maybe young people will stop pretending they are the Little Mermaid and can just wish their lives to be formed for them as they are guided by a singing lobster. 

Real work is not Disney. It's "Clerks." If you have a job at a 7-11 right now, you are doing great. It's a Depression. Yes. I said it.
"There are 79 million boomers. We were all druggies in bell bottoms and mini skirts who went all yuppie on y'all."
There are 79 million boomers. We were all druggies in bell bottoms and mini skirts who went all yuppie on y'all. Viet Nam was our fault. The Federal Reserve is our fault. The entitlement society is our fault. And you graduated and can't get a job. That's our fault, too. But that is what parents do. Absorb the shocks from their grown up babies and keep on loving them while they figure out the world does not rotate around their ass.
"Most of us are just people who tried to raise our children and do our jobs just like every other generation."
Painting all baby boomers with the same wide brush is childish. Most of us are just people who tried to raise our children and do our jobs just like every other generation. It's true that we failed to pay enough attention to the environment. On the other hand, we were the ones who invented environmentalism on a mass scale. So all of us were having casual sex and taking drugs when we were young. Yeah, except those of us who were working in Vista and the Peace Corp or volunteering to work for the rights of migrant workers or fighting in Viet Nam.. I spent my whole working life working against discrimination and homelessness and I never made more than $26,000 a year. I'm not complaining. I made my choices and I live with them. I had a choice.

I am very worried about this: my children's generation seems to have lost their choices. I'm afraid that they will not be able to reach their dreams. Listen: Get mad at the ones who are in charge. Get mad at the political system that the ordinary people can't change. Get mad that Congress is controlled by the powerful  interests of the very wealthy. Get mad that all the politicians care about is their own power. Don't get mad at other generations. Some of us have been fighting this battle for a long, long time.

Oh, by the way. My husband and I got kicked to the curb two years ago and have not been able to find jobs that pay more than minimum wage. We are in our 60's and know that we will never be able to work in jobs that use our skills and education again. We work in retail stores.
INTERLUDE: U.S. PRODUCTIVITY CRISIS
"The problem with US workers in general, is they cost too much."
The problem with US workers in general, is they cost too much, and they have a sense of entitlement. It's not our fault that we cost so much, but the cost of living in North America combined with 8% federal employer taxes and the fact that employers pay for benefits like health care helps price US workers out of the market. The fact that I can hire senior software engineers in eastern europe for 1/3 the cost of North America means that the North Americans will either have to deflate their economy to match their costs to the market price, or figure out a way to deliver more value to justify their higher price.
"In one generation, some are hard working. Others are lazy. Some are intelligent. Others are dumb as rocks."
These emails are interesting, but too many of them seem to be trying to speak for their  generation.

I own a small construction company. I generally have 10-14 people employed at a time. I have some turnover since i sadly have to occasionally fire people. But more often it's because I often have over qualified people that move onto better jobs. I have hired whites blacks, latinos, high school dropouts [I myself am one], high school graduates, college students, and college graduates. I have one lady working for me as a laborer who is trying to get her Masters in Victorian English. Another young woman worked for me while getting her Masters and is still working for me until she can find a job in her feild.

My point is that one thing that working with all of these different types of people has taught me is that very few are "representative" of their generation. Some are hard working. Others are lazy. Some are intelligent. Others are dumb as rocks.

I'm not saying that generational differences don't exist. I'm simply saying we tend to exaggerate them somewhat. When the media talk about a "generation" they almost always are talking about white college-educated kids. They aren't talking about 20 year-old factory workers in Ohio or warehouse workers in Wisconsin.  The members of the media are talking about thier own children . 

There is nothing wrong with talking about college-educated kids. But we shouldnt assume that they represent a whole generation. Nor should we assume that even among themselves, they are typical. Some are idealistic. Others are cynical. But I dont see the 20-30-year olds today as a monolithic generation that can be described as "cynical", "idealistic", "angry,"hopeful", etc.
"Welcome to my world, say the boomers. Nice to see you here finally wanting to join us."
I've been a house painter (loved it), a packer for moving company, which is hot, exhausting work that some people are happy to do their whole lives. I've waited tables. I've worked as a temp receptionist, secretary, and per diem clerk. I worked as a per diem nurse, where you're on call, you get called in, usually when the weather is terrible or the floor is overcrowded. I've worked as a med tech, which is the toughest job in health care. I'm not going in chronological order here, but the point is no one owes you anything, I've found.

An employer wants to know can you do you the work and will you be a benefit to them. That's it. No one cares about your intensely personal inner monologue.

If you are lucky you will end the day covered in paint drips, feces bits that you can smell and not see, MRSA exposures, grease, after having work place conflicts that stress you. If you're lucky.

That is the wonderful world of work. Welcome to my world, say the boomers. Nice to see you here finally wanting to join us.

Every single time I graduated from college, there was a recession. There's been a boom all the youngsters' lives. But that is not reality. This is. If you want to find a job, better ask a Mexican how to do it. That's reality.
INTERLUDE: GENERATIONAL BIAS
"What we call a generation is a model used to describe an impossibly complex reality."
Almost all those who have written comments treat a "generation" as if  it actually exists. What we call a generation is a model used to describe an impossibly complex reality.  Academics aggregate and simplify data to describe a phenomenon. They create a model and use it to illuminate the phenomenon. The model is not reality.

There is no such thing as a generation. It  is an intellectual abstraction that illustrates but does not inform. It is intellectual laziness. What is called a generation is just people. Sometimes people have common experiences that may generally define them as a group but they are not that group. They are people individually trying to live their lives in the time they are given.

Labeling people as a generation demeans and objectifies their individuality making them easier to ignore. That may be the entire point.
"Too many people believe they will be protected, comforted, and provided for by the state that made them promises."
To me, the attitude that brings these notes together is "I trusted the system, and it failed me".

Politicians of both parties have pushed this idea way too much over the last few decades. We can provide you a career, trust us. We can keep you healthy by banning things that make you unhealthy, trust us. We can write laws that eliminate anything bad, trust us. The state can provide all of your needs.

But that's not really true, it never was. Unfortunately too many people believe they will be protected, comforted, and provided for by the state that made them promises. That has bred a kind of extended adolescence, lasting in some cases for a lifetime. Fortunately, a lot of people are belatedly realizing this.

So, you're all sentenced to that frozen gulag of a reeducation camp, otherwise known as real life. The term of the sentence varies. Some will only be imprisoned a few days; some for the rest of your natural life. You'll term ends when the marvels of state control of your life choices loses its appeal. Then you will be free.
"As a matter of fact, about 75 million of us were NOT at Woodstock."
I get the anger, which is entirely justified, but I would just humbly ask those who are so angry to please try to be a bit more discerning and discriminating about the targeting of that anger.

1) As Marilyn Quayle famously said of our generation, "Not everyone demonstrated, dropped out, took drugs, joined in the sexual revolution or dodged the draft." As a matter of fact, about 75 million of us were NOT at Woodstock.

2) Yes, not every Boomer socked away retirement savings in those early years. Some of us did, though, including me. For those of us who began working in the 70s and early 80s, though, the economy was every bit as bad as it was now. I remember those times as being very difficult to get a job, the pay being low, and the cost of everything climbing sky high. Imagine everything you are going through now, plus long lines at the gas station, plus mandatory 55mph speed limits and low thermostat settings, plus double digit inflation and mortgage interest rates. It really was pretty bad then. 

3) My impression is that the main reason why Boomers did not let their kids free range like they themselves had been allowed to do is the same reason why the hitchhiking that was common in the 60s suddenly became rare. A number of things in our society changed, and we all realized that there were now a lot of very scary and dangerous people out there that weren't when we were kids. Or so it seemed, at least.

4) I would also just like to point out that the Boomer generation was ravaged by inflation to an unprecedented extent. When I was just old enough to start writing thank you notes, I can remember putting a three cent stamp on the envelope, and a nickel could buy a candy bar at the corner store. I would also like to point out that all the way through the Greenspan years, the Fed was under the control of people who were born before the Baby Boom years, so that inflation wasn't actually our creation, just our problem. Boomers tried to cope, maybe most didn't do very well, or at least as well as we could have. I do know for a fact that there are quite a few Boomers that have never been able to live high on the hog at all, but instead have been struggling and scrimping and making do pretty much their entire lives.
Next Page: The View from Employers

The View From Employers


"I'm on the lookout for anything at all that shows you don't take this seriously."

Look, it's a lot easier to not hire someone than to fire them. Someone who doesn't take their job seriously can really be a pain in the workplace, draining energy away from other tasks. But firing that person can also be a pain -- it can take weeks of HR meetings, establishing a paper trail, etc.

So if I'm trying to hire someone, I'm on the lookout for anything at all that shows you don't take this seriously. That includes how you dress and how you carry yourself. Yes, it's unfair, and in an ideal world you wouldn't have to worry about it. But it's the way it is.
"It turns out most resumes aren't very good. People aren't very good at answering interview questions."
Earlier in 2011 I put out an offer to help people who were looking for work. I offered to review resumes. I gave guidance about answering tough interview questions. I coached people on how to market themselves and I pointed out some ways people could expand their searches.

The response was overwhelming. It turns out, when it comes to looking for a job, most people understand very little. Their resumes aren't very good. They aren't very good at answering interview questions. They don't know how to find opportunities, their networks are terrible etc. It goes on and on and on.

I'm a hiring manager and have spent a few years seeing good and bad resumes, listening to great interview responses and terrible ones (I'll always remember the candidate applying for a sales job who told me that he wasn't social and didn't have any friends...What?!). The things people don't understand, in no particular order:

-- You HAVE to be positive, enthusiastic and high-energy in ANY interaction with a potential employer
-- Always list achievement over responsibility. "I did X and it led to awesome result Y."
-- Looking for a job IS a full time job
-- Apply for any job for which you meet at least 70% of the qualifications
-- You need to tailor your resume to EACH job posting

The things employers don't understand, in no particular order:

-- Be clear about your process with the candidate
-- Anyone with whom you've had a conversation deserves a call to let them know if you aren't going to hire them
-- Be excited to talk to people. You may just be talking to your next employee. Be excited to speak with them
-- Adding to your team is the MOST important thing you do

"Sanitize your online presence.'"

Folks need to realize they have to sanitize their net presence. Those drunken spring break pictures have got to go, and they have got to go a few years before you plan on getting that job so that they've made their way out of caches and/or can be explained credibly as "well that was then...."
"Dress conservatively and act conservatively."
When going for an interview, always dress up. This means changing not just your physical appearance but also your personal appearance. Dress conservatively and act conservatively. I'm an out gay man, but one thing I worry about is my bearing, how I appear to others. It's challenging meeting your employer's expectations especially when these expectations stem from their religious or political persuasion. I wouldn't want to work in an environment in which I'd be discriminated. However, as the job market gets more competitive, and as my options become slimmer, do I have to forsake my emotional security in order to earn a buck? I shouldn't have to feel any concern over this. But I can't dismiss this as a private insecurity. I believe that many minorities including people of color and ethic minorities might feel the same way. Many companies comply with anti-discrimination policies (and must comply with anti-discrimination laws), but these don't protect people from being judged by their employers or coworkers simply for who they are. Prejudice is internal, unconscious, a part of our psyche. How do you interpret "No?" Is it a response to your qualifications, amount of relevant experience, the pitch of your voice, the color of your skin? These questions are even more relevant now that issues of discrimination in the work place are being taken more seriously. I'll go further: These questions are even more relevant now that the economy is in the tank, and some people are being screened for who they are. Are we returning to the Dark Ages now that our economic situation is becoming more and more desperate?
"'There's a wreck on 495' is a perfectly acceptable reason to be late."
Show up on time.  If you can't, call ahead to let them know you're late, and why.  Here in the DC area "There's a wreck on 495" is a perfectly acceptable reason to be late, or reschedule.

A place I hang out at online had an actual debate going  over that until it was noted that the
"show up on time" camp was gainfully employed and the "why does that matter?" camp was not.
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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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