Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are Millennials Unlucky?

Should we bemoan the fate of the millennial generation? Should we feel badly for those who belong to what Derek Thompson calls “the unluckiest generation?”

Anyone who was born after 1982 counts as part of this group for having come of age during the first years of the new millennium.

It was, Thompson says, their misfortune to have entered the workforce at a time of relative economic stagnation. As a result their chances for future success seem to be limited. Thompson cites research that suggests that if you don’t get off to a running start with your career you will probably never make up the gap.

Thompson limits himself to post-World War II generations, but still, the example of the Greatest Generation might provide some hope. It’s better than blaming it on bad luck.

Does the “unluckiest generation” have it any worse than those who had the misfortune to come of working age during the Great Depression? Or is it just more apt to complain?

Thompson tries to soothe our anguished souls by explaining that millennials will still be able to participate in most of aspects of the consumer culture.

In his words:

But in some ways, millennials are also the luckiest.

For one thing, they're living in an age of affordable abundance. Food has never been cheaper as a share of the typical American family budget. The price of apparel is also falling relative to wages. The Internet, while no substitute for gainful employment, has made many things cheaper that used to take extra income to buy--communication, notably, including private information-sharing and professional collaboration. It has made casual retail cheaper (and more convenient). It has also made mass entertainment cheaper, especially music and amateur videos. These commodities have grown cheaper, in part, by replacing and lowering the cost of human work.

That we live in a golden era of cheap essentials and entertainment might register as cold statistical comfort for the millions of unemployed millennials who watch their dreams fade with every passing year.

If this is true, the millennials are an entitled generation. They live at a time when prices are coming down. Thus, they can enjoy their favorite consumer goods on the salaries they are earning at Starbucks.

But, Thompson adds, this entitled generation will have more difficulty buying homes and bringing up families on subsistence level wages.

(Thompson does not mention it, but lower prices are deflationary. When the nation is drowning in debt deflation is not your friend. In fact, the Federal Reserve’s money printing is designed, above all else, to keep deflation at bay. If it succeeds, it will produce inflation. At that point, the entitled generation will discover austerity.)

But, should we really believe that it’s all just bad luck?

The current jobless crisis must have something to do with policies enacted by an administration that most millennials voted for. These young people did not vote for individual initiative; they voted for an entitlement state. They should not blame bad luck for getting what they voted for.

While it is true, as Thompson says, that millennials are the most educated generation in American history, how much of their education fits the job market.

If they all majored in literary criticism and the jobs are in the energy or health care, then there is a mismatch between education and the job market. If they are not interested in doing apprentice programs to learn in-demand technical skills they the problem does not lie in their bad luck.

As it happens millennials are happy to see their poor career prospects as a function of luck. Otherwise, they would have to deal with the fact that their self-esteem has been artificially inflated since childhood and that they have never been taught a work ethic.

Whatever happened to the notion that you can make your own luck?

USA Today reports that hiring managers are discouraged by the conduct of the millennials they are interviewing. It has nothing to do with luck. Young people who are looking for jobs act as though the job market should adapt to them and not vice versa:

Newly minted college graduates soon entering the job market could be facing another hurdle besides high unemployment and a sluggish economy. Hiring managers say many perform poorly—sometimes even bizarrely—in job interviews.

Human resource professionals say they've seen recent college grads text or take calls in interviews, dress inappropriately, use slang or overly casual language, and exhibit other oddball behavior.

… such quirks have become more commonplace the past three years or so, and are displayed by about one in five recent grads. They're prompting recruiters to rule out otherwise qualified candidates for entry-level positions and delay hiring decisions.

HR executive Jaime Fall explains that millennial hires have a poor work ethic:

… Millennials also have been coddled by parents. "It's (a mindset of) 'You're perfect just the way are,' " he says. " 'Do whatever you're comfortable doing.' "

About half of HR executives say most recent grads are not professional their first year on the job, up from 40 percent of executives who had that view in 2012, according to a recent survey by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania.

It wasn’t just their parents who taught them that they were better than they were and that they should follow their bliss.

Some examples of bad behavior are worth quoting in detail. If you are not of this generation you would never imagine them:

• Taking calls and texting. A male graduate student seeking a managerial position in Avery Dennison's research and development unit took a call on his smartphone about 15 minutes into the interview. The call, which lasted about a minute and wasn't an emergency, ruined his near-certain chance for a job offer, Singel says.

"If he thought that was OK, what else does he think is appropriate?" he says.

• Helicoptering parents. A man in his late 20s brought his father into a 45-minute interview for a material-handling job on an assembly line, says Teri Nichols, owner of a Spherion staffing-agency in Brooksville, Fla. At Cigna, a health insurance provider, the father of a recent grad who received an offer for a sales job, called to negotiate a higher salary, says Paula Welch, a Cigna HR consultant.

• Pets in tow. A college senior brought her cat into an interview for a buyer's position at clothing retailer American Eagle. She set the crate-housed cat on the interviewer's desk and periodically played with it. "It hit me like—why would you think that's OK?" says Mark Dillon, the chain's former recruiting director. "She cut herself off before she had a chance."


Bobbye said...

Funny stuff. I wonder why compamies today prefer immigrants. Millenials are not unlucky, they are just suicidal.

LordSomber said...

So many of today's problems ultimately go back to poor parenting.

Sam L. said...

The Educrats have done their jobs sooooooooooo well!

Anonymous said...

Millenials aren't unlucky, they're just stupid for the most part. Most of the "education" that's touted is dubious at best. What's education worth if you don't learn critical thinking?

I was going to say something about the whole cheap and abundant food part that the author throws out there, but Stuart already took care of that. Inflation is going to hit these idiots like a ton of bricks.

I work at a university (not as a professor) and I had one of my student workers tell me that she was going to go cross-country this summer. When I told her that she should actually start saving that money, she looked at me like I was from another planet.

Such is the mentality of these morons. But they had pretty good teachers in the Boomers.

Anonymous said...

All these vignettes testify to the consequences of an entire generation of yoots (channel Joe Pesci, please) never hearing the word "NO."

The most telling piece was the HR manager being willing to go on the record (a rarity these days, especially when talking about groups wholesale) and his saying that "You're perfect just as you are." That is frightening in many ways. I often wonder if Millennials have ever really been challenged or tried to beat a system or figure out a way to skip school and not get caught. That's the fun kind of problem-solving, and it's exciting because there's something on the line. When adults accept (and even encourage, haw-haw) "Senior Skip Day," it loses its luster.

When you're "perfect just as you are," it's a tacit invitation to avoid learning anything meaningful. There's no need to grow or test your mettle. In fact, growth could be viewed as just another abstraction left up to free choice, like whether you'll have a slice of apple pie or a cookie.

The thing that educators are missing today with telling children how "extraordinary" and "special" they are is simultaneously letting them know that they're also very ordinary. They're human beings like the rest of us. You're not a novelty or some cherub who arrived here from the planet Krypton. You're a carbon form with a soul. The soul is the extraordinary part we can't talk about anymore in public school. The carbon form part just makes you a blob of material, and we talk about that all day in biology and on the news with our indifference to Dr. Kermit's abortion clinic of horrors. How to meld the soul with the body and the mind is the real trick of making your life, connecting with others and finding your calling. But we only talk about how "everyone is unique" which is self-evidently preposterous... yet true at the same time. Get that? A paradox? I can text it to you if it's easier...

That's the extent of my analysis here. Every generation complains about the next one in line. Taking a cell call in the middle of an interview is wacky. Helicopter parents suffer from psychosis when they're supposed to be leading. The pets thing is a consequence of how our culture has come to embrace the idea of pets as people... and in some cases, more important than people.


Anonymous said...

The Millennials were raised by Baby Boomers!!! Heeeellloooo! The Boomers were the most materialistic generation which did rub off on their offspring. Why no mention of the Boomers friend? The millenials did not ruin the economy. Millenials are having a hard life now and please do not paint them all with one brush...I may have painted the Boomers with a broad stroke myself but its clear the majority are dolts.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Stuart, these millennials are putting money aside for your social security benefits - paying into a system that will likely collapse before they can reap similar benefits. Idiots indeed.

Anonymous said...

This bugs me. As a Boomer, I'm stereotyped as "the '60s generation". Apart from enjoying the music, I was anything But. So were most of my peers.

I joined the Army. Over 90% of my peers who were drafted, answered the call. A higher rate than WW2 (per Prof. Roger Little, U of IL Chicago).

I considered the "60s Gen" Utopian, Antinomian, Nihilistic. Coddled upper class twits who got all the attention, wrote the books, teach. "Anti-War" ninnies.

They are the US equivalent of French "le gratin" - the top of the souffle (I think). Maybe 10% of my generation. I hate being conflated w/them.

The Millennial stereotype sounds similar. But I could be wrong about that. -- Rich Lara

Dennis said...

If the "boomers" did such a great job educating the young why are we 45th in the world in education? There was a portion who got their degrees by intimidation, threat , sit ins, changing grades, et al and it was these people who eventually too over the education system. One only has to look at the degree of scholarship emanating from these institutions. If it were not for Deconstructionism, Poststructuralism, Modernism, Minimalism and Academic Collectivism they would cease to exist as educators or should one say propagandists.
The people who suffered the most from "Boomers" were other "Boomers" who were not from the upper and upper middle class at the time. I suspect that the Millennials suffer the same reputation from the same kind of people.