Under Pressure: Millennials Feel Strain to Find Work After College
As soon as or even before our college years, millennials are taught that we must excel in our studies so that we can join the workforce. Whether that workforce is blue collar, white collar, or anything in between, millennial Americans feel a very strong pressure to know what they want to do with their lives at a young age.
As a recent college graduate, I know the pressures of getting a job all too well. For younger generations and millennials, I find there are several types of pressure that factor into the whole equation. They range from societal to familial to even personal. The most destructive in my opinion has to be the internal pressure we put on ourselves to find our niche in the world.
During my senior year at West Chester University, my advisor told me that I should start applying for jobs around spring break (in early March). That way, I could practice filling out my application, get my name out there and refine my resume. I took her advice, but I started to feel uneasy about the reasons why I was supposed to start applying to jobs before I even had my diploma.
Suddenly, I felt as though the world expected me to land a high-paying, benefits-included job as soon as I walked off the graduation stage.
When I researched my generation’s response to work, I found an article published by Forbes.com in December 2016. What I found surprised me a bit.. not all millennials who are graduating from college have an easy time landing a career—let alone one in their desired field! The article states “The millennial unemployment rate stands at an unfortunate 12.8 percent, compared to the national average of 4.9 percent.” Forbes also lists numerous reasons as to why millennials are having a tough time finding work after college—some of which include selfishness, narcissism and lack of “basic workplace skills” (i.e. interpersonal communication).
But I think what the article misses is the debilitating effect that pressure can have on recent grads. Societal pressure to contribute to the workforce is alive and well for many generations, not just for millennials. But the pressure from family members for my generation to attend college is quite large, from my experience. That’s because neither of my parents graduated from college, so the expectation for me growing up was that there was no other option for me than to attend a four-year university. I asked my mom why it was so important for her that I get a college education.
“I wanted to give you the best education that I possibly could,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that that opportunity was provided to you.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am forever grateful to my mom that she provided help for me to get a college education. But the pressure from her for me to attend college right after high school was large and oftentimes too pushy. I sometimes think that maybe I should have taken a year off after high school to really think about how to start the next chapter of my life.
I have a friend, Emily Arndt, a BFA student at Millersville University with whom I’ve shared much of my journey throgh college. I asked her about the Forbes study and her thoughts on the reasons millennials are struggling to get jobs—like being too self-involved or narcissistic.
“It definitely depends on the person,” she said. “If you’re not as open to working with others and only set in your ways, that will limit your ability to get further in the workplace.”
Arndt also felt that the pressures for millennials to get careers post-graduation come from external sources rather than internal. “When you go to college, you’re taught the steps of how to get a job. And if I do these, then I should be able to get the job I need. But your paths and skills change and develop over time. And when that’s happening, the pressure comes in from family and friends and you have to decide where you want to go next, and that’s really an external pressure.”
I’ve been on what feels like countless interviews since graduating from West Chester. Each of them has taught me a different lesson. Firstly, it’s not the end of the world if I don’t get said job that I interviewed for. As soon as one door closes, another one opens. Believe me, that sentiment could not hold truer. Second, each interview serves as an opportunity to learn more about myself as a professional, or soon-to-be professional. By speaking with people in my desired career field, I can find role models and learn from those who already have years of experience.
Finally, if I don’t want to succumb to the pressure that I, my family or society place on me, then I don’t have to! I can choose to take a step back and breathe. Things will eventually fall into place.
I hope we can all ELM work together and shape the conversations about millennials, college and the professional world as we know it today. Until then, keep on learning!