Quartz has received a number of responses to Bijan Stephen’s commentary, “Yale senior: We millennials don’t stand a chance.” We’re rounding up some of the best emails (edited excerpts) and tweets here. Send us your feedback at email@example.com.
Bijan cites Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” as an anthem for our generation, while I believe The Avett Brothers “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” is far more relevant:
When nothing is owed or deserved or expected/And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected/Decide what to be and go be it
Yes the job market is tough, loads of student loan debt is tough and Washington is setting up our generation (or our children’s generation) to take on the effects of more economic management, but we’re also a generation blessed with tremendous opportunity:
While jobs at the top companies aren’t easy to come by, the barriers have come down as more women and minorities are hired and folks from all educational backgrounds come together with various skills to create amazing things. My father lived almost his entire childhood in Cleveland and worked at a steel mill as a young man. I’ve connected with folks around the world via LinkedIn and Twitter that helped me land a job in New York, while I was working in Texas and went to school in North Carolina.
As a generation, we shouldn’t be cynical because of our situation, but feel lucky to have the opportunity to create on a global scale that just wasn’t possible for previous generations.
Did I have a job right after I graduated? I didn’t. I had to take another internship and move to find it, No. 5, that led to a full-time role. Did I expect to have a job? I didn’t. I went to a great public school, the University of North Carolina Journalism School, but I never thought that would or should guarantee me a job.
Millennials have an amazing opportunity to shape what is a quickly changing world without the confines of a rigid system that many past generations worked with. And I am grateful for that opportunity. It’s scary, but our generation is unique in that we get to decide what we want to be.
Brooklyn, New York
In September 1969, I took off my infantry officer’s uniform from the 101st Airborne and started law school in Buffalo. I got married in November. Anne and I lived on my GI Bill and her public school teacher’s salary. I worked as a junior lawyer in Buffalo for 18 months. In 1974, I got a position in a boutique law firm in NYC catering to clients from Germany. All of the other lawyers had graduated from prestigious law schools. My edge was that I had a good command of German as a second language.
In December 1979, I quit my job, took some clients with me and started a solo law practice in 1980. That practice still exists; and I have done well for myself, personally, financially and professionally. I made good money right out of the box and never looked back.
In 2013, that “career path” would probably not work. My daughter and son-in-law are graduates of Stanford Law. Both said that there are few job opportunities for graduates of second- and third-tier law schools.
If you do not have an entrepreneurial bent, then you have to work for someone else. No matter who your employer is, you have to accept the system for what it is and cope. The other choice is to exit the system. I do not think that you went to Yale to wind up working outside of the system.
Today’s world is overwhelmed with debt. Therein lies the opportunity. Most everyone becomes a debt (ab)user. Others, become debt merchants or counselors. Yes, the system is teetering on collapse. Yes, all will be hurt badly if everything imploded. Absent that, it is sad but true that someone’s misfortune can become another’s fortune.
You will probably make out fine. I wish you the best of luck.
Summit, New Jersey
I graduated from undergrad at Ohio State University in 2011, and personally am thankful for the state that the economy was in when I left school (arguably worse than now). Bad economic outlooks require innovation from bigger companies and promote smaller businesses and startups. This, combined with the rise in internet technologies (and all the marketing and new media that goes along with it) created an ideal work environment for a millennial versed in technology (I studied business, not tech).
There are endless opportunities in anything digital as startups are pushing new products and corporations are trying to hop on the digital bandwagon. Older employees are not familiar with this, and, using social media as an example, you are not competing with someone who has had 15 years of experience using Twitter or Facebook. The advertising market has been shaken up and it has created lots of opportunity for graduates willing to take risks and try new things.
I see how this environment might not be ideal for some traditional fields like accounting, real estate, etc. (majors that you thought would guarantee jobs) but I would urge students nearing graduation to not despair but look five years ahead and imagine in what areas the job market is changing, and look for employment there—and think creatively. When resources are short, companies will value creativity and innovation.
We’re talking about Yale University right? Because at the moment I can only think of employed Yale graduates. I’ve read about Yale graduates all the time in profiles of incoming class of Harvard Law and books about inventing social media (you guys were LinkedIn right?). Companies such as Booz Allen Hamilton post institution-specific job postings requesting Yale graduates all the time.
The job market was never meant to be a course catalog for the school of life. Surely, you can see the absurdity of choosers who expect determinism. If four years at one of the best schools in the country didn’t soothe your anxiety, you’re asking a lot of an entry-level position.
Great news though, you’re not trapped in your search for an adequate job market. In fact, you don’t even have to search for a market. You only need one job. I sincerely think you can do it. You know how to identify evidence that confirms your current perception of the job market. You can write well and you’ve inspired me to write this.
Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (summarized here by the New York Times and in more depth here) have justifiably inflated fears that recent college graduates are doomed. They enter a historically weak job market and will earn, on average, lower starting salaries than graduates from 2007.
But that’s hardly the whole story. All job markets are not created equal, and our generation is uniquely suited to take advantage of the explosion in mobile that has occurred since Apple first introduced the App Store in July 2008.
And software engineers aren’t the only people with a rosy employment outlook.
Ignoring the hundred of thousands of developers who make the apps you know and love, the mobile surge has created tens of thousands of new jobs in recruiting, advertising and marketing. And because the industry is only not yet five years old, experience is more encouraged than required.
To illustrate this point I’ll use my own career path: In October 2010 I was a senior at New York University majoring in politics and history, with no real work experience, mobile or otherwise. A friend (also with no experience) happened to get an internship at an ad network that had just created a new mobile team. Four months, 500% month-over-month growth, and three new interns later, I was hired.
I was brought on full time in April and promoted twice by the end of the year. By November 2012, I’d been promoted again, my former boss had left to start his own company and my other boss had left to work with him. After (not entirely unforeseen) layoffs took place at the end of the year, my colleagues and I received dozens of recruiting emails offering us frankly outlandish salaries for skills we’d barely had time to hone.
I’m now working with my former bosses again at a 10-person startup, and the mobile opportunities available to recent grads are still as boundless as people’s desire for new games, new photos, and new updates on the world around them.
Do recent graduates have the same career opportunities as they would have five years ago? Of course not. But as writer P. J. O’Rourke put it, “The idea of capitalism is not just success but also the failure that allows success to happen.” We’re in an unprecedented time of growth, and new graduates are positioned perfectly to take advantage of new opportunities.
Brooklyn, New York