I just found Chris Isidore’s article “The Great Recession’s Lost Generation” — the idea of recent college graduates like me being “lost” due to the recession is incredibly worrisome. At the same time, the analogy seems excessive: from what I can tell, the original “Lost Generation” of World War I was labeled lost because so many of them died. Elite college grads may not be starting the prestigious careers they’d planned, but it’s a far cry away from death.
I am of two minds about this article. On the one hand, it seems classist — at the very least, it’s very focused on people with a certain amount of privilege (at least a college degree, particularly those who graduated from the Ivy League). We may not have the opportunities for which we’d hoped or planned, but most people don’t have those opportunities, even when the economy is doing well. There are so many people who are hurt far worse by the recession than we are.
At the same time, the article speaks to me. “About 60% of recent graduates have not been able to find a full-time job in their chosen profession, according to job placement firm Adecco. . . . Many others are underemployed, or working part-time or temporary jobs and internships.” — I’m experiencing that difficulty. I’m not intending to complain because I’m really grateful to have a job lined up, but it’s not what I was dreaming at college.
The article mentions this expectation that if you graduate from an Ivy League school (or, in my case, one of the Seven Sisters), it “will mean something — that it will guarantee you a job.” And perhaps that’s unrealistic, but regardless, it’s no longer the case. I couldn’t even get an interview for the AmeriCorps VISTA position I wanted when I was in Chicago, and that’s not an actual paid job: it’s a year of service.
It worries me because, as the article puts it, “According to one study performed by Till von Wachter, an economics professor at Columbia University, the drag on income lasts for 10 years, on average.” I just graduated from college — having job issues for a year or two is understandable. But for it to create decade-long consequences is something else.
To quote Avenue Q, “I wish I could go back to college. In college you know who you are. You sit in the quad and think, ‘Oh my god, I am totally going to go far!'” We dream about the amazing things we’re going to do after graduation, and then . . . the jobs assume will be there just don’t exist. And while this past year has been fantastic, the source of the awesomeness has not been job prospects, and I don’t know how I’m going to go from here to, well, wherever it is I want to go. It feels self-indulgent to worry about that, but there it is.