As a millennial, I feel like blaming the economy and job market has become a mantra of sorts for many — myself included. In any conversation I’ve had or blog post I’ve written about the economic struggles lately, the iterations have generally been the same: jobs are scarce for graduates, the pay is crap or nonexistent, things are ridiculously expensive and debt is on the rise. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for young people to be unemployed for a year or more after graduation and worst of all, it appears that millennials were lied to. Call us entitled or spoiled or naive, but I don’t think it was unfair for us to expect the booming economy that our parents and grandparents enjoyed.
All that aside, I’ve begun to feel a different way about our current circumstances as of late. In fact, I have one adjective for the way I’ve been feeling about it: inspired.
I sound like I’m on drugs, don’t I? After all the criticism the job market has faced from young people, the last word we would use to describe our situation is inspiring. But I’d take it a step further: empowering. Behind all the doom and gloom, I’m seriously experiencing a feeling of empowerment.
It’s clear that the big employers of yesteryear are no more. Well, they’re still there, but looking for a job with them is not necessarily a thing anymore. Unpaid internship maybe, but let’s not get our hopes up. But in that, maybe there is hope. With our current job market, there are very little expectations for our prospects as job seekers. I mean, yes, there were quite a few not too long ago, but now I’ve watched all of those expectations simply fade away. That ideal job we thought we’d get in our field is now clouded with seemingly insurmountable competition. That extravagant lifestyle we thought we’d enjoy is more and more unattainable. The expectation that we’d walk off of the convocation stage and into a well-paying job is simply a lie.
You know what? Maybe that’s not a bad thing. If there are no expectations, there are no disappointments. Further, if there are no expectations, it’s easier to be pleasantly surprised when an opportunity comes, even if it is in the form of a two-month contract (I’m currently on two-month contract #2, but at least I’m working!)
And I’ve also found contracts to be oddly empowering. Knowing that I’m only at a job for a little while has allowed me a lot of perks that the prospect of permanent employment wouldn’t. For example, if I don’t like something, I know it’s not going to be a forever — in fact, it has an end date! Moreover, if I know I’m only going to be somewhere for a short time, I’m more likely to put myself out there, build relationships, and appreciate what I’m doing. It becomes a very steep learning curve, but working two different jobs in four months has allowed me to develop skills in TWO different occupations.
Finally, and most positively, this job market is empowering because it allows for unprecedented freedom. In my eyes, a lack of stable employment puts me in a limbo of sorts. Something I am doing right now may not be the thing I am doing a couple weeks down the road. I could be doing something different in somewhere completely new. To me, that’s exciting.
It also means that I am not tied down to an occupation or an employer. I no longer find myself having to be loyal to someone like I was when I worked at the same part-time job for 6 years. In those days, I stayed with unhappy situations because I didn’t want to potentially jeopardize future employment. Now, whether on contract or completely unemployed, the loyalty is mutually non-existent and there’s a certain flair for risk-taking. And if there isn’t, there should be.
Why not excuse yourself from societal norms? Why not take that trip around the world? Why not volunteer? Why not explore job options out of your city, state, or even out of your country? Why not invest your time and energy into something you’re passionate about? Why not live with a certain reckless abandon, especially in a time when it seems the economy has recklessly abandoned you?
I’m not saying you should stop your quest to be able support yourself financially and enter something completely stupid like cross-border heroin smuggling, but maybe now is the time to think outside of the box. Maybe you don’t need a 9-to-5. Maybe you should pursue that one thing you’ve always dreamed of. Maybe you should explore alternative lifestyles such as long-term travel, tiny living or freelancing.
Maybe it’s time we as a generation take back some control over our lives and what we choose to do with them. Our biggest mistake moving forward is blaming others for our lack of success in the job market. It’s time we create our own success, even if that means rewriting what we believe being successful is.
We have nothing to lose, right?