In many ways, the millennial generation receives a bad rap; TIME magazine's memorable "Me, Me, Me" spread connotes the image of a generation that is narcissistic, lazy and entitled. Allegedly, these 80s and 90s babies have stayed babies, delaying adulthood and responsibility in search of an endless quest to find themselves; they are the generation that has witnessed the end of healthy relationships and "the end of courtship," the generation that dresses in torn up, raggedy clothing, heads bowed to the floor and addicted to iPhone display panels.
Studies suggest, however, that the millennial generation is not unambitious and entitled, but quite the opposite — a hardworking generation that cannot fit into the labor market despite hard-earned college degrees, impressive resumes and internship experience. The economy is finally recovering from an economic turn-down that is dwarfed only by the Great Depression, but many college graduates are still struggling to enter the market.
According to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the unemployment rate for graduates from 20-24 years old is over 13%. On top of that current rate, "employers plan to hire only 2.1 percent more new college graduates this year than in 2012." A similarly striking survey by Adecco calculated that around "58% of 500 hiring managers across the country have no plans to hire new graduates." The millennial generation is not lazy; they are not being hired.
Next year I will be graduating from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in International Relations, a transcript of which I am proud and diverse internship experience. But still, I worry that I will be unemployed after graduation. I am acutely aware of the fact that an Ivy League degree no longer guarantees security the way that it used to. I have watched many smart and ambitious friends with similar resumes receive their college diplomas without an inkling of where they will end up come September. But when many view moving back home after graduation as a taboo — a symbol of underachievement — what is the better option? Especially since joining the Peace Corps, traveling, bar-tending, or waiting tables at a restaurant are construed as ways of prolonging the plunge into adulthood. The millennial generation is not the "me, me me" generation, but a generation struggling to be absorbed into the labor market.
The millennial generation is not only a generation struggling to make a living, it is also according to New York Times op-ed columnist Charles M Blow "the generation of change." "Millennials' views on a broad range of policy issues are so different from older Americans' perspectives that they are likely to reshape the political dialogue faster than the political class can catch up," he wrote. The majority of millenials are less religious than their parents and more socially liberal — accepting of same-sex marriage, calling for stricter gun control laws and supportive of the legalization of marijuana — rendering them "a generation bent on rapid change."
When I began college four years ago, I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have four years for the economy to improve before I would have to graduate and enter the job market. But unfortunately it will be years before college graduates will be relieved of these same fears. While the job market remains uncertain, one thing is for sure: while struggling to enter their first careers and make their own paychecks, members of the millenial generation are propelling and witnessing an era of progressive change.