Overconfidence, Entitlement in Twentysomethings Threatened by Great Recession

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Why are twentysomethings not finding jobs immediately after graduation? It's not just laziness, entitlement, lack of work experience, or the lure of pot and television like it was back in the olden days of the aughts. Nor can the blame be laid solely at the feet of coddling boomer parents who have instilled in their progeny a sense of zero urgency by paying their rent and cell-phone bills and stocking their cabinets with their favorite snacks well into adulthood. The thing that is truly inhibiting the potential of the most recent crop of college graduates is the recession. It has made the job market brutal for 24-year-olds like Scott Nicholson, a Colgate grad who turned down a $40,000-a-year job because it wasn't the exact position he wanted, and has since been forced to suffer a startling realization, one that his parents and the country had hoped he would never have to face: Sometimes, when you're an adult, you have to do things you don't want to do.

A semi-repentant Scott tells the Times:

“I don’t think I fully understood the severity of the situation I had graduated into,” he said, speaking in effect for an age group — the so-called millennials, 18 to 29 — whose unemployment rate of nearly 14 percent approaches the levels of that group in the Great Depression. And then he veered into the optimism that, polls show, is persistently, perhaps perversely, characteristic of millennials today. “I am absolutely certain that my job hunt will eventually pay off,” he said.


The Times is concerned. Sure, Scott might still be hanging on to his precious, youthful, modern overconfidence now, but what will happen to him in the future, once the terrible indignities of this recession have worn him down? What will happen to all of the other Scotts, living at their parents' houses, doing odd jobs, surfing the web and thinking maybe of taking a bartending job because surely they can figure out bartending, it's just pouring drinks, right? If it's anything like last time, the paper points out, the outlook for Scott and his ilk is grim indeed:

The Great Depression damaged the self-confidence of the young, and that is beginning to happen now, according to pollsters, sociologists and economists. Young men in particular lost a sense of direction, Glen H. Elder Jr., a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, found in his study, “Children of the Great Depression.” In some cases they were forced into work they did not want — the issue for Scott Nicholson.


Of course, the work young men didn't want to do back during the Depression was more like plowing and farming and, you know, smashing rocks with a hammer and stuff, not working as an associate claims adjuster for $40K a year in a suburb of Massachusetts, but you know, same diff. Hopefully, Pfizer will be able to come up with a drug for Being An Adult before the overconfidence of this generation is affected forever, and the cycle of human life grinds to a halt in front of some dude's Wii.

American Dream Is Elusive for New Generation [NYT]