the lost generation

BusinessWeek’s cover story “The Lost Generation” frames Gen Y as a pathetic generation surrendering to our circumstances. Yes, the economy is piss poor, but is it true that “young people can’t even grab on to the first rung of the career ladder?”

Millennials are not helpless and are certainly not entitled. This may be exactly what the doctor ordered–a wake up call. The level of frustration stems from a generation who believed all their life, as long as they showed up for class they’d be funneled through a system and handed a job with their diploma. After growing up in a time of prosperity, many of millennials are now learning that job paying $50k is no longer interviewing. Take Dan for example, our cover boy. “Dan Schmitz, 25, a University of Wisconsin grad, hasn’t had a job in months…I’ve applied for a whole lot of restaurant jobs, but even those, nobody calls me back.”

…Allow me to interject…

Dear Dan,

WTF are you doing curled up under a tree in the picture? While I don’t know your exact circumstances you don’t give Gen Y a very good image. You look victimized, feeble and weak. Thanks for being our spokesperson.

So what do you do everyday Dan? Do you stay under that tree and hope one of those restaurant jobs calls you back? Is serving food the only thing you could think of? Don’t you know every single high school and college student probably applied for that same job? Isn’t there something you can do besides feeling sorry for yourself?

Listen Dan, if you were that hungry you’d dig holes all day, but that probably doesn’t sound too inviting does it? It probably sounds like something our grandparents had to do in the depression or something. I know it doesn’t sound much like opportunity but Monster.com isn’t the only way to grab the first rung of the career ladder.

There has never been a luckier time to be alive. We are connected to opportunity every day at our fingertips. The power to come together online, rise up as a generation and collaborate has never been stronger. Please Dan, do something. There are millions of things you could do to make our world a better place and improve your reputation as an employable individual who contributes to society. So let’s start simple.

Go pick up garbage. I’m serious, go to a not so nice part of Brooklyn, pick up garbage and bring your camera. Instead of looking pathetic you are going to look empowered. You are making a difference in the world. After that, it’s time to tell some friends. It’s no use doing something good if you don’t tell anyone about it–it’s time to become a leader. Take those pictures and post them on Facebook or start a blog. Do something productive today besides surf Craig’s List; why not make a contribution?

Speaking of Craig’s List, create a posting telling your community about your project. Start bringing together your unemployed friends and random people off Craig’s List and create your own opportunity. Send your blog post to the local newspaper as you grow your project and get some media coverage that makes you look like a driven young man ready to take on the world.

Now you have something to talk about in that next interview.  You went out and met people, you created some credibility in your community, so when you go into those restaurants they’ll have a reason to call you back. Go to local businesses who you’d be interested in working for and tell them about the project. Don’t beg for a job on your hands and knees, ask them to get involved and give back to the community.

Imagine connecting with other people in similar situations across the world through Twitter and sharing how you created lasting change during your period of joblessness instead of coming “to be seen by employers as damaged goods.” Now you are in a position to showcase your skills you learned at UW and at least stop feeling bad for yourself by sitting on the couch all day. This day in age gives us huge advantages to become leaders and make the world a better place–please take advantage of this opportunity.

Sincerely,

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is co-founder of Under30CEO urging people to drop the 9-5 and get passionate about something. Follow him on Twitter @MattWilsontv as the Gen-Y spokesperson looking to help every young entrepreneur on the planet.

Photo Credit Jennifer S. Altman