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Millennials Getting Up to Speed

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Despite improving unemployment statistics, America remains in the midst of an historic demographic challenge that goes beyond the economic downturn of 2008. We have reached a unique moment in history where the largest generation of all time, 83.1 million Millennials born between 1982 and 2000, has entered a challenging job market at the same time that the previous demographic champs, the Baby Boom generation, 75.4 million people born between 1946 and 1964, is gradually leaving the work force.

To compound matters, the economy and lifestyle differences are causing some Baby Boomers to defy traditional retirement patterns at the end of their careers. This situation creates unusual demand for employment from older workers. This unique demographic structure represents a strange moment in history and though it has been anticipated for many decades, core public institutions and private enterprise are challenged to respond to this dramatic demographic shift. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it will get better. 
How can Millennials cope with these challenges at the start of their careers? How can younger workers, who are the most educated generation in history, leverage their assets in a job market that may not be ready for them? 

Keep Learning.
If you were ever jealous of kids who were home schooled or who were unschooled, now is your chance to pursue your interests. Does this mean you should add to that $33,000 average student loan burden carried by Millennials? No need. So much learning is available online now, and not all of it falls under the heading of semi-sketchy for-profit distance learning. The entire MIT curriculum, for example, is available online for free through its OpenCourseWare (OCW) program (LINK: That’s over a thousand courses admired by really smart people. Computer science course work is available online for free with aGupieware (LINK: You can also engage in an old-fashioned services swap to learn something new. Maybe you could learn Spanish from a person who would love to pick your brain about social media so they can better market their small business. Ask about trading services. The worst that can happen is they say, “No, thanks.”

Take Risks.
Start your own business or work for a start-up. Again, this is where your abundant energy and enthusiasm can carry you far. The start-up environment is a great place to learn on the job about what makes a company succeed. Your insights into the Millennial market will help get you in the door and your tireless enthusiasm for something you believe in can be a great asset to a company that’s just starting out. Put your social media and technology skills to work. You’ll gain experience with iterating, team work and growth hacking. In the end, you may also gain experience handling sudden success, and/or how to crash and burn like a star. Either way, take advantage of your lack of risk-adversity early in your career.   

Be of service. 
Focus your job search on the 20% of jobs in the work force that may help you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (LINK: These are government jobs and non-profit 501(c)3 qualifying positions in fields like nursing, law enforcement, military, teaching, public health, forest service, and NGO’s, to name just a few, that qualify. Make absolutely sure you take all the steps necessary to enroll in the program, but wouldn’t it be great to be working off your debt as you work at your career? 

Follow your Job. 
Live it up. Enjoy your youth. Younger workers who are less tied to home life and a family are better candidates for jobs that require travel and strange hours. This might be your ticket to adventure. You are never likely to find a better time in your life to travel. By the time you have money, you will probably no longer have the time or freedom needed to travel, so if you can find someone who wants to pay for you to go places, that’s the ticket. Consider working in the travel or hospitality industry where travel may be mandatory. 

Have a Side Gig.
You’re not likely to sit staring at your phone waiting for that recruiter to call, but if you’re spending all your time on social media or gaming, you won’t have much to show for the extended months or years many Millennials spend job hunting. Create a blog. Make videos. Write a book. Create an app. Get involved in social causes. Fruitful activities will alleviate your anxiety more than daily hours of screen time. Make sure you’re working toward something meaningful personally and your career. The networking alone is worth the price of admission (which is mostly free) and might just get you a job doing what you love to do. 

Where ever your job search takes you, remember that even though the odds are stacked against you at the moment, the job market will probably never be as crowded in your lifetime as it is right now. Like the start of a marathon race, with thousands of runners crowded at the line competing for space, everyone will soon get up to speed and the field will open a little. Older workers are retiring every day and they not only create new openings, but many also take with them a tech averseness that will slowly shift the work environment and workplace culture in your favor. 

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