Unemployment is one of those dreadful words that has peppered our news religiously for the last decade. It has ebbed and flowed with each year that passes. To the average American, unemployment simply refers to whether one has a job; but to a Generation Y American the underlying meaning is much more complex.
I graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2011 with a specific path I thought I would follow. As a middle-class American, I was not given many other options than attending college right after high school. It was expected; so I did. I learned a lot, both scholastically and personally, and graduated with a political science degree I was proud of. I began applying for jobs towards the end of the 2011 summer. I am here to tell you - it is 2013, I have had eight interviews in two years, and there is nothing on the horizon.
Grand Rapids is a growing city, there is no doubt about that. More restaurants, breweries, and shops pop up daily. For the college graduate looking for work in their field, it doesn’t offer as much as one would like. The unemployment rate for Grand Rapids in March 2013 was 6.2%, and has infinitesimally fallen and risen to 6.4% in August. In 2008, the unemployment rate was high at 11.5%. The rate is expected to continue to fall.
I realized after a year of applying to at least three to ten jobs a week, it was not going to be as easy as I thought. My search expanded from more specified jobs to a wide range spreading across numerous fields. People would ask, “What do you do with a political science degree?” My response was, "What every graduate hopes to do, find a job." I received excellent feedback from my interviews. I am comfortable speaking to groups, I have hard work ethic, and I am creative. Every position I interviewed for was given to someone with more experience who was also out of work. The Great Recession laid off a massive pool of applicants who have more experience than me and now are making less money than they did before.
A report released in August 2013 by PayScale and Millennial Branding, claimed that Generation Y is specifically underemployed and overqualified for the jobs they are working. During the Great Recession many Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers lost their higher-paying jobs and instead settled for lower-paying, entry-level positions that would have normally gone to people like me. Plenty of Boomers, who normally would have retired, stayed in the labor market because their net worth crashed after 2008. Generation Y seems to have been left out of this equation, and pushed into un- or underemployment.
53.6 percent of college graduates 25 and under are either unemployed or underemployed, according to the Associated Press. We are unable to find jobs in our desired fields and are turning to jobs that are severely beneath our skill sets. Many 20-somethings graduate from college, only to find the pool of competing applicants has more than tripled while they were in school. The dream of each generation doing better than the last seems as far away as that ideal job. Born to Baby Boomer parents, the expectation of financial success still seems reasonable for us, but the economy simply cannot supply the jobs. Since the recession began in December 2007, average incomes for 25 to 34-year-olds have fallen 8 percent.
I have to remain hopeful, even in the face of constant rejection. The reality of my future is drastically different from that of past generations. I sustain myself financially by working in the service industry, and creatively by finding odd jobs and internships that will build my resume. I am continuously marketing myself. I have to hope that as a resident of Grand Rapids, a city I love, growth will come to all sectors of our economy. I strive to build a future for myself and my family to the best of my ability with the options I am given. I have to hope it will be enough. I have to hope that the vision of the ‘American dream’ will continue to grow with my generation.