On the morning of July 28, we talked about the situations that many young people, frequently referred to as millennials, are encountering once they've finished college. The actual experiences in the job market don't seem to "jive" with some of the media's reports of an improving economy because they can't find work. They're stuck, mostly at home, with a pile of student loan debt and have no idea about the next step. Student loan debt has become a national financial crisis the size of the housing market meltdown. It's serious stuff.
- Work gives meaning to life. So, work. If you're living at home and parents are still supporting you, think about the job you would like to have.
- Make a list of the five companies, no matter how big or small, where you might like to work.
- Write them a letter, yes a letter, not an email. Depending on the size of the company, you might send it to the Human Resources department, but I'd send it to several people, including the president.
- Tell them, that despite your best efforts, you can't land a job (not news to them) because of whatever...not hiring, right out of college, etc. Avoid whining or complaining or telling them how much you owe in student loans.
- Tell them you will work for free in order to get experience and to contribute. If you feel it's appropriate, or if you get an interview, tell them how important it is to you to have meaningful daily activity, to engage with others and to get a realistic sense of what the work involves on a daily basis. Let them know that learning from those who are older and who have been doing this kind of work is important to you. Because, it is...
- Let them know that any position is acceptable, yes, even janitorial, because you're essentially invisible and you can hear conversation and see exchanges and events that are likely to be hidden in the presence of others.
- Basically, you are offering them a "volunteer", but it may actually turn out to be an "audition". The company learns that no matter how menial the task, they've watched you do a great job without complaint or bitterness. Yes, you have a college education and you expected more of your future, but the reality is that your future can come out of anywhere, so "get up, dress up and show up" and give them your best effort. Demonstrate your work ethic on a daily basis. This is critical to an employer. They'll learn that you "checked your ego at the door".
- Through this prolonged "audition", the company can learn more about you than they could in a brief, structured interview situation. One of the most important factors they can learn about you is your social competence. Are you moody? Are you supportive? Are you collaborative and cooperative? Do you show up on time, every single day, abide by written and unwritten rules about breaks and lunch, and, are you respectful? Do other people like you? Do you tolerate the "office bully"? [There's always one...]
- The "harder you work, the luckier you get". You just don't know who you will meet, who you will impress and what you might learn. Get out there.
Commit for at least 6 weeks. Six weeks should give you enough time to gather the data that you need. Give them plenty of notice when you plan to leave.
This effort has multiple benefits:
- You'll learn valuable information about the nature of the job and the kind of people who do the work (at least at this company).
- You find out if you want to work for a large company, a smaller company, one with a particular management style (traditional/humanistic) or who take on certain kinds of projects (government, private industry).
- You'll be able to get a recommendation from them about your performance and it will be proof of your experience. Very valuable stuff.
Consider negotiating with any potential employer who is "on the fence" about hiring you and ask only for the amount necessary (after taxes) to pay your student loan payment. Bring in the documentation to show them. It's a very powerful message that you are committed to keeping your agreements. It shows how responsible you are despite the bad press that this generation is getting. At least if you are living at home, you can meet your financial obligations. You may not have "spending money", but you'll pay your bills.
If you are living on your own, rent the cheapest, safest place you can find. It might be dirty, so clean it up.
How about renting a room? Many older, single people are renting rooms to offset their expenses. You'll have rules to follow, just know it is not forever.
Get as many part-time jobs as you can. Drive for Uber, deliver pizzas, put up signs to do yard work, anything to make the rent, pay for food and gas. Many of us have had 4 part-time jobs simultaneously to feed our kids, provide housing and food for them and "pay for life".
There is honor in all work. Don't forget that. Ever. If you are working to take care of your needs, it is honorable.
Times are tough. Nothing new there. It'll pass. It always does.
Just do the best you can.