How entering the job market during a downturn is like a disability


Media likes to talk about “Millennials“. And there’s nothing that is said about them that isn’t a total contradiction. Are they slackers who just want to pursue their dreams without having to pay any dues? Or are they all self-starter, entrepreneurial types who will eschew the traditional job market for their own means? Who knows?

But one thing appears to be clear among media accounts of the state of the Millennials: as far as the job market is concerned, they appear to be totally screwed.

Handicapped for life

Here’s one article (of many) saying so. The theory goes that those who graduate into the job market during a downturn will experience depressed wages that will affect them for the rest of their careers.

“‘[A]s your income rises, your raises typically get smaller. And because you’re less likely to find another job that pays substantially more as you get older, you’re more likely to stick with the job you have, even if your income rises slowly'”

The article mentions that those who came of age between 1979 and 1989 were similarly beleaguered, so they’re not totally picking on those born between 1982-2004 (or whatever the dates are).

Here’s another article that says it more directly: Are Millennials Financially Doomed? (Spoiler: Yes.)

I’m not here to argue with the data. I’m here to argue about the conclusions to draw from it.

What are you going to do?

So, let’s say that you graduate right in the middle of economic Armageddon. It’s kind of like winning the anti-lottery. Congrats, I’m sorry.

So what do you do? Do you throw up your hands, say the system is rigged, and give up?

Let’s put it another way…

Let’s say that you were born to a very poor family. Or a broken family. Or some type of family situation that does not indicate success. No one is going to be paying your rent for your first apartment, co-signing for a loan, or even supporting you emotionally. This was not your fault, of course; you can’t help where you’re born.

So what do you do? Do you throw up your hands, say the system is rigged, and give up?

Let’s say you were born with a disability. Maybe a visible one, maybe not, but something that affects your ability to fit in and contribute to the market in a traditional way. This was not your fault, of course; you can’t help how you’re born.

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So what do you do? Do you throw up your hands, say the system is rigged, and give up?

A disability?

I’ve been reading a lot of Jon Morrow, the guy behind Copyblogger and BoostBlogTraffic. Read his about page.

Right now. I’ll wait. Really.

Back? Good. So that guy definitely did not win the genetic lottery. He may have won other lotteries (good communication skills for one) but considering he was supposed to be dead by now, I’d say he’s doing pretty well.

Yes, it sucks to have lost the lottery of time, place, or genetics. But don’t conclude from this that you are going to be unable to succeed, unable to pursue your dreams (at least eventually), and unable to dig yourself out of the hole that life has placed you in. That’s a grave error.

Yes, the system is rigged against you. It’s rigged against all of us in some ways, unless you’re the people who write the rules (which you aren’t).

But after a certain amount of hand-wringing, so what? Figure something out. Get back to work. Even if it’s unfair. (Which it is.)

Why? Because I just don’t know what the alternative is. Do you?

What’s the equivalent of the disability ramp?

When I was growing up, curbs didn’t dip down for those with mobility impairments. I guess you were just supposed to dive off the edge and hope.

These days, every curb (theoretically) needs to have an easement.

So what is the disability ramp for those who started our in a bum market? Is it to strike debt? (Not sure.) Do we need an equivalent of a civilian GI Bill? (Probably.) Minimum wage hike? (Seems obvious.)

I think we should advocate for fairness. We can’t sit still while rules are rewritten to exclude us from the abundance that our world produces. But at the same time, I just want us to spend more time honoring our obligations than trying to find ways around them.

True, I don’t know what it’s like to enter the job market in the Great Recession, any more than I know what it’s like to come of age in World War II. I can’t even draw any conclusions from my own experience. Yes, I entered the job market right at the dot-com crash, so I have some experience of diving into a shallow pool, but I’m a sample size of one.

Stand up (if you’re able)

So what do you do if you’re starting out in terrible job market?

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The same thing you do if you are starting out with no setbacks at all. You show up. You get started. You keep going. You do the work. You push on. You push forward.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people who are hurting. I’m not saying that there aren’t real systemic problems. But despondency won’t get you anywhere. Advocate for a better world while still living in this one. Even a rigged game can be won.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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