We seem to be in a much looonger than expected economic recovery. Not quite 10 years but getting there fast. The Atlantic says this month that The Economy Is Still Terrible for Young People and wonders Why Recent Graduates Don’t Negotiate. Actually, there are far more people than these two groups in the same situation but those articles talk about conditions that can be measured. While we should remain largely optimistic as unbridled negativity can be counterproductive, realism is always necessary. It is way past time to start actively thinking about solutions.
Think about this. If you say to yourself every week it is bound to get better in the next month or next year, you cannot be surprised that 10 years later, you simply languished as things did not get better. Think forward as to how to change that picture 10 years from now. That, is what has been missing from the larger conversation. Seeing potential, skills, and potentially valuable capacity to contribute atrophy is not exactly a great outcome. Other paths are possible.
I think the most important think a new graduate can do is to set their sights firmly towards the Federal government. I tried this, it did not work for me, but I still think it is a great idea. My error was in starting too late, but if you start early enough you could probably see huge benefits.
Federal | Prep yourself for work in a Federal agency, military, or Peace Corps. You will gain valuable experience working in a highly structured organization that is usually very good about professional development. It is an organization you can research and prepare to work with. They generally do a good job hiring people and it does beat the alternative of a lack of work. Sometimes you need to steady yourself before you do something riskier like start a business, possibly fail, and end up further back economically.
Established | You got to decide if you are going to work for the same company for 5 – 10 years or you have a yearning to beat your own path. If you are not interested in the risk of running your own company or being a contract for hire consultant with uneven income, you should definitely aim for the large, established companies and make a real life of it. Go in with realistic expectations.
Entrepreneur | The last common solution is to just start a business. It is actually easy to start a business. The hard part is having the right product or a commitment to a certain set of actions and thought processes you must execute every day to bring in income. You got to have the right product/solution, personality, and a steady energy level. You can learn the mindset from Ed Hess in a Youtube video.
Will it Work for You?
The individual solutions I gave work for some, it will not work for everyone. The various Federal agencies on usajobs.gov, your local active duty, guard, reserve military recruiters, and the Peace Corps have selection criteria not everyone will meet. Each big business has only so many slots for given positions which, like the Federal positions, is why you should apply to all of them all the time.
The recovery is taking a long while. It is a large cycle. A point in time will see huge prosperity for more people. Just when it will come this way is unknown. The damaging part is when you are part of a generation or so that is far too old to benefit and you languished.
When I say build a business, I do not mean with the attempt to become a billionaire. Instead, what I really mean is you directly fund yourself by selling directly to others rather than occupy a position as an employee where you indirectly benefit from a company’s sales. While you have the time to think, do not think of a large sophisticated scheme, but rather, what can you do in the style of Uber and Instacart to progress in your living circumstances because slots in the traditional institutions may be unavailable.
The first massive trillionaire in history will be the person who creates a robotic breakthrough that allows their company to absorb the largest share of physical labor jobs. Building houses, building skyscrapers, roads, ditches, and everything to include waitressing. That is very far off in the future I guess. Another massive trillionaire will be some pharmaceutical genius who solves important health problems.
Those events will create other residual jobs but many other jobs will decline. That is the path of progress. The stretch of recoveries in the future will only get longer but there is always a niche to fulfill. The key is to remember to focus on a niche and not get distracted by overly broad, unrealistic plans.
After all of that, perhaps we can then start to answer another question from the Atlantic, What If Everybody Didn’t Have to Work to Get Paid?