I just lost my job.
Or, rather, I didn’t get my job back that I was hopefully being re-hired for.
It’s a bit confusing, but that’s the point of the story: jobs for young people just starting out in the career world are confusing and not secure.
Last summer, I was hired on with the federal government on a temporary status. Things were going great until I hit a cap on the number of hours I could work…and I wasn’t notified of this fact until exactly one week before my position ended.
Not to worry; my bosses were opening a new position to fill my now-vacant one, and I was hoping to be re-hired on a more permanent basis (even then, it would only have been on a one-year contract, renewable for up to four years).
But, then Trump was elected, and within hours of his first full weekday in office, he’s signed an executive order putting a hiring freeze in place. My job vanished faster than an outlaw with an eye for the border.
I don’t know what the future will hold for me now (it took me two years after graduating just to get the temp job I did have), but one thing’s been made blindingly obvious: Millennials face choppy employment waters, and we need to be prepared.
- 0.1 You’re Going To Face More Job Changes As A Young Person
- 0.2 Make Plans, But Don’t Be Afraid To See Them Flushed Down The Toilet
- 1 Ways To Handle The Changing Employment Landscape
You’re Going To Face More Job Changes As A Young Person
Let’s be honest. The types of jobs we remember our parents holding—stable, permanent, and with good benefits—are not the jobs we’re going to be offered right out of the gate after graduation (if we even make it that far).
Nope. The hands of Fate have something far more satirical in store for us.
A study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that even in the Baby Boomer generation, the average number of jobs people held when they were 18-24 was 5.5—about one job per year. By the time those same people made it to ages 40-48, that number had dropped in half to 2.4 jobs. They’d stabilized and settled.
I don’t know how those numbers will play out for the millennial generation because as of yet there are no 40-48 year-old millennials (send us a study, Doc Brown!). But I can tell you right now, even if we’re not changing jobs more than the young Boomer pinballs (and sometimes it sure seems like we are), these job transitions are not easier to bear.
Furthermore, the types of jobs we’re jumping around from aren’t exactly the types of jobs that are gonna break the bank.
Case in point: check out this amazing website, Crap Wildlife Jobs, devoted to publicly shaming the widespread amount of unpaid “jobs” in the wildlife field. It’s pretty much my favorite website ever.
In 2016, the average college grad entered the marketplace fresh with low job prospects and $37,172 in student loan debt. In contrast, student loan debt was largely unheard of in the Baby Boomer era, unless you were going to school to be a doctor or something crazy.
When an average of $351 per month of your already-feeble paycheck is going to student debt alone, it’s tough to get ahead. But get ahead we must, because we cannot afford to fail! #famouslastwords
Creditors be like:
Make Plans, But Don’t Be Afraid To See Them Flushed Down The Toilet
Most Millennials were encouraged to go to college.
I was no different. My own parents preached the virtues of college so often and with such vigor that I half expected to come out with an IQ of 160, a six-figure job offer, and a fabulous coiffure to boot.
Instead, I spent my first two years out of college scrubbing floors and cleaning up lab animal shit for a job that didn’t even fully pay the bills. Then, when I was finally on the verge of actually getting a job that would have merited the work of going to college, it was wiped away by one dude.
I don’t know what’ll happen in the next few months let alone the next few years. But, I do know that I need to stay flexible and find the next thing in this changing employment landscape.
When one door closes, it’s time to find a new door. Hint: it’ll help if you stay in a hallway full of doors.
Ways To Handle The Changing Employment Landscape
Start a side hustle or a business
One of the best ways to cope with a changing employment landscape is to not pin down your entire income to one feeble job thread. Businesses and side hustles are the perfect tool for making money outside of your day job because you can dictate how much you make by using what your momma gave you (your brains—although I hear other options are lucrative too).
They’re also good because you can develop them while still working at your day job.
My side hustle (freelance writing) is actually the safety net I’m using right now to keep myself afloat through this period of unemployment. Without it, I’d probably be sweating enough bullets to drown my cats by now.
Be prepared for another career
The job skills you’ve developed thus far can also be used in another career. Always keep in mind what careers are close to your own, in the event that you need to switch over at some point.
For example, with wildlife biologist career training, I can also pivot into a role as a park ranger, a naturalist, or an educator. I could work in animal control, or as a public relations professional for an environmental group.
Related post: The Financial Reality Of Being A Broke Biologist
By having a mental list of backups, you don’t need to throw your hands up in the air (like you just don’t care) at the first door that closes. Pound on all those other motherf%&@$rs until one opens up.
Choose to study something with wide applicability
If you’re still in school, it’s not too late!
I started out as a general biology major. I later chose to narrow my focus down to a wildlife biology major based on the assumption that a) wildlife rules, and b) having a specific degree would make me more marketable because I would have a defined skill set.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
The sheer numbers work against people in professions with limited applicability. In 2014, there were 21,300 wildlife biologists in the U.S.—that’s 410 per state. Of those, only a small handful are at the entry-level position, less than that are even open at any given time, and even fewer will be located wherever you live.
By contrast, there were 1,332,700 accountants in the U.S. in 2014—25,629 per state. The chances that there’ll be an open position at a town near you are much higher.
I’m not saying you absolutely shouldn’t choose something with limited applicability, but be prepared for the odds to be stacked against you.
Most of all, be proactive in seeking out ways to diversify your income. Long gone are the days when you could while away a good chunk of your time just zoning out in front of the TV like a zombie until bedtime before falling off the couch and then rolling your way back to the bedroom (oh wait, was that just me?).
Instead of being a passive participant in life, why not use that time to learn a new skill like coding, or a new language? Read books, take Udemy courses, watch YouTube videos. Learn how to take f$#*ing awesome photos, and then save up for a camera. Put up a listing as a dog walker on Rover and get some exercise while making money. Start a blog. Volunteer.
I don’t know much about you, dear reader, but with my magic crystal ball I can make the following prediction: There’s trouble brewing somewhere in your future. The only question is this: will you be prepared for it?
What do you think? What ways have you prepared for a changing employment landscape while you’re young? Leave a comment below!