The Inside Agenda Blog

Youth Unemployment: Pounding the Recession Pavement

by Sandra Gionas Tuesday January 26, 2010

I graduated during the last recession in the early 1990s. Luckily I had a part-time job teaching aerobics to bring money in, as I fruitlessly applied everywhere, willing to take any job I could get. I had an Honours B.A. in Political Science and Spanish and I was kicking myself at the time for investing those years in what was commonly thought of as “a useless degree.” Actually, it’s still thought of that way, isn’t it?

I applied for jobs in public relations; I applied to staff the Expo Pavilion in Seville, Spain; I applied for research positions, translator contracts, office assistant jobs, and I also applied to be a bank teller. Nothing panned out.  I even ended up paying a consultant $80 to spruce up my resume. I didn’t get much for that $80.

When I finally got a job, I was hired by an insurance firm to be a customer relations representative at a cool $21K a year. Six months later, the firm realized it could keep hiring university grads at the even lower rate of $18K per annum — people were that desperate. I cried when I saw my first weekly pay cheque, a pale comparison to what I had been making as a freelance fitness instructor. Eventually I gave up and went back to school to get a degree in Journalism.

Fast forward to this recession.

Graduates today have a lot of resources to help them land a job. Websites and blogs such as “Brazen Careerist” by tonight’s guest Penelope Trunk, are meant to give Gen Y an edge in their career planning and job searches. There are hundreds if not thousands of similar resources online. Trunk says today’s grads are not willing to settle for the McJobs I was willing to take. Gen Yers will simply move back to their parents’ basement and create documentaries for the web. She thinks Gen Y is fabulous in their outlook, in their skills and says this recession will not affect their long-term career prospects.

It’s still not so great, apparently, for us Gen-Xers. Stymied by Baby Boomers who won’t move on from the workplace and hearing the footsteps of our younger, more digitally attuned coworkers, Trunk says my cynical generation will continue to suffer. There are studies we will discuss tonight which may actually bear that out.

I hope you get a chance to watch tonight at 8 or 11. Do you think the recession is creating a “New Lost Generation?”  Let me know. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Economics    Education