Margaret Wente, a columnist for the Globe and Mail, a national newspaper in Canada, today published an opinion piece about the “entitlement generation,” and how their expectations for life are rather out of whack with the realities of today’s economy, and today’s world. Among her points? A recent survey showed that new university graduates expected an average starting salary of $53,000 per year. The realities of the job market, of course, will not bear these expectations out. The question is, will these young people accept jobs they think are below them, or hold out for a job they feel is worthy? And if they do accept what they feel to be sub-par jobs, will they approach them with the openness, willingness to learn, and positive attitude needed to advance in a company, and in a career?
With these questions having no obvious answer, it’s not surprising that so many young people are now living with — and financially relying upon — their parents. Wente argues parents are to blame for the lack of ambition and reality-consciousness of their children, having told them since birth that they were successful always, even when they weren’t. It may seem unfair to let reality in to the parent-child relationship at this stage, but it truly is better late than never. If boomerang kids feel entitled to live at home until the perfect, $50K+ job comes along, they will be at home for a very, very long time.
During my post-college stay with Mom and Dad, I worked for slightly more than minimum wage at a bookstore. It was a long way from the lofty career I’d pictured, but I was, after all, 21 years old with only retail and service job experience. The high-level career job offers were not pouring in. But, I did earn some money — enough to get out of the house after eight months — and I threw myself at every opportunity that little job offered. I started a community book club. I asked to become the liaison with community newspaper ad reps, then started writing some of the copy for newspaper ads. I launched a very basic store website. I never made more than $9 an hour, but I left that job with real, relevant experience to convert into a first “Real Job,” which turned into a career. That member of the “entitlement generation” living in your basement needs to take a similar approach. And, even if you’ve coddled them all along, it’s up to you to help them see that no dream job offer is coming. To make it on their own, they’ve got to make their own opportunities. It starts by looking for a job, even if it’s not a career.