The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


Facing the Real World: Millennials and Unemployment


“Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014” Source: Flickr

Recent studies have found that as of May 2015, 13.8 percent of millennials (aged 18 to 29) don’t have jobs. This is significantly higher than the national average of 5.4 percent. Many more millennials are underemployed.

“The conditions of unemployment and job security are changing dramatically,” said Peter Onuf, co-host of BackStory and history professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. “In some ways,” he continued, “it almost seems like a return to an older world in the gig economy where you have to do all kinds of things.”

During a recent show, BackStory guest Scott Sandage, author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in Nineteenth-Century America, shed additional light on the situation: “Millennials are still trying to process the fact that the world they were educated to believe in doesn’t quite exist anymore. That if you worked hard and filled up your resume…the world would be waiting for you,” Sandage answered. “None of those things have turned out to be true. I think younger people today are trying to reconsider how we can hold on to success without being mired in failure.”  

We wanted to learn more so we reached out to Marc Antoine, a BackStory listener and millennial who posted about his experience finding work after college on our blog. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What made you want to reach out to us and share your story?

A: I’m unemployed at the moment, I’m really young and I can tell that looking for a job has changed. Before, I never used a recruiter, I usually just networked myself into jobs. But right out of college, they [job recruiters] send you emails giving you job descriptions to see if you’re interested or not. In my experience, some of the jobs aren’t what I’m looking for, or I’m underqualified. Nowadays, I think that job recruitment is a huge industry.

Q: What surprised you about being unemployed? That you would work so closely with recruiters?

A: It did surprise me. I never expected people to email me about jobs. I just thought, I’m gonna get on a job board and start applying. But it’s definitely not the case. Companies are just trying to get as many candidates in to review and recruiters do the mass search for them. If there’s anything else, I would just say be pro-active. I think the days of being on the internet and just looking isn’t working or cutting out anymore.

Q: I’m sure you’ve heard the thing that are often said about millennials–they’re lazy, too selective with what kind of jobs that they want. How do you respond to those ideas?

A: Coming out of college, some students feel entitled, as if they’re going to be working at a certain job and paid well above average. That’s not realistic. Millennials expect things to be flexible. I don’t think they’re lazy. I just think they want to be put in situations where they can succeed. I can attest to that. Some of the criteria that I look for in a job, coming out of college, my older brother, he said he didn’t do that. He just took one of the first jobs that was offered. So, I think it’s just different. They [millennials] just want to be comfortable in their situation.

Learn more about the history of unemployment on this week’s episode of BackStory, HARD TIMES 2016.

Media Contact:

Diana Williams
BackStory Digital Editor & Strategist
[email protected]

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