Skip to Content

Millennials and Underemployment: The Stressed Out Generation

Working in retail

The boomerang generation, roughly defined as those in their 20s and early 30s (me, you, you, and yes, you), are having a rough time. Of our generation, one in five people is currently living with his or her parents. Additionally, 60 percent still depend on their parents for financial support, according to PewResearch. While some express satisfaction with their living arrangement, roughly 80 percent of those living at home admit that they don’t have enough money to lead the kind of life they want. 

In fact, a recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York report finds that un- and under-employment rates for recent college graduates have remained high since the 2001 recession. Furthermore, recent graduates are increasingly underemployed, working in low-wage jobs or part-time job that do not require a bachelor’s degree.  

Are you suffering from un- or underemployment?

Not having a satisfactory career not only hurts you financially, it can also affect your wellbeing. 78 percent of Americans view money as a significant source of stress, American Psychological Association reports. Additionally, unemployed and underemployed workers are twice as likely as their employed counterparts to experience depression, anxiety and poor self-esteem. 

Not surprising. Not only are our jobs – the way we make a living, the single most time-consuming, energy-sapping thing in our lives, they also give our lives structure, purpose, and meaning. A regular nine-to-five job with an hour lunch makes a nine hour workday. Throw in a two hour commute and one hour for overtime, you are looking at an average 12 hour workday. If say, you sleep six hours everyday, work would take up two-third your waking hours!  

Okay, so having a satisfactory job is important. But why are we, the boomerang kids having such a hard time starting a career? Is it the recession? Or are we what Time magazine dubbed us, “The Me Me Me Generation,” who are narcissistic, overconfident, entitled, and lazy?

Frankly, if you fit any of the aforementioned adjectives, hint: “narcissistic, lazy,” you need to get your acts together. But if you find yourself trying hard but seem to be trapped in an endless cycle of internships, I have some good news for you. 

The unemployment rate declined to 6.1 percent in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains were widespread and over the past three months job growth has averaged 272,000 per month. 

But how can you turn this into an opportunity and land yourself a job? Here are 5 ways to deal with un- and under-employment. 

1. Don’t beat yourself up.  Even if you are “not a good fit for this position,” a rejection does not mean that you are not good enough. Accept the fact that you didn’t get the position, analyze what didn’t work or went wrong during the interview, fix your mistakes and keep trying

2. Get a paid internship. A lot of people will tell you they’ve done unpaid internships at one point in their career, and you should too. But unless your dream job is working for Vogue, I would say forget about unpaid internship. Forbes contributor Rachel Burger points out that unpaid internships are unlikely to turn into a real job and will lead to lower-paying jobs in the future. Also, getting paid (even if it’s $8.50/hour) will not only motivate you to work (yeah, paychecks), but also ensure that your employer will treat you like a real worker instead of a coffee fetcher. 

3. Know thy company’s work culture. Researching about the company you want to work for is always a plus. But on top of that, remember to go one step further and look up the company in Glassdoor. Even for internships, you want to make sure you will be in a supportive environment where you will learn and develop your career.  

4. Be personable.  Even in the age of Big Data, employers still make high-level business decisions, including hiring decision, based on gut reaction, respect, trust, and other emotions, says a new study. During the interview be both professional and personable, and make an effort to relate. For example, when I interviewed for my current job, my editor and I discussed Speakeasy. I was able to use that and add a personal touch to my thank-you email. 

5. Nail that “tell me about yourself.” Every interview you will be asked to “tell me a little about yourself.” Cringe. Not a fan. But if we have to do it, do it well. Keep your bio short and sweet, remember the average human attention is now five seconds. Practice beforehand to figure out what points you want to highlight. Do not, again I repeat, do not tell them you were on your high school track and field team. 

Good luck and stay positive. Remember that having control (perceived or actual) over our lives will make us happier and less stressed. Keep knocking.

Sherry Hsieh is an emerging finance reporter who also writes about dining, travel, health and arts in her free time. The ex-Californian-turned-New Yorker knows that living in the city can be stressful (‘stress’ with a capital ‘S’). Read more about the topic on her blog, stressfreenyc – curating an anxiety free zone.
Works published in World Journal, News for Chinese, Bedford&Bowery.