My Future...

Why 30 has to be the new 20 for some of us…

Yesterday I listened to a TED talk by clinical psychologist Meg Jay about “Why 30 is not the new 20”.

Jay wants us to embrace our twenties because they will define our futures. However, I can’t help feeling that this pressure in today’s job market is a little unfair.

My boyfriend has just graduated and I have watched him struggle to find a job over the past few months, sending out hundreds of applications.

And what did he have to show for all this hard work? Two job offers.

He didn’t get a single other response.

Two job offers…that’s pretty good you might think. So where were these jobs then? One was for a part time position stacking shelves at a supermarket chain. The other was for a 3 month unpaid internship at a PR company.

In the end he decided to take the hit of being unpaid and get the experience of working at the PR company. Luckily he’s enjoying it but it finishes in November…then what?

I find it incredibly frustrating that this is the position that bright, hard working graduates from good universities with good degrees are being forced into. Choosing between working in a supermarket where they will gain no valuable experience or working for nothing.

And not only that, but we’re supposed to be grateful that we’re working for nothing, that we’re being given this great opportunity to be exploited.

Maybe I sound a little extreme here but this is by no means an isolated case. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about people having to work far beyond what is reasonable for an intern and yet still going home with nothing at the end of the day but the vague hope that it’ll lead to something better.

And my boyfriend is one of the lucky ones. He is lucky to live close enough to London that he can get an internship in the city and still live at home with his parents. He is lucky that he has managed to get an internship position that he is interested in and where he is able to make connections which might help him in the future. And he is lucky that he even has the luxury to make the decision between a paid and unpaid job, for many graduates the option of working for nothing is out of the question.

So what does this have to do with the TED talk I started off talking about? Jay claims that our twenties are actually “the defining decade of adulthood” which I have nothing against in principle. What I do have a problem with is that there are thousands of twentysomethings who are unable to use their twenties to define their lives in terms of a career because they are unable to find or to afford to have the career they want.

I have nothing against working hard but the fact that we have no choice but to do it for nothing seems horribly unfair. If I had it my way companies wouldn’t be allowed to have people working for them when they’re not paying them minimum wage or at least giving them the guarantee of a job at the end of it.

I don’t know what will happen when I graduate, maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones. But, to be honest, the future looks kind of bleak.

Here’s the TED talk if you’d like to watch. I like what Jay is saying. I’m just feeling a little disenchanted at the moment.


That’s all for now

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14 thoughts on “Why 30 has to be the new 20 for some of us…

  1. I was lucky when I graduated, and I know that. Other people aren’t nearly so lucky. We’ve been trying to get people around here to think about offering paid internships, so that a person can at least make a living. Some people in school have families, after all!

    I hope that your boyfriend gets lucky in November.

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    • Thank you and thanks for reading.
      I hope companies start to think a bit differently and realise that they’re getting valuable work out of these people, they deserve to be paid for it!

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  2. I feel that we can define our lives at any time, not just during a certain decade. Some people don’t start ‘defining’ their lives until they’re in their fifties…everyone’s different.

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  3. nobsj says:

    A really topical issue- this reminded me of a post I read on gselevator about how stigma against manual labor/trades has contributed to a 2:1 ratio of US college grads to US jobs that require a college education (60 million Americans: 30 million jobs). There are simply too many college-educated people competing for not enough jobs, while perfectly respectable professions that don’t require higher education are being ignored. Maybe college shouldn’t be the goal for everyone. I hadn’t really thought about it before, an interesting perspective.

    http://gselevator.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/meet-jack-the-plumber-philosopher/

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    • Thanks for the link, that was a really interesting read. Now that going to university in the UK has got much more expensive (of course something which has long been the case in the states) I have a feeling that many more people will be looking for different avenues once they finish school. And it may be for the best if it continues to be this difficult for graduates to get work.You’re right, I’d never really considered the opportunities other than university before but it’s definitely an interesting idea.

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  4. It’s beyond discouraging and horribly unfair. It sounds a whole lot like the life of an artist/musician, who also works hard, but the difference is, in the arts some amount of uncertainty is expected. To feel like you’re treading water when you’ve done everything as you should and to have so much completely out of your hands is a horrible feeling.

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  5. Pingback: Daily Prompt – Thank You Very Much | My Gap Year Adventure

  6. You are right, not everyone has the luxury of defining their career the minute they step out of college. Even if you find a job, it may take a few years and few jobs to feel like you are on the right track, so for many, they will still need their 30s to keep defining their careers. It’s hard, but I try not to compare myself to what everyone else my age is doing. Everyone’s situation is different and when you get where you are going, you will look back and see that your path and your timeline got you there just fine.

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    • Thanks for this comment, I found it really encouraging. You’re right, everyone does things at different rates and it’s definitely best not to focus on what other people are doing, eventually things will work out 🙂

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