Time Magazine's "Twixters" Label for 24-28 yo's Coping With The Bush Economy: My Advice
The Jan 24th edition of Time's cover story was dedicated to mid-20-somethings unable to find work, despite a 4-year degree, record tuition debt, and traditional trends of getting married, having kids, and buying houses by the time they are 22...
I would argue that what we are seeing is the inevitable impact of Bush Admin fiscal policy that rewards corporations for sending jobs overseas, tightens funding for educational grants and low interest student loans, and caters to global capitalism, rather than serve the electorate and nation it is responsible for.
Searching for the article, which Time won't display online without a $4.95 fee, I found a multitude of conservative editorials aimed at the article. They saw it as "liberal bias" from Time, which is far from a "liberal" establishment, but cited psychologists, sociologists, and economists, who felt that this generation's woes were the result of overzealous corporate marketing and a paradigm shift in when people should start getting married and conceiving potential draftees and taxpayers. Overwhelmingly, the conservative feedback was negative.
I believe this is extraodinarily unfair to 20-somethings who have been victimized by this administration and its policies. Without going into how educational dollars should be spent or any critique of the global economy itself, I feel compelled to offer these "Twixters" some advice which I formulated for myself as a student during the first Bush Admin.
The article states that the manufacturing jobs that provided the means to buy a home and raise a family for those who did not want to seek higher education in the past are mostly gone. I agree. The article in Time also posits that the letters BA or BS next to your name are no longer enough to elevate your highering and earnings potential in the labor market. I agree with this conclusion as well.
This is my advice to people who, as the Time article states, are wandering through multiple addresses, jobs, and college programs, in search for the opportunity that their parents had. Again, it is not an indictment of the current system (though it is worthy of supporting one), but advice for those who want to excel in the current economy, but are living within the rhetoric and communications of the economy that prevailed in the 80s and early 90s.
1) The Global Economy is here. To distinguish yourself, get your two years of foreign language for a BA in a second language that will give you and advantage in that marketplace. Mandarin (the official language of China), Russian, Indian, and still Spanish are major advantages in the US labor market these days. These are the developing global trade partners that will have the most impact on the US economy of the next 5-50 years, so foreign language proficiency is essential, not only for your earnings potential and hireability, but also for your potential to have a great life through work-related travel and cultural engagement.
2) Look at your years in college as a job, not some interim phase to adulthood. Most universities still have full-time status, afterwhich additional credits do not add to the cost of tuition. Usually occuring at 12 credits, students can add extra classes per quarter/semester and no additional per credit charge. Not only does this reduce the cost per class, it expedites the time to graduation and reduces the other costs associated with being in school (like rent and food).
3) Look at your education as an investment, not an extension of school. At any point in time, there is a wealth of information available to those who seek it on what the demand in the labor market is and will be in decades to come. Do your homework. You would not invest in a stock you know will be worthless, so don't invest in a degree that will be worthless. Health care, information sciences, business specialties, and foreign language proficiency are skills that are easily forecastable.
4) A strong minor for a weak major. If you are set on a liberal arts degree like sociology or philosophy, that by itself is not that valuable in the labor market, make sure you have that foreign language, but also invest in a minor that will give you marketable skills--computer science, mathematics, business, etc.
5) Don't be a marionette for marketing gurus. Understand that you are still the target of a vast machinery of marketing that sees dollar signs in your demographic. Ignore the multiple credit card offers you will receive, auto leases, up-scale fasion statements, etc. Creditors know that many college students are just a way of reaching into their parent's pockets. Unfortunately, those who don't have top 20% wealthly parents, it is the beginning of a credit web that only becomes more sticky and entagled over time.
6) Get good grades. Let's face it, if you're going to pay for it, you might as well take it seriously. I've seen too many students operate under the "C" principal. The days when graduating with a 2.5 gpa are no different than a 3.5 are gone. Take it seriously.
7) Aim for the best school you can afford, but know that a price tag and "Ivy League" credential are NOT the main contributors. I've seen Northridge and San Jose State students outpeform and out-advance Stanford and USC grads on may occasions. Take your best option, then give it your best shot.
8) When it comes time to enter the work force, don't be childish about clinging to your social group. If your best chance to move up and get a solid resume under your name means moving away from parents or friends, go with it. If they are real friends, they will come visit you and you will see them when you go back. Too many students make the mistake of limiting themselves to "I want to stay in Portland (or wherever)" when it comes time to look for graduate opportunities.
9) Regardless of what you study, make sure you emerge from college proficient in modern desktop tools--MS Office, Outlook, etc. Also look for opportunities to learn ERP systems like Oracle, Peoplesoft, SAP, etc. Proficiency in these systems definitely provide an advantage in the current job market.
10) Perhaps most importantly, understand that for all the faults our current nation and system have, you still have much more opportunity than most people in the world of your age. Don't let the media and system put blinders on you. You may not be successful at your favorite choice of career, but there are still many alternatives you can find that you may find fulfilling and lucrative enough to afford that American dream. You may have grandparents or other relatives who shoed horses or picked berries to save money for college. You may also have relatives who had to abandon some of their dreams during the great depression, or lost great fortunes. The history of mankind has never been an easy one, even though your parents were lucky enough to live in a period of extraordinary opportunity and economic expansion. If you don't like the present system, know that you can do more to change it by winning at it and not being corrupted by it, than by being defeated by it.
Last, and without numeric annotation, this comment covers all of the above. Take the time to read The Wall Street Jounral, the NY Times, Washington Post, The Economist, The London Guardian, etc, and be responsible and proactive about your role in a democracy--a government of the governed. Also read Indymedia and sites like it. Make your friends aware and be politically active so that you can do your part to shape the future you inherited by your forefathers' efforts and leave a legacy you would want your children to inherit themselves.
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