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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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Education is more than vocational training 05.Feb.2005 23:15

Bear

In my opinion, one of the more unfortunate trends of the last couple of decades is the tendency to focus education on vocational training. Many college degree programs are very vocationally oriented: majors such as accounting, business administration, computer science, etc., and these are the ones labeled as "marketable".

Life is more than jobs and work. People's identity is about more than what they do for money. We are not our jobs. Why should we have to market ourselves like a product?

If someone has a love for philosophy, or literature, or art, and especially if it is their passion, then this is what they ought to pursue, regardless of the opinions of those who may try to steer them in a more "practical" direction.

Yes, the economy sucks. And I sympathize with anyone with college loans to pay off especially in today's economy. People take jobs they dislike just to pay off their college loans, sometimes feeling stuck in these jobs for years.

To be educated is to be curious about the world, to learn about many things, to pursue one's passions, to explore ideas, cultures and different ways of looking at life. I've met many people with college degrees in "marketable" fields who couldn't carry on a lively conversation or write an interesting essay if their life depended on it. In fact, a person can be educated without attending college, and vice-versa.

I did agree with the comments about frugality. Frugal living creates opportunities. For example, doing work you like, even if it doesn't pay as well.

Community colleges 05.Feb.2005 23:46

George Bender

The colleges are churning out more graduates than there are "good" jobs. I suggest going to a two year community college and learning a trade. While the liberal arts BAs like me are going down the tubes, you'll actually have a way to make a living. But do get some vocational counseling so you'll know what kinds of employees are in demand. At any given time, some fields will be saturated.

However, I think most of us are screwed. Learn how to live on little money. Don't buy anything you don't really need. Don't have a car. Don't have kids (very expensive). Save money. No credit cards. Be self-employed if you can. Give as little back to the system as you can. Volunteer. We've got to take care of each other, because the system is not going to do it. Get political.


Thank you for your advice! 06.Feb.2005 00:46

Jamie

It means a lot to us that there are people out there who are thinking realistically and positively.

Smart, smart, smart. 06.Feb.2005 17:40

Colby

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one thinking this way. I am turning my old AA in art into a BA and adding political science on the side along with everything else I can find. My own contribution to this would be:

You may not have another chance to afford school, so don't be timid, it's a buffet - load up on as much and as many different things as you can cram onto your plate. You never know when you will use that "useless" information. Take some PE every term, physical health is good for mental health and cheaper than getting sick.

Oh great.... 06.Feb.2005 18:31

flower skunk

The article started out fine only to denigrate into the same old, silly advice about going to a four year college and 'getting good grades'. What good is a 4.0 GPA if there are no good job openings in the US in the future? All of this advice looks great on a resume but if you don't have the opportunity to hand it in for a job opening it does you no good. This is just as bad as the republicrat's solution of 'job training' to the disappearance of jobs overseas. Job training in what? Waitressing? Janitoring? If all jobs that don't have to be done over here are going overseas, the only jobs left low-wage service jobs which you can get with little or no training. So what's the point?
And 'learning a foreign language' may be good for getting a middle management job handling the 'new hirees' overseas but I don't want to be a party to the degradation of the local job market. And besides, more likely they'll hire a foreigner who speaks english; there's alot of them out there because many countries teach english in elementary school on up; so much so that it's a universal language for everything nowadays.
In fact, I agree with the first poster that a university should be a place to learn and research for the sake of knowledge, not to just get good job training. In fact, four year universities are lousy and inefficient job training centers in comparison to community colleges/vocational schools. I wish many more young people would look at going to a community college for good job training instead dragging themselves through 4 years at a university only to end up with a boatload of debt(community colleges are way cheaper) and no high-paying job prospects. I know at one time a four year degree would have guaranteed a job but with a sizable chunk of the population going to a university, it doesn't make you stand out that much anymore.
Maybe people need to stop looking to industry to hire them. Industry doesn't give a shit about the local people; most managers would eat their young if it would give them a better bottom line. It's time for people to create their own 'economy' so they can stop being dependant on industry. Stop going to work for someone who doesn't care about whether they make you desistute by shipping your job overseas; make things for yourself and others who care about you.
That's what I've been trying to do of late; I like to sew and I'm thinking of making clothes to sell or barter for other things (not quite there yet though; I'm in the middle of finish up something which will take me until summer, after that I'm free to do what I want). Are there any collectives who do sewing? Would anyone be interested in starting one in the summer?

Adulthood is a farce 06.Feb.2005 18:49

more than wage labor

Our system that is dominated by an economicy that results from profits over people has been deteriorating for some time. The crisis forces the bad rational to extremes. Desires and wills of peoples are not accomodated and in fact are expected to not exist. No solutions to the falsification of time in wage-labor (wage-slavery) will be solved by any one or any group in the political system set up to maintain its existence in power and give preferential treatment to those racketts that have been woven into it. We have not had good jobs since our communities have given up lived experience and quality in labor for the world of appearence and the job of consumer. I survive to work when i am obliged to work to survive. But we all know these students deserve more in life than a deadly bore! It seems youth may be the only existence and that adulthood is infact a farce. Let the truth be your guide past all the parallel argument bs.

I've never seen things as bad as they are now 06.Feb.2005 19:08

Snazmo

Rober Hinds does his best to put a brave face on some of the most AWFUL times our country is facing: not only politically but especially workwise. I'm 40 years old and resigned from a dry, boring government job in Seattle almost 3 years ago. I know all the software and have excellent admin office skills, even had a secretary under me. Know what? I can't find a job for the life of me...I have applied to HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of jobs and lived in 3 different major cities! All I can seem to get is the occasional 'contractor's helper' shit job (like sanding sheet rock all day--just awful). There is something very, very wrong going on with our economy. I know I am not alone in making this honest observation (and btw I am NOT on drugs, don't drink, have two college degrees, and held the previous job for 7 years so don't make any of the typical assumptions you might tend to want to make).

We are being screwed over by our corporate occupied government. Even temp jobs are vanishing! What we are seeing is the end result of free market capitalism: more and more corporate mergers means less and less jobs (that is why they merge to begin with--to save money on employee payrolls, and to eliminate competition and keep smaller companies from establishing themselves). Of course Bush is dismantling the last remnants of the social safety net. Look at the hoards of homeless everywhere, in every city coast to coast.

The solution is a socialist system: now before you write me off for saying this, consider the definition of socialism in Webster's dictionary: "the theory of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society, with all members sharing in the work and the products." Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Now contrast that with capitalism as defined in the same dictionary: "the economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for profit."

What is most striking in the above two systems as defined is that in socialism you have SHARING of goods and resources, e.g. everybody is guaranteed a job and proceeds. In contrast, capitalism is PRIVATELY HELD. In essence you are locked out of your own country's economy and profits! This is precisely what is happening today. You have a handful of super-mega wealthy industrialists who not only run our economy, but now have also totally taken over our government! As Karl Marx observed centuries ago, the inevitable end result of free market capitalism is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite group of business magnates. This is what our country, the USA, has now become. This trend will intensify in the coming years ahead. In contrast, Canada, France, Germany, even Great Britain all have socialist mechanisms built into their economies unlike here. These countries have the decency and humanity still in them to grant all citizens healthcare as a human right--not a privelege of the wealthy classes. America is a very harsh place.

Of course I know America will never be socialist, as the wealthy business elites have invested millions of dollars over the decades past brainwashing everybody into thinking "socialist=bad...socialist=bad...socialist=bad...socialist=bad...ect., etc. Precisely why they are doing this is because they want it all for themselves; and not for me or you. Sadly too many Americans are in vehement denial about how they are being fleeced by the system today. Mr. Hinds makes a gallant effort at suggesting positive solutions to our currrent employment crisis, and they are all very good ideas. However we need to stop trying to always conform, and fit into a system which plainly and evidently is failing far too many of our countrymen! Is it right that young people struggle to go to college, get degrees, go hugely into debt then find no jobs? Come on! Things are really wrong here and nobody seems to have the guts to take a stand!

Frankly, I really don't know what the solution is to fix this mess we are now in in this country. It may be beyond repair. The best advice I can offer you is to seriously think of moving to another country. This is your best shot given the current circumstances. This "America is the best place in the world" nonsense you always hear in this country is pure bullshit. Just go visit Europe or Canada...both are rated far higher than the US in standards of living by the UN, and other objective studies of country comparisons. Move to New Zealand, or to Canada or even Australia. All are far more humane places to live, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing your tax dollars aren't going to slaughtering thousands of innocent people in far away lands. Thousands of Americans are now doing just this. I thought I pass this along to you.

Good luck out there and hope we all find jobs (be them in USA or in another country),

Snazmo

Wow, someone actually talking about the economy on Portland IMC ! 06.Feb.2005 19:16

Red neck

Hold they're not..
What have you got, near 10% unemployment, 1/8 without health insurance? Aren't they saying it's structural? That means you're fucked, like those people in Eastern Europe?
I find all your advice rather dubious at best. Sounds like the dribble guidance counselors dish out or something out of the Readers Digest.
1.Learn another language Hindustani? Mandarin? (like to see that) Can remember when they were telling everyone to learn Japanese (Like that's possible) At best most Americans seem only able to learn a little dabble of Spanish. Anyway you're still competing against tons of native speakers. May give you a slight advantage.
2. That might help with cost. But what you're telling people to do is take a backbreaking load. Work hard!
3. Do your homework. Jesus, that cliche should be banned. Truth is it nothing is forecastable. Jobs that looked like sure things a few years ago are now sure losers
-Million high-tech jobs lost last four years
-The United States lost nearly 1.5 million jobs to china between 1989 and 2003.
-The United States has also just experienced the sharpest loss of jobs this far into a business cycle since the Great Depression, with nearly 2.9 million private-sector jobs lost
 http://www.epinet.org/printer.cfm...

4. In fact my wife's sociology degree has proven invaluable because it has allowed us to live in the country. Where life is much cheaper and far less stressfully. Teaching is one of the last fairly secure occupations out there.
5. Of course never believe loan sharks.....
6. Get good grades-ha ha ha ...
7.------
8.Don't be afraid to become a transient worker. Don't be "childish" about clinging to your home, family or social group. If they love you they'll send you cards and call on you birthday....Capitalism and tide wait for no person. ..and you're pretty much washed up.
9. Become a techie. You'll make everyone else in the office look like bumpkins..more classes, more debt
10,"You may have grandparents or other relatives who shoed horses or picked berries to save money for college." Bahhhhha! You mean they actually owned property and had a stake in the economic/political order. Or could at least find well paying secure jobs...or join a union.
"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."
Ok. I'll give you some brownie points on that one. But the first thing you need to realize is that you're not middle-class. You're white-collar working class. You have lost most of the advantages that entails and are now subjected to the same kind of conditions that used to be associated with blue-collar workers. Holding on to your perceived status is politically and economically suicidal. This isn't about the Bush economy, it's about Capitalism. The decline of the new middle-class/white-collar has been going on for quite some time. (since the 70s) In the mid-eighties when I came of age I knew it was ending, things have gone pretty much as I expected...
I adopted an alternative strategy. Stayed out of debt as much as possible, saved as much as I could. Drove economical cars, save energy wherever possible. Became as self-sufficient as possible. Tried to become a post-consumer as much as possible. .... Dropping out makes you health, wealthy and wise. I've had a great life so far. Say out of the mainstream unless you want to end up as road kill.

Red neck's handy tip for today: If you have an electric hot water heater find the breaker switch and turn it off when you don't need it. That's half of your electric bill! It only takes about 20 minutes for it to heat up and will stay warm many hours after, especially in the summer. Think solar hot water heater-worth it

George is my favorite commentator on Portland-straight up, no chaser.

I said this is not a criticism of the current system... 06.Feb.2005 19:37

Robert Ted Hinds

It is a prescription on how to survive it so that you can have, what the Time article described as, a disappearing lifestyle.

I strongly believe education for knowledge is a great motivation and if I had been elected mayor, I would have pushed for more critical thinking, economics, and other core conceptual tools to be implemented in the public school pedogagy. That would be the essential element of a government of the government, along with a completely transparent public policy apparatus.

As for the idea that the current state of our political economy is contributing to the degredation of society, I agree as well. That was not the point of the article. The point of this article was to prescribe a means by which somebody in the "Twixter" sub-generation may prepare themselves to beat the competition in the labor market by disciplining themselves for the current cost-benefit scenario of higher education and knowing how to market themselves to beat the competiton.

Finally, as all great liberal economists do, understand that economics is a science that begins when nacine planets form in new solar systems. The prevailing gravity of the forming planetary mass, it's ability to retain oxygen, exist in an orbit near the triple point of H20, etc., is economics. Likewise, the nomadic nature of early man that followed prey across the plains and suffered from droughts and other natural phenomenae, is economics. You don't need to worry about being eaten by saber tooth tigers, or leaving your village because the creeks have run dry, but you do need to understand your current environment and plan your life accordingly. You don't have any more power to advance that a degree in art, with a concentration is pop art, is going to meet you needs anymore than a rain dance will bring rain to the veldt.

Know that you still have a lot more opportunity than a child born in Camaroon, Zimbabwe, or North Korea. Understand the scope of opportunity and play to it. An immigrant fisherman from Belgrade to America in 1795 would have had to totally reaquip to survive in the American Plains. A world where we can all do what we would ideally like to do has never beena accomplished, though its achievement is part and parcel of what democracy is all about. You can do more to bring such a eutopia into existence by winning at the system at any point in time, than by being a martyr to it. That's my thesis.

Quick Addendum to Mr. Hinds Addendum 06.Feb.2005 20:14

Snazmo

Mr Hinds:

You've got to watch out for the old platitude of "be thankful you weren't born in..." as you say here:

"Know that you still have a lot more opportunity than a child born in Camaroon, Zimbabwe, or North Korea."

The "be thankful you weren't born in (fill in blank with one of the worst nations in the world today)" is one of the weakest and lamest types of advice one can give! Please!

If we compare our country to only the worst countries in the world as you do above we are not doing ourselves any favors. We need to compare ourselves to THRIVING econonomies and countries and see what they are doing right and try to incorporate those things here. For example: why are large US corporations packing up and moving to Sweden of all places? It's because they have a WORKING socialist system: taxes are higher--but they actually have Universities easily accessible to ALL young people, and nationalized healthcare that is top-notch, and low crime rates. It is absurd to "try to be thankful that we are not as bad off as Bangladesh". Such comparisons help nobody (Twixters included), and fool nobody as well.

Snazmo

My advice... 06.Feb.2005 22:09

Kirk McCall kirkbmccall@yahoo.com

My advice:

Quit school as soon as you become aware that you have control of your life.

Get a job

Buy a damaged or trashed or fire gutted house...fix it up....sell it...repeat.

I quit school at 14. By age 40 I was a millionaire by dint of effort and the great (!) Portland real estate market.

Kirk

Swot up on Sweden 06.Feb.2005 23:15

Groan

For the young generation of Americans which has been utterly screwed by the Republicans, who have been laying the ground for your misery for the last 30-odd years, my advice is to swot up on the history of Swedish social democracy. Sweden - along with comparable social democracies like Denmark - is proof that a dynamic capitalist economy can co-exist with most of the things (such as extremely low poverty rates) that we all desire. Once you are reasonably well-informed about Sweden, you will have a pretty good idea that there are possibilities even within capitalism. Even if other systems may be even more desirable than Swedish social democracy (e.g., Parecon), we have to get to be somewhere like Sweden before we have a hope of going beyond it.

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