A Generation Out at Sea

Here's a lifeline.

A Generation Out at Sea

I stood there in café in my milk stained shoes and apron, staring down at the milky-brown waves of the recently stirred soy-pumpkin spice latte when a thought came to me: That was it! It’s a boat. This job is only a vessel.

Just minutes ago my coworker, another barista and writer, expressed the concern that many in my generation have: Dissatisfaction in their current job circumstance and the dissolution of realizing the dissonance their life has become between the job they have and the career they want—no, need.

Hey, now. I know what you’re thinking. And, no, my mind has not turned to mush from 7 years of retail. There is proven fact that it’s almost every millennials’ problem.

Let’s Face the Facts:

In a 2015 article Forbes elucidated that the national unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%, the lowest rate since 2008, but this low percentage meant nothing for Millennials (born 1980-2000).

U.S. census data show that 40 percent of our nation's unemployed are millennials, translating into 4.6 million young people out of work. And the number of employed young people making less than $25,000 a year has spiked significantly to the highest levels in more than a quarter century.

According to generationopportunity. org, millennial unemployment rates stagnate at 12.8 percent. The study goes on to say: The effective (U-6) unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds, which adjusts for labor force participation by including those who have given up looking for work, is 12.8 percent (NSA). The (U-3) unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds is 8.1 percent (NSA).

By this point, we’ve all realized that we’ve been lied to: working hard and getting a solid education does not necessarily lead to career success, or even a decent-paying job.

What it does lead to is debt and a ruthless job hunt.

What stopped me in my tracks was the realization that while I was trying to comfort her worry, I had been encouraging myself, more so. This job, this state of being, the transitory period of time that my current job occupied was only a vessel to get me somewhere else.

You are not in fact your circumstance—which is what I had so long come to associate my own identity with. I’m merely riding this state of being to get to where AND who I want to be. What defines your ‘voyage’ however is how you decide to sail.

My two retail jobs and my volunteer column are what keep me afloat. But I’m not just a barista, a sales associate, a poor writer—I’m a voyager that rides the wave, life’s current. But I digress.

Damn, We’re in a Tight Spot:

Despite the exceptional challenges facing our generation — unique challenges that no other generation has been confronted with — there are actions you can take up to increase your chances of landing a job that will over time help advance your career and put a decent paycheck in your pocket.

Here are a few of my best practices (some of which I’m still working on myself):

1. Take Control of your ship—Get Empowered. Know and realize that this isn’t forever.

2. Sail to Unknown Places— Have you tried cold networking yet?

An incredible 80% of available jobs don’t get posted, and thus the ones that are posted have a tremendous amount of competition. Figure out ways to gain access to that 80%. Research companies in your field, and send cold emails to their head departments or managers. Ask for informational interviews.

3. Occupy your time creatively while you voyage—Try a bit of everything that interests you.

If that means “volunteer work” while you sling coffee, then do it. But don’t let that be all. Find a volunteer opportunity in your field. Start a blog or a meet-up. This will help you not only stay current in your field, but could also lead to something bigger, like starting your own company, or linking up with a company that’s hiring.

4. Rough Waters—Be patient and persistent. It took Odysseus 10 years to finally make it home. And don’t get me started on Tom Hanks in Cast Away. For him it was an entire 4 years struggling by himself. *Wilson you will be missed!*

Remember that you define your journey, not money or people or expectation. It’s only once you realize that you steer the ship that you can finally set your course. My friend Katie, a fellow barista and aspiring Massage Therapist, holds the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley near to her heart. The last line stating: “I am the captain of my soul.” Yeah, I know it’s heavy, but hopefully it can serve as a compass on your metaphoric journey to self and finding your golden career opportunity.

Until then, smooth sailing.

Alexandria Rodriguez
Alexandria Rodriguez
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Alexandria Rodriguez

Call me Lexi. By day I am a freelance composer, a columnist for Knoxville Music Warehouse:Festival Fix, a cafe barista and plus size fashion sales associate. By night, I am a manic poet,napkin-novelist, and avid ukulele player.

See all posts by Alexandria Rodriguez