Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

A New Generation, an Elusive American Dream

with 7 comments

GRAFTON, Mass. — After breakfast, his parents left for their jobs, and Scott Nicholson, alone in the house in this comfortable suburb west of Boston, went to his laptop in the living room. He had placed it on a small table that his mother had used for a vase of flowers until her unemployed son found himself reluctantly stuck at home.

The daily routine seldom varied. Mr. Nicholson, 24, a graduate of Colgate University, winner of a dean’s award for academic excellence, spent his mornings searching corporate Web sites for suitable job openings. When he found one, he mailed off a résumé and cover letter — four or five a week, week after week.

Over the last five months, only one job materialized. After several interviews, the Hanover Insurance Group in nearby Worcester offered to hire him as an associate claims adjuster, at $40,000 a year. But even before the formal offer, Mr. Nicholson had decided not to take the job.

Rather than waste early years in dead-end work, he reasoned, he would hold out for a corporate position that would draw on his college training and put him, as he sees it, on the bottom rungs of a career ladder.

“The conversation I’m going to have with my parents now that I’ve turned down this job is more of a concern to me than turning down the job,” he said.

He was braced for the conversation with his father in particular. While Scott Nicholson viewed the Hanover job as likely to stunt his career, David Nicholson, 57, accustomed to better times and easier mobility, viewed it as an opportunity. Once in the door, the father has insisted to his son, opportunities will present themselves — as they did in the father’s rise over 35 years to general manager of a manufacturing company.

“You maneuvered and you did not worry what the maneuvering would lead to,” the father said. “You knew it would lead to something good.”

Complicating the generational divide, Scott’s grandfather, William S. Nicholson, a World War II veteran and a retired stock broker, has watched what he described as America’s once mighty economic engine losing its pre-eminence in a global economy. The grandfather has encouraged his unemployed grandson to go abroad — to “Go West,” so to speak.

“I view what is happening to Scott with dismay,” said the grandfather, who has concluded, in part from reading The Economist, that Europe has surpassed America in offering opportunity for an ambitious young man. “We hate to think that Scott will have to leave,” the grandfather said, “but he will.”

The grandfather’s injunction startled the grandson. But as the weeks pass, Scott Nicholson, handsome as a Marine officer in a recruiting poster, has gradually realized that his career will not roll out in the Greater Boston area — or anywhere in America — with the easy inevitability that his father and grandfather recall, and that Scott thought would be his lot, too, when he finished college in 2008.

“I don’t think I fully understood the severity of the situation I had graduated into,” he said, speaking in effect for an age group — the so-called millennials, 18 to 29 — whose unemployment rate of nearly 14 percent approaches the levels of that group in the Great Depression. And then he veered into the optimism that, polls show, is persistently, perhaps perversely, characteristic of millennials today. “I am absolutely certain that my job hunt will eventually pay off,” he said.

For young adults, the prospects in the workplace, even for the college-educated, have rarely been so bleak. Apart from the 14 percent who are unemployed and seeking work, as Scott Nicholson is, 23 percent are not even seeking a job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total, 37 percent, is the highest in more than three decades and a rate reminiscent of the 1930s.

The college-educated among these young adults are better off. But nearly 17 percent are either unemployed or not seeking work, a record level (although some are in graduate school). The unemployment rate for college-educated young adults, 5.5 percent, is nearly double what it was on the eve of the Great Recession, in 2007, and the highest level — by almost two percentage points — since the bureau started to keep records in 1994 for those with at least four years of college.

Yet surveys show that the majority of the nation’s millennials remain confident, as Scott Nicholson is, that they will have satisfactory careers. They have a lot going for them.

“They are better educated than previous generations and they were raised by baby boomers who lavished a lot of attention on their children,” said Andrew Kohut, the Pew Research Center’s director. That helps to explain their persistent optimism, even as they struggle to succeed.

So far, Scott Nicholson is a stranger to the triumphal stories that his father and grandfather tell of their working lives. They said it was connections more than perseverance that got them started — the father in 1976 when a friend who had just opened a factory hired him, and the grandfather in 1946 through an Army buddy whose father-in-law owned a brokerage firm in nearby Worcester and needed another stock broker.

From these accidental starts, careers unfolded and lasted. David Nicholson, now the general manager of a company that makes tools, is still in manufacturing. William Nicholson spent the next 48 years, until his retirement, as a stock broker. “Scott has got to find somebody who knows someone,” the grandfather said, “someone who can get him to the head of the line.”

While Scott has tried to make that happen, he has come under pressure from his parents to compromise: to take, if not the Hanover job, then one like it. “I am beginning to realize that refusal is going to have repercussions,” he said. “My parents are subtly pointing out that beyond room and board, they are also paying other expenses for me, like my cellphone charges and the premiums on a life insurance policy.”

Scott Nicholson also has connections, of course, but no one in his network of family and friends has been able to steer him into marketing or finance or management training or any career-oriented opening at a big corporation, his goal. The jobs are simply not there. Read the rest of this entry.

Advertisements

Written by Theophyle

July 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. thanks a lot for all information…
    nice to visit your blog…see you…
    please visit my blog….

    macro camera

    July 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm

  2. […] more here:  A New Generation, an Elusive American Dream « Politeía Digest By admin | category: University of Hanover | tags: before-the-formal, colgate, […]

  3. […] P.S. Pentru cititorii de limba engleza o completare din NYT pe Politea Digest. […]

  4. […] A New Generation, an Elusive American Dream « Politeía Digest July 7th, 2010 No Comments » Filed under Acknowledgement via politeadigest.wordpress.com […]

  5. […] P.S. Pentru cititorii de limba engleza o completare din NYT pe Politea Digest. […]

  6. Avery interesting site indeed. If yuo are looking for work or a job in the UK please have a look at http://www.coventry-jobs.com

    iain Menzies

    July 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm

  7. For the management of training courses designed to help managers cope with increasing challenges, it may be considered by controlling the people, projects and systems. Modern technology means that employees, management and communication anytime, anywhere, and can control the people, believe that they work effectively without supervision is important.

    Management Training

    July 19, 2010 at 1:38 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: