We are the time when the future begins to be passed fully into the hands of a new generation, in this case the Millennial Generation, young people born basically between 1980 and 2000, and thus now ranging in age from the middle teens to their early 30’s. Two of them are Neal Gorenflo and Malcolm Harris, co-founder and Life/Art Editor, respectively, at Shareable Magazine. Now they have collaborated in producing an intriguing new book, Share or Die: Voices of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis. In the book they have collected the stories of a number of millennial gen young people, mostly in their 20’s, who are creating and sharing their own ideas about how to manage in the new economic and environmental realities that we are moving into.
I had an opportunity to do a short email interview with co-editor Neal Gorenflo.
GH: What is going on with the job market for Gen Y?
NG: Young adults are faced with two huge problems. Unemployment rates that are sometimes double and more national averages. And unprecedented student loan debt, especially in the United States.
Malcolm Harris’ article in Share or Die, “Bad Education: The Student Debt Complex” covers this in gruesome detail.The average college senior in 2009 graduated with $24,000 student loan debt. And they are graduating into the worst job market for their age group in a generation. The result is that the most indebted generation in history is without the dependable jobs it needs to escape debt.
Young adults have no choice but to explore new options and even redefine what the American Dream means. Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, said this recently at the Mesh 2013 conference, “My dad had one job his whole life, I’ll have seven, and my kids will have seven jobs at the same time.”
This is not all bad. The lack of jobs opens space for Gen Y to create work with meaning. And also have multiple streams of income, which can offer more financial stability.
GH: How do we adapt to disappearing jobs and stagnating wages?
NG: By lowering our spending, doing more for ourselves, and creating our own work. In the past, this has often been seen as sacrificing. But the peer to peer ethos that’s emerging valorizes this approach. It’s not sacrificing. It’s cool and even heroic, especially if you empower others with a valuable platform like Etsy, Airbnb, or Techshop that supports people on this path.
GH: What are your thoughts on working from home and the “stint” job lifestyle?
NG: More and more people have the flexibility to work from home, but they are also experiencing its limitations. This along with the freelancing lifestyle have fueled the growth of the coworking movement. In coworking, freelancers, startups, and remote corporate employees share office space in an open plan format. There’s also a conscious attempt to foster community and collaboration. Often coworking space are themed like the one where I work, Hub SoMa, in San Francisco. There’s evidence that this raises productivity and the quality of work life. Some people long for a sense of belonging at work even if the steady corporate job is a thing of the past.
GH: What are some easy ways for Gen Yers to build a meaningful work-life balance?
NG: One way is to have work you love with people you love and live near work. The walls between work and play seem to be collapsing and this is not all bad if you love your work and coworkers. And if you don’t have a commute, that’s more time and less stress in your daily life. Young adults are flocking to cities where they can escape commuting, find or create work more easily, and become part of a real community.
Still, I believe people need downtime. But I think Gen Yers maybe doing this differently than the typical two-week American vacation. They are increasingly taking their work on the road as freelancers, and mixing work and play as they experience new places and cultures. Or they are taking long stretches of time off for personal growth.