Sometimes it seems like everyone expects people to have a master plan. Throughout your life, people ask you certain questions: What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to go to college? Are you planning on going to graduate school? When do you want to get married? When will you have kids? Are you going to retire soon?
Society has a very specific path from infancy to young adulthood, and many follow it from preschool to college. But after college, it seems as if the paint on the perfectly-paved path begins to fade and the road gets a little bumpy. If our parents didn't know what they wanted to do when they graduated college, they just went to graduate school. Maybe they would try law school or business school. At several hundred dollars a semester, it bought them a little time and a lot of knowledge. Worst-case scenario, they obtained a degree and might have lost some sleep while writing papers and cramming for finals.
But today, it seems as if the unpaid (or barely paid) internship has become the new law degree for Millennials (the nation's young adults aged 18-31) who have yet to choose a path. With graduate school tuition steadily increasing, going to school to buy time seems like a poor business strategy. The average total tuition for a top-20 business school in the 2011-2012 academic year was $102,355, according to data gathered by Bloomberg Businessweek. In the same year, the average total tuition for a top-14 law school was $150,000, according to U.S. News & World Report data analyzed by The AM Law Daily.
Consequently, unless the graduate is one of the few people who has been on a pre-med track and is off to medical school or one of the lucky aspiring investment bankers who was offered a position after a grueling summer internship, chances are he or she still may be figuring some things out post-graduation. I know I have yet to experience this, as I'm only a sophomore after all, but over the past couple of years, I have observed many college graduates, and many still have a lot to decide.
Unfortunately, because they have graduated and do not have a perfectly-formed idea of their next move, it seems like some feel more behind than ever. After following society's path for so long, they are suddenly lost; they have reached some sort of dead end, or at least are stuck in a ditch for a while. There are no more signs saying when to start school or when to apply for a summer internship. And nothing reinforces this feeling more than the dreaded question: So, are you working? Because one, they might not be, and two, if they are working, they might not be doing something they want to do.
This apparent lack of direction contributes to the lack of faith many have in our generation -- we communicate virtually instead of in person, we are not working, we are not getting married and we continue to live at home well into our thirties. According to a Pew Research Study on young adults aged 18-31 in 2012 and their same-aged counterparts in in 2007, employment has decreased 7 percent, marriage has declined 5 percent and the number of Millennials living at home has increased almost 17 percent to a record total of 21.6 million, with 56 percent of those living at home aged 18-24.
Knowing these statistics might reinforce all of your doubts about this generation, but maybe this will change your mind: According to the World Health Organization, the global life expectancy has increased from 64 years in 1990 to 70 years in 2011 and shows no sign of slowing down. The Baby Boomer generation's focus on prolonging the quality of life allows them to remain in the workforce longer, delaying younger employees' promotions, which limits the number of entry-level jobs available. So, if the baby boomers remain on their career path for a longer period of time, they should give the Millennials the same amount of time to enter the workforce.
So maybe, instead of thinking that the Millennials have not chosen a path and are wasting precious time and money searching for the main road, just know that most of them are trying to figure it out. Many are just as driven and want to succeed just as much, if not more, than their parents did. But for now, especially since you probably have six more years to question their plans, perhaps you should refrain from asking that dreaded question. They are trying to figure out life just as much as you are trying to decipher their latest texting abbreviation. And hopefully, within six years, they can answer all of your questions and you will learn that LOL does not mean lots of love.
Follow Marissa Lepor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EmbraceTheFlaw