THE BLOG
10/14/2014 09:56 am ET Updated Dec 11, 2014

Where Millennials Went Wrong and How They're Paying the Price

Millennials messed up and as a result they're paying the price.

Here's a few unfortunate facts about Millennials:

  • They contributed $1 trillion to our national student loan debt [Bloomberg]
  • They are the most educated generation in human history, yet they have the highest share of people who are unemployed in the last 40 years [USA Today]
  • 48% of employed college graduates have jobs that do not require a four-year degree. [The Center for College Affordability and Productivity]
  • Nearly 1/3 have postponed marriage or having a baby due to the recession. [Pew Research]

Millennials were raised in an a world with unprecedented opportunity. When most Millennials were in middle school or high school they witnessed the birth of the Information Age. This ushered in new industries and a re-birth in education.

Millennials went wrong when they ignored the unique opportunities in front of them in exchange for the opportunities presented to their parents.

As the Information Age exploded, along with it came the rise in technology, and your average Millennial missed the boat. Instead of pursuing a path in a growing field like computer science to develop a skillset that would open up endless career options, most Millennials have chosen college degrees and careers in business and liberal arts, both of which are degrees that are virtually worthless to employers today.

It is because of these detrimental decisions that the stats previously mentioned exist.

You can blame the economy as much as you want, but it's only a scapegoat. Like previous generations, Millennials expected that a job would be waiting for them after college, and not just any job, but a high paying job. They were wrong, and the recession was only partially to blame.

The real reason Millennials have the highest rate of unemployment in the last four decades despite being the most highly educated generation in human history is because they are largely unskilled.

Just being smart is no longer good enough. Anybody can get good grades. Paying attention in class and testing well isn't a skill, it's simply a task that millions can perform, and for that reason this is why a college education has become less effective in gaining employment.

Employers need to verify that someone has skills that can be utilized to improve their business, and Millennials are deficient in this department.

So where do we go from here?

Millennials were misguided by their parents, their professors and their guidance counselors. To no fault of their own these influencers passed on the path to success that worked for them. Unfortunately, they didn't anticipate how the world would evolve.

If Millennials want to undo the damage done by years of misguidance, bad advice and bad decisions, they must re-invent themselves. This likely sounds aggravating to most considering that most Millennials have just spent or are in the midst of spending several years and several thousand dollars pursuing a path down a traditional route. However, reinventing yourself is necessary for self-preservation.

More than just a person, you must become a brand. You must separate yourself from the pack by proving you offer something the "others" don't.

For starters, Millennials need to establish a portfolio both online and offline. If you're not receiving the job opportunities or the salary you desire, you need to work for free. Take on some pro-bono project-based work in your chosen field, do an incredible job and get a reference letter. Rinse and repeat this process at least 3 - 5 times.

Last but not least, you need to make sure you have skills for today's new working environment. To survive in the highly competitive environment of employment today, you must be a Jack-of-all-trades.

As an example, if you're pursuing a career in business you need to learn basic programming, graphic design, video editing, photo editing, accounting, web design, etc. All of these skills can be learned online at your own pace and for free or at a very minimal cost. Lynda.com, Udemy.com and even YouTube are great resources.

All hope is not lost. Opportunity is abundant, but in order to qualify Millennials must be prepared for the unique obstacles that lie before their generation.

Michael Price is the author of "What Next The Millennial's Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the Real World" now available at whatnextquest.com. Watch the trailer below: