Sometimes you read a news feature story that has a passage that brings you to a screeching halt.
The New York Times has a story by long-time economics writer Louis Uchitelle with a piece of information that brought me up short. The article about Scott Nicholson, a 24-year old Colgate University graduate who's been living with his parents and has been searching for a job since he earned his degree in 2008, has this passage worth noting:
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.
As someone whose first job out of college was as an insurance claims adjuster, I found that passage more than slightly amusing.
Raised by a practical mother who instilled in me the beggars-can't-be-choosy, bird-in-the-hand philosophy, I was happy to get that claims adjuster's job in 1979 a time of stagflation, i.e. a weak economy and high inflation.
And even as a new graduate I knew what many job hunters have long known -- it's easier to find a job when you already have a job. No way was I going to turn up my nose at a job with benefits at a major American corporation, even a low-rung one.
Many of the hundreds of commenters to the New York Times story had the same reaction I did to Nicholson's decision, that it wasn't the most practical one. Some even suggested it was emblematic of a sense of entitlement held by many in the Millenial Generation. Lonestarj wrote:
Unbelievable. Truly just unbelievable. I graduated in 1998 from a better liberal arts school than Colgate and worked at my first job for $19,000/year. My friends, same thing. We piled together in the cheapest housing we could find and learned how to make it in this world together. I find it hard to believe that this family would support this sort of apathy.
And Cali2TexMex wrote:
I am just not sure how an article so out of touch with the lives of average Americans can make it past the NY Times editors. In a time of true economic suffering, and genuine angst among recent college grads, the Times chooses to highlight this problem with a young man who turns down a $40,000/year job because it's a "dead end." What this article does illustrate is that well-meaning parents who dote on their children wind up with young adults who believe that dues do not have to be paid, especially when your parents are footing the bill.
You get the picture. Many NYT readers were not amused.
Here's a possible concern for Nicholson going forward: how will potential employers view his admission in the New York Times? They'll surely find it when they Google him if he doesn't tell them about it first.
Will they see it as a negative and wonder if he still has perhaps overly high ambitions for his first job?
Or will they see him as chastened and more realistic about the new realities and therefore someone to take a risk on?