Multi-Generational Perspective - Out Of College And Out Of A Job

Life has a way of humbling you. These moments often come when you are at your highest. Then, it is as if someone swept your legs from underneath you and you are flat on your back. The bottom line is – it’s awful when Humility is forced on you by circumstances out of your control.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic hardships, many of our recent college graduates are being laid off. After finishing their education and entering the best job market in decades, many are suddenly unemployed and wonder what happened.

This is a first for younger generations. As they face job uncertainties, older generations can and should be there for them.  But, what do you say? How might Gen Z’s and Millennials react? With that in mind, how should the Gen Xer’s and Boomers respond to them?

Our current blog series’ goal is to examine how different generations respond to one another during such challenging times.  My son, Jake, is 23 years old. He graduated college in May of 2019. Together, we are examining how generations can better understand each other.

Many of us believe our first job is supposed to be a springboard to success. After years of studying, internships and attending networking events—landing a job can feel like things have finally come together. We might believe a job will be an entryway into the career we’ve dreamt of. But, what do you do when it isn’t?

Jake’s friend, Ellie, graduated college in December 2019. She landed a job as a software engineer in a brand new city. She moved across two time zones for the role. Her first week on the job, she felt like she was on top of the world.

Less than three months later, she was out of a job. This wasn’t her fault; her supervisors noted their decision was not based on her performance. She was beginning to take charge of her role and responsibilities when the pandemic struck, leading to the layoff.

As a result, Ellie is unemployed in a new city, and she is uncertain what is next. She had a plan, but it has been destroyed. Where does she go now?

We define Humility as, “Believing and acting like “it’s not about me.”  But, how do you actually do that in Ellie’s situation? It’s not easy. And it makes you have to search and process in order to find the answer. But as Jake and I talked, we wondered if for Ellie, and others in a similar situation, if Humility is exactly what was needed to be able to move forward?  What if Humility were the ticket to growth in the midst of the angst? This is not because of ego or pride and a need to be humbled because a character flaw was present. No. Instead, this is about choosing Humility as a stepping stone to reclaim something valuable.

This is where Jake’s perspective is helpful. I will let him share his point of view:

Jake’s Perspective:

Having a plan for your life is the easy part. The hard part is the ability to follow it. Sometimes, no matter what you do or how much you try to keep things on track, circumstances outside of your control derail the plan. 

Right now, COVID-19 has derailed major plans. On top of a scary virus, people are dealing with financial insecurity, food scarcity and housing challenges. Companies have laid off and furloughed staff to keep their heads above water. Honest workers are feeling the pain. 

People like Ellie are hurting. And it is legitimate. Not only are their finances uncertain, they must find a new job amidst a sea of applicants. For someone who had it all together, the situation is humbling.

To add to it, our parents are unlikely to have experienced anything similar. It is hard to find ways to relate. I know I can at times feel isolated in my struggles but am too proud to ask for help. In these moments, I now see it is important to exercise Humility. 

  • Ask for help. Even though we are experiencing something completely new, there are people out there who have been in similar circumstances. They are voices of wisdom who have overcome unexpected layoffs, uncertain futures and unwanted changes. They can help us to plan for what might be next. 

  • Explore unexpected opportunities. Listen to new suggestions. Maybe there is an opportunity open that we had never considered, or one we previously dismissed. But if someone we trust makes a recommendation, then they probably have made it for a reason. There is no better time than now to explore those new opportunities.

  • Find a lesson. Pride and insecurity are two sides of the same coin. People often refuse to learn because pride is in the way. Somewhere in the setback is a lesson; even in circumstances out of our control. There is still wisdom to be found. 

I admit, these are peculiar times. I have come to see that getting multiple perspectives is helpful. I will let my dad share a few suggestions from his own perspective.

A Dad’s Point Of View:

The loss of a job is tough at any point in life. When you are in your first career and haven’t even had a chance to prove yourself, I imagine it can be devastating. 

If I were 23 and this situation happened to me, I’d probably have a very strong reaction.  I might feel like a failure on one hand and then switch to egocentric rationalization on the other.

To add to it, the loss of the independence I had just gained would bother me. I would question my own capabilities and second guess my choices. I could also be angry and feel like I didn’t deserve any of it to happen to me. In such a scenario, I imagine it would be easy to dig my heels in and believe the world wronged me, therefore becoming blind to any lessons in it for me.

Imagining my own reaction, it makes it tough to know what to say to younger generations. I could tell my own stories about overcoming hardships at work.  While this isn't a bad idea, it only makes me the hero of my own story and isn’t what they need. What younger people need is a guide to lead them to wisdom.

Wisdom comes through experience.  Where younger generations lack experience, we can lend our own. Our young people are the most educated and fastest learning generations in history.  They are able to access information and process it faster than any generation before them. When paired with our passed on experience, we can help them to find new opportunities or think outside the box.

For us to exercise Humility and guide our younger generations through these times, we must make sure we do not make our conversations about us and how we overcame challenges. We need to share our experiences in a way that is centered on their growth.

  • Share your imperfect moments.  None of us have a perfect record. We have all had disappointments and have all reacted poorly.  Instead of sharing our “hero” stories, we need to share our imperfect moments – times when we were insecure or prideful. Our kids want to reflect on the lessons of those moments in our past because it allows them to see our growth.  

  • Be a guide.  If we have walked a similar path, we can prepare others for what is around the corner. Sharing the lessons gained on the path is our Duty as a guide to the younger generations.

  • Encourage learning.  Pride often prevents learning.  When we wallow in our own pride and insecurities, we miss the opportunity to learn.  How can we encourage them to learn?

  1. Help them find the opportunities for the future.  

  2. Help them see the setback as a way to be someone else’s guide in the future.

  3. Help them to reflect and document how they feel right now. This allows for them to maximize their own growth immediately and then share with others in the future.  

Many of us are facing humbling moments during this COVID-19 pandemic.  In the midst of these realities, our ability to rise above them, will depend on the character we exercise. What if Humility had the ability to set us up to win? Exercising Humility will prepare the younger generations to learn from their circumstances and the older generations to be the guides who help others be able to find a reset for new paths.

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