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Reader Letter

A 29-year-old on the difficulties of landing a first job Add to ...

My latest column discusses how older generations must help dislocated young adults now – or forfeit their own financial well-being later. If you want to know what it's like to look for a job today as a young adult, read this e-mail from a frustrated but very eloquent 29-year-old. His name has been left out so as not to prejudice his job search.

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Hi Rob,

I thought I'd thank you for digging into the issues facing Millennials (a term I abhor, but anyhow) as they finish school and enter the workforce. Perhaps that should read "enter the ranks of the unemployed," but for some incomprehensible reason, I'm still hopeful. Don't worry though, it's fading fast!

My story's about the same as most, but I'm hoping that it might shed some light on some other issues that we face in working with what we've been dealt. I finished up at university at about the same time that Lehman Bros. went under, after having seen the very obvious warning signs at Bear Stearns et al. Admittedly, this wasn't great timing, but I thought that with a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and a bit of luck, things would work out alright. What I got instead was this:

- Short-term contract position after short-term contract position.

- Wages that weren't at all related to the realities of short-term contract positions, ie: way too low to make up for the short-term, no-benefits nature of the work.

- Experience that was almost completely unrelated to anything I was interested in, career-wise.

- Hiring freezes at a ludicrous number of places.

- A complete inability to "grow up," so to speak

At the age of 29, I've likely forever lost the following opportunities due to cost and probable inability to make up for lost wages and career potential:

- Getting married.

- Having children.

- Owning a home that's bigger than 500 square feet. (hint: that's not big.)

- Studying any more, whether that means grad school, law school, or even just night classes at a random community college.

- Retirement. Sure, I'd love to be investing for it. But with what money?

Am I bitter about all of this? Not entirely, because it all just sort of works itself out. If I can't get married (dating is tough when you're broke) and have kids, I don't need a home bigger than 500 square feet, nor is more study to obtain employment that I'm not only happier with and better at than what I already do but also more lucrative really necessary, since I'll only be supporting myself. As for the issues revolving around savings, investments, and retirement, you may be surprised to find out how much happier one can be if you simply accept that you'll be working until very close to your death. Why? Assuming I do end up doing this, I'll have a consistent income coming in until death, which should make up for lack of retirement funds.

What makes me extremely bitter is how poorly people of my age and younger have been treated by potential employers. You specialize in economics, personal finance, and business, but not what some call "Human Resources." Yes, the economy, inflation, etc etc etc, all make up part of the problem, but one of the biggest and most overlooked reasons for the issues surrounding people my age is the HR department. How so? Let me walk you through the steps involved in applying to an "entry-level" position these days.

- Troll career websites, Craigslist, university career centres, and professional associations for potential job opportunities, networking events, or possibilities to reach out for an informational interview.

- Line up 100+ legitimate job opportunities that you are actually interested in and qualified for (that's important), complete with job descriptions and a contact person if you can find one, which you usually can't no matter how much research you do. Why 100+? You'll see…

- Perform in-depth research on the 100 or so different companies you're applying to, including history, financials if they're publicly traded, growth plan, and what you can tell of their corporate strategy from public sources. Then scour the web for any press coverage of said 100+ companies, because the more you know the better off you are.

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