9 Lessons Learned from Millennials

A lot of us have millennials in our own lives. Maybe you have a millennial sibling, cousin, a best friend, and you’ve seen them struggle in life especially with their career and money. There’s a lot we can learn from millennials.

1. College Isn’t For Everyone

Millennials grew up being told that college is the only way to get a good job, and that if they didn’t go to college they would be wasting away their life. They were told to get a degree, any degree, and they’d have a job for life.

Parents, guardians and teachers of millennials meant well because college worked out for many of them. The economy was different when they went to college, because back then a lot of people didn’t go to college.

College wasn’t the cultural norm like it is today, so when they got degrees, the degrees helped them stand out in a huge way.  In today’s modern economy, the college degree is just one item on your checklist to get a job.

College was pushed so much by parents of millennials so a lot of millennials didn’t bother with apprenticeships and trade jobs. Many millennials went to college even if they didn’t want to go to college. There was one path for them and it was college. This was a recipe for disaster for many of them.

There are many millennials who went to college, didn’t care for it and dropped out with student loans to pay off.  These millennials probably would have benefited from an apprenticeship.

Other millennials finished their degrees out of obligation, many of them didn’t find the jobs they wanted with their degrees, and ended up underemployed. Our society has to get out of this mindset that college is for everyone. College may not be for everyone, even if they’re highly talented and intelligent.

College is for some people, apprenticeships and trade jobs are for some people, joining the army is for some people, entrepreneurship is for some people. We can’t have a one-size fits all mindset in our society.

2. Don’t Take Out Too Many Student Loans

A lot of millennials took out way too many student loans. I heard of a millennial who took out $100,000 in student loans for an accounting degree. While an accounting degree is a practical degree, taking out a $100,000 for an accounting degree isn’t practical because most entry-level accounting jobs will not pay six figures.

They might pay anywhere from $30,000-$45,000, depending where you live, what the job market is like, and the state of the economy at the time they go looking for their first job.

What’s even worse is I’ve come across millennials who have taken out $30,000+ in student loans and have had to drop out out of college due to a life event, and have to work really hard to pay back those student loans. Student loans aren’t evil, a lot of people teach that student loans are evil and that you should never take out any student loans.

Let’s not jump into extremes. Student loans have helped a lot of students who otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to go to college to get their degrees. If you do take out student loans you have to be careful how much you take out and how much you can realistically pay back your student loans after graduation.

After you graduate you will have to pay for rent, food, utilities, any other necessities AND student loans. Your first entry-level job will have an entry-level salary, and you will have to budget accordingly.

Figure out what your entry-level salary will likely be, what city you want to live in, what your basic needs will cost in addition to how much you will have to pay in student loans.

3. Don’t Go to College to Find Yourself

A lot of millennials went to college to find themselves but instead got into a lot of debt. Don’t go to college to find yourself. There are cheaper and easier ways to find yourself than spending thousands of dollars at college.

4. Get a Practical Degree

Back in the day when baby boomers and generation X went to college getting any degree was absolutely fine. Once you got the degree, you’d find an entry-level job, work super hard, and climb the corporate ladder.

A lot of times you didn’t even need a college degree. You could get a high school diploma because not everyone finished high school, and high school diplomas were highly valued. So if you got a high school diploma or college degree companies were willing to train you from the ground up.

That’s not exactly how it works anymore. In some fields like sales, debt collections and insurance they still don’t care what degree you have, they just want you to have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is how they measure commitment.

A lot of companies however do care what degree you have. Companies today want specialists and they do care what your degree taught you. Companies now rely on colleges to teach you job skills. So by the time that you graduate, companies expect you to hit the ground running, they don’t want to do much training.

In today’s marketplace companies value degrees such as: accounting, education, finance, computer science, engineering, information technology, etc. That’s why a lot of people who major in those degrees have an easier time getting hired over other majors.

5. What is a Practical Degree?

What exactly is a practical degree? And practical for whom? Not everyone wants to be an engineer, not everyone wants to be a doctor,  attorney, firefighter, nurse, and so on.

Personally, I think the idea of a practical degree is changing as the economy changes. There are jobs now that didn’t use to exist 20-30 years ago. There are going to be great jobs in the future so we have to be careful with the word practical.

If you choose a major like engineering because engineers make good money but you have zero interest in engineering, I highly doubt you will have enough motivation to finish your degree.

At the same time if you choose a subject that you love but no one is willing to pay you for it after graduation then you are going to be unemployed. You need to consider your abilities, strengths, interests, and what the marketplace actually needs and rewards people for.

6. Do More than Just Go to Classes

A college degree is no longer enough to land a job. You need to find a way to stand out when you go to interviews and have a realistic view of what your future career will be like.

Do your research on what the job will actually be like after graduation. The best way to do this is to get an internship and get hands on experience. An internship or two will definitely help you stand out when you go job hunting after graduation.

It’s also smart to job shadow and talk to people who work in that industry. Get their perspective. Sometimes you will come across someone who is totally burned out on a career and tells you, “Don’t do it!”

It’s smart to talk to several people who work in a certain industry and get several perspectives. You also need to do your research on work environment, salaries, the future of those careers, etc.

7. Be Careful with Job Saturation

There is such a thing as job saturation, a lot of millennials were told to go to law school and many did, only to find out that many of them couldn’t find jobs as lawyers afterward. This actually happened to my cousin and he’s still not a lawyer even though it’s been years since he graduated from law school.

8. Don’t Spend Too Long in College

There are millennials who have spent 7-10 years in college, changing majors several times, and still haven’t found their niche. College is way too expensive to spend longer than necessary.

9. A Career Isn’t The End All Be All

Our society romanticizes careers way too much. Some millennials expected careers to fulfill them in every possible way and that’s just not always realistic. The truth is that even the best careers will have stuff you won’t like about them.

It’s absolutely acceptable to find fulfillment and happiness in several avenues in life such as faith (if you have one), family, friends, hobbies, nature, etc. Careers aren’t the end all be all to human existence, they’re just one aspect of our lives.

If careers and money were everything then you wouldn’t ever see celebrities overdosing and dying from drugs.

Final Thoughts

While it may sound like I’m picking on millennials, I’m really not. I often feel badly for millennials because they received bad, albeit well-intentioned, advice.

Some are even calling millennials a “lost generation” because many of them are behind on getting married, owning homes, having children, and having careers that they’re interested in that actually pay decently. It’s scary how far behind millennials are. I want this next generation coming up to have a fair chance at life.


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