Generation Lost 

Reposted from one of my other blogs, because I couldn’t decide which was the right place to put it.


I talk a lot about how I think I might be part of what they call a “lost generation”. Nothing like so dramatic as the original, of course; this isn’t a Great Depression yet and the sort of chaos caused by World War I is remarkably difficult to imagine in the current climate.

But still, for some of us, this recession will never truly end. We were eighteen or so when it began, and our whole adult lives have been dogged by it - “don’t forget you’re jobhunting in a recession!”, people say, but we can’t forget. What else is there to remember? We hear our older friends talk about how much easier it used to be, but we can barely imagine that ourselves - never in our lives has it been a seller’s market. Never since we came of age has anyone been seriously invested in jumpstarting our careers.

Right now, we’re being done out of jobs by those older than us. They have the experience, the qualifications, the advantages of having begun their adulthoods in a time of economic growth. And when this is over, I fear, we’ll be the group who never escape - because by then there’ll be a fresh crop of teenagers and twentysomethings, unblemished by the long periods of unemployment we’re all facing now. They will seem far more promising than someone who spent a decade bouncing from temp job to JSA to crappy shop floor and back to the dole queue again.

There’s a lot of talk about the so-called “Skivers vs. Strivers” debate at the moment. The truth is, though, as far as I can tell most of these ‘skivers’ aren’t people who want to do nothing but sit on the dole - they’re people who want to do something specific. If you know what you want to do with your life, if you’ve chosen a path for yourself and you’re determined to stick to it - be that accountancy or sales or working as a PA - you’re all of a sudden a skiver, because you want to do that instead of begging and pleading for the first scrap of a job that comes along and then clinging onto it for dear life afterwards.

We don’t have the luxury of ambition any more. Those five or ten years older than us could decide to work in IT or finance or Human Resources and do that, perhaps starting from the bottom and pulling themselves up the ladder by their bootstraps. And it was hard, sure, and it took work and determination - but it was possible and it was commendable. Instead, we’re left without that choice. We apply for jobs in admin and jobs in customer service and jobs in McDonald’s, and whatever sticks first will follow us for the rest of our lives - because then that’s going to be the only thing we have any experience in. And if we don’t play along with this, if we don’t accept our fate and resign ourselves to never having the chance to decide on a career, we’re Just Not Trying Hard Enough.

Hopefully, the world’s economy will navigate its way out of this fog soon. Hopefully, it won’t be much longer before the market eases up and people can start freely making their own life decisions again rather than being dogged by stigma for wanting to. But for those of us unfortunate enough to have been born in the late eighties and early nineties, I have a horrible suspicion that it might already be too late. 

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