BYE BYE, AMERICAN DREAM
A Bloomberg.com article published a few months ago, The American Dream Fades for Generation Y Professionals, details the demise of the Dream for young working professionals. The piece includes a large amount of depressing stats about unemployment, and underemployment. And really, there is no light at the end of the tunnel at this point for Millennials.
Before reading the article I was struck by the title, and wondered what the American Dream even means? When I think of the American Dream, the image of a Pepsi-commercial-like scene pops into my head, with a cowboy on a farm, drinking back the taste of freedom in a can, as the American flag waves in the background to the sound of electric guitar music.
Given more thought, I think of a scene with a smiling, well-dressed family: mom, dad, and 2 kids, in front of a nice house, with a big, shiny car in the driveway. But the image looks like it’s from 30 years prior to my birth.
Why are these intangibles all I can muster in imagining the American Dream? Is the dream of America Capitalism? Marriage, family, and home&car-ownership? Or farming, and consuming sugary beverages?
To clear my head of these Don Draper-inspired advertising scenes, in true Millennial style, I crowd-sourced some of my favorite Millennial followers on Twitter.
I asked: What does the American Dream look like to you?
True equal opportunity, something we haven’t reached yet. // Marc Anthony Smith,
Freedom of upward mobility, without class restrictions. A level playing field for all to succeed. // Miles Howard,
Opportunities for growth of body, self-expression, love. Even seeing others in the process of dreaming inspires. // Zaahira Jones, @ZaahiraJones
Ability to succeed with whatever endeavor you want. // Michele Adams, @usha88
The common theme of progress, success, and equality isn’t surprising to me, and even refreshing. It’s good to see that my generation seems to have a grasp of the foundation of the American Dream. The dream may look different for Millennials, but it’s trying to break through and become a reality.
UN(DER)EMPLOYMENT & My Experience
I’ve witnessed the fade of the Dream documented in the Bloomberg article. I have friends who were laid-off from their first real-world jobs right out of college. I witnessed some of them spend months trying to find any type of employment. Although Millennials are sometimes stereotyped as spoiled, in reality many of them understand the relief of finding a job that pays the bills, that are mostly made up of student loans.
Even with a sense of gratitude for a 9-5 job, many Millennials haven’t been able to shake their sense of ambition. A few years ago, I took a part-time job that offered professional, and personal growth, and left my full-time 9-5 job. Although I did gain new skills (and had money) at my full-time job, at times I felt I was being paid to forgo professional growth. At my part-time job I had less income, but I was part of a vision, and able to collaborate with colleagues, and a take on variety of challenges. The less hours and less pay was worth the opportunity for growth, and continuation of learning. This is my personal experience, but I think it rings true for many Millennials.
Millennials do care about security, and responsibility, but also personal, and professional growth. Millennials struggle with the fact that at times pragmatism has to outweigh professional dreams and success. But many Millennials have ambitions that can’t let them settle, and it takes a lot of patience for them to find the right opportunity.
So, as a whole, where are Millennials headed? Are they following the old American Dream? I think there is a a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Most Millennials haven’t settled down into a relationship yet, but a majority of them put aspirations for marriage success above a high-paying career. Many are not amply employed, but to a degree, they are ok with it, as long as they are progressing professionally in some fashion. Many are sometimes fueled by a fear of missing out rather than their own passion, but I think with time they will become more focused on their own true ambitions.
So at heart, I believe Millennials are still very much believers in the American Dream. I believe they will find a way to reach their goals, if not taking the traditional route, or reaching a traditional milestones.
If you’re a Millennial, what is your idea of The American Dream? Are you on your way to achieving the Dream?