Reason to give thanks: There is no job shortage for young people


I know that we have a bad economy, so bad that we have a not-yet-President who is running the country from the Chicago Hilton so that the markets don’t implode while Bush gives pardons for cronies.

But can we just take a minute for a reality check? It’s not really bad for people who are young. It’s a part of the world you don’t hear much about in mainstream media. Think about it. Most media is in NYC, and you don’t make a lot of money as a writer, so most people who are writing in the tri-State area are married to bankers. Yes, this is a huge generalization, but it is a stereotype because it’s true.

Two neighborhoods—Montclair, NJ, and Park Slope, NY—are the bastions of media elite married to banker elite. And it’s a combustible moment there, demonstrated by how we get a lot of reporting about how sad it is for the bankers right now. Who are mostly middle aged.

And we get a lot of reporting about how sad it is for older people in the workforce because those are the people getting laid off. The baby boomers love to report about how much discrimination there is against them. And they have huge pulpits to report that from.

Of course, don’t get me started. The baby boomers had a great run spending tons of money they didn’t have and then bitching that the economic rug is pulled out from under them. But there is no mention that Gen X never even had a good run. How about reporting that?

But okay. This is not the point of my post. After all, if you write a Thanksgiving post, it must be upbeat and not grouchy. But also, I will not write a purely upbeat post because then I’d be in the league of all the people who are going to blog about how much they love their family and how great their family is—blah blah blah. And I should remind you you that it was none other than Tolstoy who said that all happy families are the same. And that is why you should never write about them.

But the adage that happiness is boring is true for everything. For example, it is true in the list of sex scenes that stink. (Thank you, Ben Cascnocha, for knowing I would love that link.) You need to have tension in a good sex scene, like maybe the guy can’t get an erection and wants to slit his wrists. Or something less tense but still a little tense. Surely you can imagine.

Okay. So I can’t be all good cheer or I would bore you. But I am doing my Thanksgiving post, so here: the niceness, the let’s-all-feel-good thing, is that young people are doing fine in this economy and people should start reporting it.

The not-feeling-so-great thing is that, in the case of everyone but the young, the economy is only good for star performers. But really (and here is the part of the post you should skip if you want Thanksgiving bliss) I have been ranting and screaming for years that the best way to have a good life is to be a star performer at work because that gives you the most flexibility to get what you want out of life. Don’t be a star performer for money. Be a star performer so that in an economy like this, you don’t have to worry about a paycheck.

But—I know someone will ask—here is the evidence that things are fine for young people:

1. Jobs for low-level candidates are increasing. This data comes from a report from issued on November 14: In October 2008, jobs for candidates with 0-3 years of experience increased by 3.68% when compared to jobs posted in September 2008. This was the only category of jobs by experience level that did not decrease over the previous month.

2. There are plenty of entry-level jobs to be had. There is a backlog of entry-level jobs that have been going unfilled for years. Alan Schweyer of the Human Capital Institute said just three weeks ago, sitting next to me on a panel, that the unemployment rate for college grads has been at 0% for the past seven years. (ed. – Alan Schweyer has a great comment toward the bottom of the comments clarifying this statistic.) In the middle of 2008, Robert Half, a recruiting agency for accounting and finance, said that accounting firms have been so chronically understaffed that we’d have to have a five-year recession for them to catch up.

3. College grads are doing fine in today’s market. On November 19, JobFox announced that, “Skilled professionals remain in demand despite the economic downturn. While the unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent in October, the unemployment rate for professionals with college degrees remains manageable at 3.1 percent.”

So I know what you’re saying. If things are so great for young people, then why is Obama creating 2.5 million jobs from the Chicago Hilton? The answer is that unemployment is insanely high for older people: Yesterday, Fox News reported that the unemployment rate for people over 50 is nearing 50%.

I’m not saying things are great in the U.S. (Though I do love Obama.) What I’m saying is that young people shouldn’t be thrown by the bad news that old people are pushing. Things are not that bad if you’re beginning your career. Think big, ask a lot of the world, demand respect and fun and a high learning curve. You will annoy people, for sure, but young people annoy older people in a good economy too.

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  1. mimsey tove
    mimsey tove says:

    I live in NJ and recent college grads are being laid off. Current college seniors are having job offers recinded. Other recent college grads may not be unemployed but they are working the same jobs they had while in high school.

    I don’t know what’s in your kool-aid. The job market for young college grads is horrible and has been for several years.

    • Betty
      Betty says:

      Please get an editor, dear. You do not need ten paragraphs to get to the point number one, and if it’s not the point of your post then shut up about it!

      • Shon
        Shon says:

        The commits Agreeing to this article apparently can’t see the bigger picture. There’s suppose to be jobs for most levels earning a collage degree. You guy simply have the attitude of “I got mine, get yours” Only ignorant to the facts of what’s really taking please. You better wake up. If we don’t all come together to stop what’s happening to us. sooner or later we are all going to feel the pain. If the next person to you is out of a job, that person haves less to no purchasing power, which mean’s less to no business for the company you work for, I think you guys are smart enough to figure out the rest. For those that agree to this article.

  2. Rachel Esterline
    Rachel Esterline says:

    Since I’m still in college, this is a good thing to hear. In a little over a year, I’ll be starting my career. In the field of public relations, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of jobs, if you are good at what you do.

    That’s why I really love how you said, “Be a star performer so that in an economy like this, you don’t have to worry about a paycheck.”

    If you are good at what you do, and just now entering the workforce, you should be able to find a job. With less experience, you’re a lot cheaper and efficient than the people with 10 years experience, but aren’t star performers.

    Thanks for the post and have a good Thanksgiving.

  3. Ms. Pixel
    Ms. Pixel says:

    Thanks for putting this into perspective. I happened to get layed off from my media job a few weeks ago. And I’ve seen a couple of my twenty-something friends go through it as well. Do you know why people are still looking for entry-level hires? I think it’s because we will work for pennies and the older people getting layed off have bloated salaries.

  4. Nisha Chittal
    Nisha Chittal says:

    I’m a college senior as well, so this post is somewhat comforting. It’s nice to see an optimistic perspective on the current economy and job market. However, I’m worried that it’s going to get worse before it gets better – everything I’m reading about the economy indicates that this is only the beginning. What happens when thousands of new graduates are searching for jobs all spring? That’s when I think the job market is going to get much more competitive and much tougher for young people…

    • gregcnorca.aim.
      gregcnorca.aim. says:

      I would say to people just out of school or nearly out… While this economy will soon be confirmed as the worst in 50 years; its usually a great thing to be young. And especially a great thing now. This is because, if you are young, you are likely not yet accustomed to things like high salaries, nice hotel rooms when traveling, wine bottles while eating, large retirement accounts, and healthy home equity balances.

      When you have little to lose, you have everything to gain. Many of the people who became caught up in the ‘fab life’ of the last 15 years are going to have a difficult time adjusting to the new reality, for better or worse. But alas, That is Life!

      • Lane
        Lane says:

        Amen about that Gen X statement by Penelope and by Gregcnorca. Gen X was required to get a credit card so they could survive for a while in their crappy job.

        @PT: Good heavens. It seems like the moment you changed your blog format/style, you gained a bunch of trolls and haters. I mean, people usually made some rude comments towards you, but there are a lot of people just being in general snipey at you, at other commenters, at the world. And illogically so -attacking your use of a quote or someone’s mispelling. Guess people aren’t feeling the Thanksgiving vibe.

  5. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I’d like to tag on to your comment aboug GenX never getting our run. I’m a little bitter these days. I came on to the job market around the crash of 91, was barely getting on my feet in time to miss the dot com bubble (although I didn’t lose anything there either) and had just been settling in getting ready for a bout of prosperity when it all fell apart. I’ve gone from 20+% equity in my house to upside down, watched my retirement savings go through the floor and may end up in bankruptcy if I lose my job now. (fingers crossed that I won’t.)

    It just seems as though GenX has timed everything wrong to really prosper. (Not that we had anything to say about it, but you know what I mean.) It wasn’t GenX driving up real estate prices, but we’re paying the price for the boomers get-rich-quick schemes.

    My current hope is that most of us are positioned well enough in our careers to be relatively secure. Advanced enough to have things to offer, but not yet into middle management where might be trimmable.

  6. funkright
    funkright says:

    Again.. Narcissistic.. Self indulgent.. The relevancy to your readership needs to be taken into account, when you think it may be appropriate to deride the largest segment of society in the USA you should probably think again. I’m not a baby boomer, just at the tail-end (the older end) of GenX, but at least I attempt to show some deferential respect to those who’ve traveled the path before me..

    I don’t believe the young are thrown at all by what’s occurring in the economy right now (here or around the world). They aren’t invested into it yet and, for that, I am definitely jealous and they are definitely lucky.

    Show some Thanksgiving compassion; that would have been a much more appropriate post.

    • Marsha Keeffer
      Marsha Keeffer says:

      I’m a Boomer and the last thing our country needs right now is ‘deferential respect.’ That’s crap. We need motivated, eager individuals willing to innovate and take risk – like Penelope and most BC readers. And guess what? It isn’t about chronology. It’s about can-do attitude and doing the footwork. Gen Y people who are making it aren’t lucky – they’re working their buns off and I say good for them, keep going!

      • funkright
        funkright says:

        “innovate and take risk…” oy.. you mean like those CDO’s and CDS’s.. There was no chronological inference, but the boomers, X’s, and Y’s didn’t bring us to this point; we all did.. it’s the cost of going to university, combined with that must have bigger house, driving the pimp’d out SUV, with little Missy bring dressed in baby D&G and Joey needing the latest toys to make himself happy..

        Again, Narcissism nor Self indulgence will get us where we collectively need to go.. True leadership is what’s needed, not vitriolic commentary about those who’ve come before or who (indeed) may follow. Don’t be divisive, it leads to nothing good.

        We are collectively here, right now, and we need to collectively find a remedy.

    • Lindsey
      Lindsey says:

      Are you kidding me? I’m a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident, about to graduate (next week!) from grad school without any job prospects in sight (and believe me, I am trying), and I have been thinking practically non-stop about this economy for the last few months – as have all of my friends and classmates.

      The new crop of graduates from the Gen-Y set are movers and shakers. We are savvy, aware, and prepared to take the world by storm. Your Gen-X bitterness, by comparison, comes across as the same old tired song and dance. Fall in line or get out of the way.

      • Lindsey
        Lindsey says:

        John Michael –

        I’ve been job-hunting since August. I’ve sent out over 200 resumes (each with an unique cover letter), and have taken 36 calls of inquiry, given 10 interviews and received four offers so far. I’m doing pretty great, percentage-wise, but I have yet to find the right fit in a place that pays me the NYC version of a living wage.

        So thanks for your incredibly helpful response.

  7. Raven
    Raven says:

    Thank GOD! I was beginning to wonder if there would be any glimmers of hope about the sagging economy and what that would mean to the 18-35 group. As someone who is currently looking for work, I’m glad to read a more positive spin.
    I think, however, finding a job may take longer for younger people, but I don’t think we’ll be in the situation our Baby Boomer counterparts are in now.

  8. Lola
    Lola says:

    The job market for recent college grads is horrible and has been for years. They maybe be employed but they are underemployed. You don’t earn a 4 year degree to become a cashier.

    • mariel
      mariel says:

      Amen. I graduated 5 years ago from a top 10 liberal arts college and a lot of my friends from school are still struggling to get a well paying job. Sure, they are working but they are not being paid a salary that reflects the hard work that they put in to get into a good college and to graduate from one. Most have caved and gone for law school or an MBA to try and get a leg up – and we all know what Penelope had said about those two options (not that I always agree with her). I left for Scandinavia and have a nice life and a very well paid job but I feel for my peers.

    • John Michael
      John Michael says:

      thank our corporate america greedy executives who have shipped all the jobs to China / India / etc. so they can line their own pockets. We have to stop the 55,000 containers a day that ships deliver from there and start making things in the USA … the jobs will return then.

  9. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME job hunt post. It hit a lot of truths.

    “The baby boomers had a great run spending tons of money they didn’t have and then bitching that the economic rug is pulled out from under them. But there is no mention that Gen X never even had a good run.”

    SOOOOO true. I am a Generation Jones or Gen X depending on who is doing the stats, and have not lived nearly as well (and never will catch) either of my parents (who were war babies) and together they had one semester of college, while I have a MBA.

    Also, the excess spending of W. is a major part of the problem we are now facing. The last 8 years should have seen balanced budgets, and now we need to spend to help the economy, and it is just going to add to the credit card that is way over limit that we all get to hand to our children and grand children. Thanks Boomers.

  10. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I still get some of my news from the mainstream media. They are hard to avoid but more and more like a dull roar – kicking and screaming on the way out in my opinion. It’s a transformation that’s been in the works for a while now but their competition has steadily been gaining ground and is more influential than ever before. We need complete, accurate, and unbiased reporting from verifiable sources and not gatekeepers. I think more competition in the media marketplace with more available outlets will go a long ways towards achieving that result.
    Thanks for passing along the “How not to write a sex scene” article link. I wouldn’t have got that from the mainstream media.

  11. Simin
    Simin says:

    Thank you for the positive upswing heading into the long weekend! Graduated in May, and have been getting so many negative vibes re. the job market for new grads, feeling like my entry into the workforce couldnt’ have come at a worse time etc etc. This gives me hope!

  12. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    If the job market is so great for recent grads then how come it took me almost a year to find a full-time job? And why do I have friends who are still working at grocery stores and summer camps because they don’t have enough “experience” in their fields but have to work somewhere to pay off their 100 grand in college loans?

  13. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Glad to get some outside perspective. I graduated 18 months ago and am now job hunting for the third time after one company went financially insolvent and the other laid off my group. It’s nice to hear that there’s work out there – thanks for giving hope in what often feels like a futile search!

  14. ernie
    ernie says:

    I’m a late baby boomer and I never noticed everyone having credit cards until Gen X began working. Almost all Gen Y owns a credit card and they use them regularly. Penelope’s constant reminder to balance family and work is a good idea. Hopefully, Gen Y will achieve a better balance than us Bbers. But, we did work hard for what we earned.

  15. Drunken Economist
    Drunken Economist says:

    Sorry, but I don’t fit your GenX model. Probably because I’m single and did some work overseas.

    Yes, I got laid off, about a year ago, after about 10 years at the same company, but I’ve had enough in savings + options to make out very well, and take some time off to re-tool. Am I traveling? No. Family first.

    Oh, and unlike most Boomers and Y-Folk, I have zero debt. Your comments about the Boomers racking up debt is spot on. At my so-called Boomer & Y friends are going crazy with their ARMs etc. Oh, and since GenY was raised by Boomers, why is it a big surprise that they inherit their fiscally bad habits? Your home is not an ATM. Repeat after me. What goes up like a rocket may come down like a ballistic missile. You *cannot* use computers to tweak fundamentals. Just look at the current economy.

    Me? I’m waiting for this thing to bottom out. Then acquire some property, muni bonds, etc. We’re no where near the end of this thing. Cash is king. *Hold on to it*.

    Everyone should get ‘back to basics’. As in *SAVE*. No really, have a savings rate, and when you jump jobs, work this into your salary equation. If you do *not* tumble the numbers for your cost of living, then you’re in for a world of hurt.

  16. steve
    steve says:

    What planet are you living on? In the real world, it is very bad. Sure, people aren´t starving, but the job market is bleak. This post, like many of your others, shows how out of touch with reality you are. Of course, I understand that your whole purpose is to right feel good articles for youngsters so they will get all excited about your next ¨Gen Y/Gen X/Boomer¨ rambling.

    Get out in the real world instead of blogging. You obviously cant write that well. Perhaps some time out in the real world will help you get some sense of reality.

    It is bad, and it´s going to get worse. There is so much toxic debt out there right now that you would be a fool to think hard times aren´t coming.

  17. steve
    steve says:

    Oh, I almost forgot. Your ranting about the so called banker elite and what not, how the MSM is creating a more negative scenario than usual — blah, blah, blah — is about of equal par to your delusional blogs about Palin — How we should model ourselves after her. Seriously, you have no concept of why things are really bad right now. Such rantings are typical of the crazies on the extremes of the political spectrum. Seriously … how can you be so sure? I thought you were a so-called Generational Expert who had a failed IPO, and can´t even manage her family, toting advice to any idiot who will drink the kool-aid, no? Since when did you become an expert at finance and the economy — or the Job Market. I would be more inclinced to believe what you are saying, except you have no data to back it up. Further, since when were you just entering the work force. Oh, that´s right, your a middle-aged woman who proclaims she speaks for a generation or two that is younger than her. The only job you seem to have is that of a cult leader … creating terms and phrases for people who need to be told what to think and feel, and can´t live without having idiotic labels on everything.

    Seriously, PT, the job market is very bad.

  18. Blake
    Blake says:

    Wow – you really know how to alienate part of your readers (yahoo deja vu?). Time to do a little year end house keeping by removing subscriptions to worthless blogs. I will however, leave you with a few questions…
    – How, exactly, is Obama creating 2.5 million jobs from the Hilton? Are you so punch drunk on the kool-aid to believe that simple words can change the economy?
    – What is the benefit of creating class or age warfare between baby boomers and twenty something's? Should we be celebrating the fact that the economy is creating low paying jobs vs. higher level opportunities? The belief that we live in a zero sum economy is absurd. Why does someone have to lose for you to win?
    – How exactly is Obama running the country from his beloved Hilton? Through meaningless press conferences from a media that refuses to ask tough questions?

    BTW – €“ I am not a baby boomer. I am 29, college educated, and employed (for now).

  19. Sofia
    Sofia says:

    I love Obama, too. Thanks for the positivity about the economy. People love to complain about things that are out of their control. Ignore the negative things you can’t control, appreciate the positive (an inspiring president), and spend your time thinking about about what you CAN do.

  20. Nashay
    Nashay says:

    Where? Where are they entry level jobs of which you speak? I have been searching since I’ve graduated from college and found NOTHING!

  21. Jennifer Ellis
    Jennifer Ellis says:

    I think that there are a lot of negative comments that have been left here and not in an intelligent respectful disagreement kind of way. I would like to think that the readers of Penelope’s Blog are more mature than these comments suggest. Also, there are far too many kool-aid references here.

    My feedback on the post:

    I like how the post meandered. I think it was refreshing.
    I am (delusionally) looking to switch jobs right now and it has definately been pretty tough to both find opportunities and to get very far in the recruitment process. Thanks for reiterating that we should “Think big, ask a lot of the world, demand repect and fun and a high learning curve.”

  22. LaDawn
    LaDawn says:

    Your snide remark about how happy families are boring sounds very bitter. You should know better than others how difficult this is. It is an extraordinary feat to make make and maintain a happy family. Many people enjoy writing and reading about experiences and approaches in this area. Perhaps your work life balance is out of kilter since you don’t think this is worthy of blogging about.

    Go ahead and encourage the younger generation to stick their head in the sand about the current financial crisis and you will ensure they waste all that money they (or more likely their parents) have invested in their education.

  23. jenx67
    jenx67 says:

    I was really feeling guilty about avoiding (so far) the ceremonial blog post about Thanksgiving until I read that part about Tolstoy. The truth is – this is what I should write on my blog and not in the comment section of yours But, if I write it on my blog, everyone at church will give me THAT look, touch my arm and ask that all-important question, “ARE YOU OK?” So here it is.

    I dread Thanksgiving.

    Every year, it’s the same darn thing. My ex husband and I are on very friend terms. (It’s been 10 years.) I wish we fought during the holidays so we didn’t always have to “share” her and split the day. WE ALWAYS SPLIT THE DAY. Nobody travels so we can SPLIT THE DAY. We’re soooooo cheery.

    Sometimes, I just want her all to myself, but then, I’d have to give up Christmas. We split that day, too. And, then – during the half day I do have her, oft-meanie in law has to make sideways remark about her emerging, during which I want to burn him/her in the eye with a turkey drumstick. But, I’m nice and I resist the urge to ruin everyone’s Thanksgiving, even though…

    This is what I love about blogging. The conversation, which sometimes has nothing to do with the post. Now, *that* might actually be an example of narcissistic and self-indulgent behavior. Ha! And, yeah, Gen X did have a good run. We rarely discuss it.

  24. Emily
    Emily says:

    Mmmmm, not so sure I agree. I used to, but not anymore. Recently, a friend who’s an editor at a NY magazine who was only a few years out of college was axed. Also, a friend just 1 1/2 years out of college, who took a financial-industry job in San Francisco a few months ago, was just axed. It’s starting to happen to recent college grads, too. And the job search for people my age right now isn’t easy….believe me. It may be harder for the older folks, but I wouldn’t say the younger generation is untouchable.

  25. Becky
    Becky says:

    As a boomer, who admittedly contributed to the delayed maturity of two really great boys, we finally got over our crazed “we want them to be happies” to “you want it, pay for it” – as WE were raised. Guess what. These two guys know how to work beyond ‘putting in their 40’ per week and will hopefully keep their jobs because they have a work ethic. Not knocking the GEN Y X or whoever – but this group doesn’t share their stuff very well and from what I’ve observed; not that interested in truly mentoring young talent – a lot of talk but not much action. So, now the young kids are turning to boomers to get some of that – and we’re willing to do it – someone did it for us. Old school wisdom? Maybe, but more than they are getting in other areas about the basic information that can lead you to success. Better prep for the times we are just beginning to see. I’m tired of the Boomer-bash, everyone (LABELED GROUPS) have something to offer if you can move beyond the labels.

  26. Alisa Bowman
    Alisa Bowman says:


    You are so right. Happiness is boring. More important, how long have I not been 20 and entry level? I didn’t realize I was old until I read your post and thought, me? Entry level? Only years ago? Years? Really? It was just yesterday, right?

    I kind of assumed your post was somewhat sarcastic. Not so? Many others thought you were saying the economy was peachy. I sort of thought you had this dark sense of humor, like, “Hey it’s really fantastic for those of us who aspire to flip burgers at a fast food joint or work the check out at Wal-mart.”

    As for funkright, he has a wicked crush on you girlfriend. He’s beside himself with deep affection. Just my opinion, of course.

    Is it too early to have a glass of wine?

  27. Weston D.
    Weston D. says:

    It’s interesting. The Baby Boomers are constantly railing against the younger generations. We have been labeled as “entitled.”

    Recent employment rates demonstrate that the Boomer Generation should aptly be re-labeled the “Homer Simpson Generation”. This new label is a better reflection of the so called Baby Boomer generation. Like Baby Boomers Homer Simpson expects everything to be handed to him on a silver platter. As he once said, “I’m a white male, aged 18-35! Everyone listens to me!” His inexplicable employment as a technician in sector 7G at the local nuclear power plant bespeaks his generation’s culture of leisure and endless advancement, regardless of skill or education.

    If there is one thing this article demonstrate it’s the fact that the Boomers need to be re-labeled the “Homer Generation.” Lets all join together and create a new meme! No more will we allow our older inferior generation to hold us down and incorrectly label us.


  28. Kim
    Kim says:

    HI Penelope,

    Happy Thanksgiving. Can you define “young”? I feel it can be a relative term and it would help me understand the point of your post a little better if I know what the parameters are.


    ERICA FOX says:

    I am 58 years old. As a Baby Boomer, not only did I never spend tons of money I don't have and bi$ch about it afterwards, .. but I used what little I DID have to help out my Gen Y kids with college so they wouldn't be totally paralyzed with student loans upon graduation.

    I get that you're paid to be outrageous and push the envelope with a certain demographic..and maybe that's all your funders care about. But if your funders have any moral sense at all..they will realize that you are doing A LOT OF HARM with your ageist remarks that inevitably stir the pot with younger workers who ..Hello…I might have to interview with and report to. It’s hard enough for those of us in our 50’s without your ignorant and smug comments contributing to yet MORE prejudice between the generations. You may be feel invulnerable now, but in 8 short years you'll be in your fifties too..and then things will start changing, even for you.

    The fact that this post appeared on Thanksgiving only serves to underscore your totally self-absorbed perspective on things. Not only am I canceling my subscription to your blog, but I darn well am going to find and share my concerns with your funders. You need a major dose of humility.

    • Emily
      Emily says:

      blah blah blah

      I can’t believe how rude people are in responding to your posts Penelope. I didn’t subscribe to your blog before but this woman inspired me to do just that.

      I don’t see the economy as being positive for young people right now. However, my definition of young is different than yours. I run an employment education program for youth ages 14-21. In the midst of the holiday season, I have been encouraging and helping almost all of my participants to apply for any jobs they may qualify for. Very few have found anything (even seasonal work is hard to come by this year).

      I appreciate your blog and the conversation that follows – particularly by those who are having a good time with it instead of taking it as a personal offense.


  30. Natalia
    Natalia says:

    Just considering your Branding issue and thought your last name poses an excellent opportunity….

    Instead of Penelope Trunk’s Blog.. why not just “Penelope’s Trunk” or “Penelope’s Trunk full of Blog”?

  31. Jess
    Jess says:

    I was hoping your post was really about ‘giving thanks’ but didn’t see much ‘thanks’ in there.

    I appreciate your observations but they don’t match the reality and observations of my friends and colleagues. I also wonder why all the labeling? Yes, even social scholars create cohorts to define generations, but your words take those definitions so much further, into stereotypical not-so-flattering areas.

    Oh well, I’m still thankful for freedom of speech, even when we disagree.

  32. Janee
    Janee says:

    OMG, I get it now! I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out. Your website is like a candy store. The blog post is your store front and the comments are the candy. You can’t sell candy without the right inventory. I get it!

  33. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:


    The thing about being a star performer – and it helps to pay attention to basic statistics – is that only a very small percentage of actual hoards of college graduates can be it. The outliers are never the issue; the crowds thronging the middle bulge of the bell-curve are the ones who face problems. Telling them to become star performers is like telling a short person to become taller! Not everything can be corrected by just working harder.

    But then I forget, this is not a blog for those who do manual jobs to put bread on their table, this is a blog for those who have even butter but worry about varieties of marmalade and preserves to put on their bread.

    As a society we need to think more about the masses without jobs and without homes and without security. An unequal and un-provided-for society is an unstable one, no matter whom you are married to and what age you are.

  34. Maureen Sharib
    Maureen Sharib says:

    Near 50% for 50 and overs? That startled me so I posted it in a coupla’ of the groups – immediately I get this in private e-mail:
    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving…
    Unfortunately this information doesn’t at all surprise me.
    There has been a wave of this “get rid of the over 50 crowd” for years.
    This is very prominent in certain parts of the country, namely Silicon Valley and the Greater Boston area…
    As a contract recruiter I’ve seen a lot of this over the past 4-5 years and been impacted by it personally. Certain industries are worse than others…
    When companies use buzzwords like “energetic” or “fit the culture” these can be warning signs…
    I completed an assignment less than a year ago where the CEO was in his early forties and wanted all his direct hires to be between 25-35.
    This company is a subsidiary of a larger corporation…the subsidiary practiced age discrimination…yet the parent company did not…I saw this “up close and personal” with candidates I sent them whom the subsidiary wouldn’t hire yet the parent would…
    This news is not the least bit shocking because I’ve lived it…

  35. Gen X Blues
    Gen X Blues says:

    I’m solid Gen X and I agree with your comment about us not getting a good run.

    I graduated College in Dec 2001 and didn’t find a real career job for a full year after that (majored in Computer Science).

    Now 31 I was just starting to get my overspending 20’s out of my system, being more responsible with my money, owning a home, and paying for my own wedding.

    Rather than being able to ride up in the world on constantly increasing home prices, and a booming economy that means companies can give raises and hire more etc… I’m now facing a 10% paycut, and a bit stuck in a market/job.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m glad I have a job, and I’m on the lookout for something better and we are far from destitute… but I look forward to a time when things get easier.

  36. John
    John says:

    Unemployment 0% for grads? Really! Why don’t you talk to some grads? Why don’t you do a statistical analysis of how these numbers are being gathered, or, if you don’t understand the higher math, hire someone who does. Have you? Have you done any research besides quoting people second-hand? If you were a career “expert” instead of a feel-good charlatan, this is what you’d do.

  37. happy go lucky
    happy go lucky says:

    I am another baby boomer with zero debt and I have paid off my home mortgage. Yeah, people told us we could afford a much more expensive house, but we didn’t want to go into debt. Many of us were raised by parents who grew up in the Great Depression and learned to live frugally out of necessity. I am thankful I had such great role models and that my job is changing constantly so that I never get bored.

  38. kerrjac
    kerrjac says:

    I've heard the argument a lot from younger people my age that they aren't strapped for cash and their friends don't seem desperate, so what's the big deal? There's something valid to that observation – €“ we aren't surrounded by poverty like people were in the Great Depression. But then again, the Great Depression, though sparked overnight, was a decade. The desperate poverty characterizing the depression came in the years after rich & middle-class people lost their life-savings.
    This sort of stuff tends to hit from top-down. It's going to hit those who have the invested in the economy (e.g., in terms of money, assets, skills) hardest, & it's natural that those will be older people. It's also an ugly situation when you consider how the notion of IRA's really isn't that old. Much of my 401 goes into the stock market, but it has a good few decades to improve before I can take it out. I'd hate to imagine the perspective from a person who is about to reach retirement & has a good portion of that money invested in funds.
    But you have some interesting points about how much things are going to change as the baby boomers continue to age. Economically, we'll see some pretty drastic shifts in ethnic/racial makeup of America. You have to wonder as well how much baby boomers have stifled the voice of younger generations. “stifled”‘s not quite the right word, but you have to figure that since they became adults, the voice of younger generations has diminished simply because of our smaller size. It’ll be interesting to see what effect this has on politics as well, as the ages of the voting population slowly evens out. Obama I wonder might be the start of this era, given all the support he had from youth, & how he wasn’t born into politics & wealth.

  39. Cathy Goodwin
    Cathy Goodwin says:

    I can’t believe Penelope Trunk is taking pot shots at the over-50 set. Boomers — especially the older boomers — have been through a lot of feast and famine cycles in their working lives. Many worked hard to get where they are. Many entered a world of typewriters and carbon paper and now work with colleagues who don’t remember when “cut and paste” was literal. Back then, getting a good job was a challenge unless you were white, male and married.

    Age discrimination is real and worse than any other kind. Companies don’t even bother to hide it. If you’re over 50 and unemployed, you need to think about self-employment, whether you want to or not. You may get lucky with a new job that’s rewarding (or at least not threatening to your sense of self-worth) but don’t count on it.

    • Shefaly
      Shefaly says:


      Sometimes we externalise our fears. If you do the maths, you will know that our friend P will be 50 in a space of 6-7 years.

      Like P, I too have been independent (from corporate ties) for over 8 years. I consult for technology and India investors in unglamorous but highly regulated sectors like health tech. Being a star performer is easier in an environment where you have a bunch of people to be compared against; to stay relevant as an independent consultant requires a different level of professional competence altogether.

      The post, as I see it, as much a consolation to the youngsters who think they would be king, as it is a reflection of P’s near-future, I think. So in brief, I don’t think this as a potshot at over-50s. But then I am an eternal optimist :-)

    • Lindsey
      Lindsey says:

      Cathy, I think your assessment of age discrimination is unfair and one-sided. My dad is in his late 50’s and has voluntarily changed jobs twice in the last three years. He works the job market to his advantage, and I think he succeeds for two reasons: 1. He is the classic example of P’s “star performer” – top salesperson in his companies just about every year of my life, a lifelong student, a brilliant mentor, and a master networker. 2. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty. I see a lot of older unemployed people who act as if they are above working hard, especially if the work is supervised by someone younger and/or less experienced than they are. That’s age discrimination, too.

    • avant garde designer
      avant garde designer says:

      >>If you’re over 50 and unemployed, you need to think about self-employment, whether you want to or not<<

      This statement is key for everyone, even college grads. Many successful businesses were started in desperation by people who couldn’t find jobs after graduating. Granted, they didn’t make a lot of money at first but with creativity, perseverance and hard work (sometimes 2-3 jobs at a time), they eventually prospered.

      Baby boomer and world-renown graphic designer Margo Chase is an example:

  40. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Here’s a note to those people who are aspiring to be a star performer. There is probably no better time than now to be one. People will probably be laid off in your company resulting in their projects and duties to be assigned/picked up by the remaining employees. Initiative is one of the four traits associated with a star performer. Take the initiative and be willing to pick up the slack rather than bemoan the fact you’re already overworked – complaining won’t set you apart from everyone else.

  41. Allan Schweyer
    Allan Schweyer says:

    Penelope is right, there have been many entry-level jobs going unfilled. Of course. these may be drying up more and more as the retail and hospitality industries (in particular) suffer.

    Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to say or imply that unemployment for graduates is 0%. However, unemployment among 4-year, college educated workers who are 25 years of age or older has been less than 4% for at least the past 15 years – as far as the Bureau of Labor Stats go back (online):

    Why is 4% significant? 4% is at the low range of what the US and OECD define as “full employment”. Wikipedia says that “in 1999, in the United States, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gives an estimate of the “full-employment unemployment rate” of 4 to 6.4%. This is the estimated “structural” unemployment rate, (the unemployment when there is full employment), plus & minus, the standard error of the estimate. (Estimates for other countries are also available from the OECD.)”

    If the BLS link above doesn’t work, please create your own tables here:
    scroll down and choose: “Table A-4. Labor force status of the civilian population 25 years and over by educational attainment”

    Times are getting tougher for everyone. Unemployment rates do not reflect the real situation for many new grads. Many young people will have to accept lower paid positions or jobs that aren’t quite what they’d hoped for when they started college. This was the situation for me and my wife when we graduated in the recession of the late 80’s/early 90’s as well. The key is finding work that will get you “career” type experience, even if the pay is bad.

    I know that’s difficult if you have rent and student loans to pay – so stay at home a little longer or get several roomates, speak to the bank about your loan, work two jobs (one that gets you the experience and maybe another that pays the bills). When I graduated I worked in the day as a poorly paid student career center supervisor and three nights a week as a bartender. I had three roomates more or less doing the same thing. It was fun, I earned tips and I made friends in a new town where I didn’t know anyone.

    Anyway, I agree with Penelope, times aren’t as bad as the media portrays them and the advantage of youth is great energy and (usually) fewer other demands on your time.

    Please don’t tell me I’m being naive, I was a new grad less than 20 years ago and went through the same things. But things improve. I just asked my wife who is sitting across the room – “do you know anyone … anyone at all who you graduated with that isn’t gainfully employed and doing well today?” Between both of us – me born in 1964 (late boomer) her in 1966 (early X) we can’t think of ANYBODY who hasn’t done well.

    You will do well too and then you’ll look back at these times as not so bad at all.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks so much for this comment. It not only clarifies the statistics, but it teaches us all some different ways to think about employment statistics (something I think the Human Capital Institute is great for, by the way) and it gives us statistical reason to be optimistic, which I love!


  42. jjoakl
    jjoakl says:

    I followed your link to Bush’s pardons. Hardly seems like a bunch of cronies to me. Nothing approaching a Mark Rich style pardon.

    • Jerry
      Jerry says:

      Agreed. From the Wall Street Journal weekend edition:

      “President Bush has pardoned fewer people – 171 – than any president since World War II…President Bush’s pardons have been low-risk politically. The pardonees were onetime offenders who got very little or no prison time for crimes that occurred long ago.”

      I see no longtime friends on the list.

  43. finance girl
    finance girl says:

    Hi Miss P oh I like that new photo! Much better than that other one (which wasn’t bad either, just like this one more).

    I think anyone who is willing to stay relevant in the workforce is going to have no problem in any economy (did I just state the obvious)?

    Age discrimination comes in when someone doesn’t keep their skills fresh, their enthusiasm up, their attitude positive, and their technology knowledge up.

    Oh, and age discrimination definitely comes in if someone doesn’t keep the weight off, doesn’t keep their hair styled (this goes for both sexes, nothing worse than dated hair on a 40+ guy), glasses updated (please please please get new glasses if yours are more than 5 years old) and doesn’t keep their fashion up.

    Or is that just too much to ask?

    And yeah Gen X never got it’s (our) turn that’s for dang sure, excpet those insanely awesome years between 95-99 of which I sure was glad to be around for!

  44. Dan Erwin
    Dan Erwin says:

    Great literary show, Penelope. And at last someone else is tired of the Bomers, their conflicts and their spending. Even though, I’m the father of three Bomers, I really needed to make this comment.

    I have 18 (yes, eighteen) Millennial proteges. What fun and excitement!

    From a member of the so-called Silent Generation.

  45. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Yeah, I don’t know if I believe that. I’m a 2008 graduate from one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, and most of my friends are underemployed at best. After applying for more than 90 jobs, all of which I was technically qualified for, I got six interviews and two job offers–both were for part-time, no-benefits jobs. All of the interviewers informed me that they’d had thousands of applications for this ONE opening (and these were hardly high-paying or high-prestige jobs). And looking around at my friends–most of whom, like me, had challenging jobs and internships throughout college, and had good GPAs and great recommendations from professors and employers alike–I’m feeling pretty lucky. At least I’m making enough to pay my rent, even if I have to keep the heat set at 58 degrees.

    So after reading this stuff about a 0% unemployment rate and lots of job openings, I’m asking myself–where are all these employed college grads living??? Not in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, or San Diego. Please fill me in, as I’d love to move somewhere where there are jobs. Then I’ll inform my several dozen un(der)employed friends, and we’ll all move there and take all of those jobs.

  46. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    Two and half million jobs already created from the Chicago Hilton? Really? Why all the angst and unpleasantry? What are you so angry about? Sex scene needs tension? Boomers suck? You already got corrected on the pardons so I won’t go there. My disappointment with you is beyond reasonable measure. Please reread this post and reflect on the many things you and the rest of us have to be thankful for like food, shelter and warmth that billions do not have. There is an orphanage in the Nairobi slum with what seems like a 100,000 or more orphaned children. Their plight is truly sad. If you hold one of these children it might be the first time that child or baby was ever held. They would look into your eye with a love our spoiled selves will never know. Because we have too much for doing too little. Count me guilty too. The point is there is no reason for you to be so angry.

  47. earlgreyrooibos
    earlgreyrooibos says:

    I think my husband, who graduated from college in May 2008, and who has done nothing but scramble for temp jobs since, would beg to differ.

    I finished my M.A. in 2008 as well. I started applying for jobs in January and had to apply for 100 before I even got one interview. And that was before the big bailouts started happening. I did manage to land a great job, for which I am VERY thankful, but I don’t really make enough to support us both on one income, hence the scrambling. Even when one partner finds a job, that may not be enough. Well, it would be enough – if I wasn’t paying $400 a month back on my student loans. We try to live within our means, but I simply can’t support us both when my loan payments are only slightly cheaper than my rent.

    It is tough out there right now for everyone, whether they be young, middle aged, or older

  48. Mikeachim
    Mikeachim says:

    Fun post. And too right happiness is boring. But I’m a Brit, I would say that. (Bah humbug). Happiness is something to experience, not preach.

    The economic downturn is not universally bad. That’s not how economies work. The trend is generally bad but it’s also a shift in the nature of opportunities. A friend works in web dev and sees business pick up during slumps (not sure why – maybe businesses work harder on their image and front end to stimulate trade?)

    Avoiding spending money you don’t have is simply good sense. Whatever the generation and whatever the year. In every walk of life and in every decade there are incautious people unfortunate enough to be unlucky as well. Right now, because of the credit situation, their options for being incautious are limited. Kinda good for them, you might say.

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