Millennials Changing The Face Of Work, But Weak Economy Taking A Toll

By Lynda Edwards
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

The national media stereotype of millennial freelancers is brutal: Entitled, whiny prima donnas too haughty for entry-level jobs, they prefer the freedom of freelancing and ease of living in their parents’ basements.

Demographers foresee a generational shift in the workplace led by this age group, generally defined as being born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

But some of the career factors millennials embrace — flexibility, purposeful labor, economic security — are not necessarily within their grasp as they enter a job market weakened by the Great Recession.

Independent work may give them flexible hours and meaningful employment, but economic instability is often the trade-off. Millennials on the Tennessee/Georgia state line would seem to explode the stereotype of an attitude of entitlement.

Recently, the Times Free Press posted Facebook requests and emailed invitations asking millennial freelancers with cool jobs earning less than $30,000 per year to share how they manage budgets and plan for the future.

The 31 who responded say they freelance because employers do not want the expense of hiring. Only three get any support from their parents, many of whom lost jobs, homes or savings during the recession. Cool but low-paying gigs are supplemented with other jobs such as waitressing and retail sales.

The respondents flatly say some American dreams may be out of their financial reach forever: traveling overseas, a college education, homeownership, children.

Like young people launching careers in the Great Depression, they acquire an amazing array of skills that save them money — car and bike repair, baking, home maintenance, computer languages, sewing. Several boast of their ability to cut their food budgets by eating nothing for a month but:

— $1 microwaveable burritos purchased at a gas station, one per day.
— 40-ounce jar of dollar-store peanut butter and saltines.
— Wal-Mart’s generic version of Pop Tarts and cherry-flavored powdered vitamin drink.
— Off-brand power bars bought in bulk at Kmart.

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