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Originally published June 18, 2014 at 5:02 PM | Page modified June 18, 2014 at 5:18 PM

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Guest: Millennials are not biology lab frogs — stop dissecting us

The constant scrutiny isn’t helping millennials looking for jobs, writes guest columnist Raffi Wineburg.


Special to The Times

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MY face broke out today. Not since the hormonal roller-coaster ride of high school have so many angry red marks marred my skin. I’m not surprised, though. Lately I’ve been stressed, anxious and moody. It’s high school all over again.

This time, I’m not applying for college, I’m searching for jobs. Well, not jobs, internships. Don’t scoff; they don’t just hand these things out.

I’m actually a recent college graduate, which puts me at a disadvantage. Most internships are available only to current students. I’ve had three of those type of internships already. Somehow, I still grasp at straws when writing cover letters for the internships I want: The paid ones.

I’m not alone. Millennials are all struggling on the job front. It’s so bad that The New York Times Sunday issue ran not one, but two pieces on this topic. The first, a column by Frank Bruni titled “Dear Millennials, We’re Sorry,” was a punchline-filled apology for a disastrous economy and impending environmental collapse. The editorial board then offered “Starting Out Behind,” which detailed an outrageously dire situation for young job-seekers.

Here is how I would paraphrase the editorial: A lot of things are bad for young people. To make matters worse, other things are also bad for young people. In the end, things are bad, and we should do something to change them.

I apologize for the sarcasm, but the constant scrutiny isn’t helping. Every day there’s something new published about millennials, dissecting our brains and examining them for clues. One day, we’re all just selfish, selfie-snapping pipsqueaks of the “Me Generation.” The next, we’re selfless and deserve an official apology from The New York Times.

At this point, debating who or what millennials are is just dillydallying. Unemployment for 16- to 24-year-olds is roughly 15 percent. Nothing inherent to our generation will explain that harrowing statistic. Diagnosing us only muddies debate around policy solutions. And solutions are what we need.

The nonprofit organization Young Invincibles recently published a policy brief with a number of concrete, tangible recommendations: investing more in AmeriCorps, reinstating Youth Opportunity Grants and expanding the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program.

The Labor Department’s own fact sheet on the program estimates that the federal government receives $50 in revenue for every federal dollar invested in the program. That’s a 4,900 percent return on investment.

But if young people want to apply, they should “visit, write, or call the local Job Service Office, the nearest OA or SAA office (listed in the blue pages of the telephone directory), or employer or union engaged in the trade you want to enter.”

Seriously, the blue pages?

There’s a lot of room for improvement, not just in the Department of Labor’s application process. Apologies and inspirational commencement addresses are nice, but if writers aren’t offering sound advice, or concrete solutions, then, really, they’re just profiting from our misfortune — the same misfortune they are so sorry about.

Things are tough, we all get that. But telling us that we’re poor doesn’t change the fact that we’re poor.

Millions of millennials, myself included, are working hard every day so that there will be no reason to apologize. If the previous generation made a big doo-doo pile out of the environment and the economy, we’ll make it our jobs to clean things up.

Eventually, I’ll find something, even if it’s underpaid or underappreciated. That’s OK. Like most millennials, I’m more interested in finding purposeful work than in making millions.

Until that time, let’s let up on the millennial microscope, and start looking at the bigger picture — for the sake of my skin, and for all of ours.

Raffi Wineburg grew up in Seattle. He is currently an intern with The Jerusalem Post in Tel Aviv.



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