A former employer of mine asked me to attend a board meeting, to introduce me to some of the industry folks who did business with us. These were railroad industry folks, where I have quite a bit of experience.
During the “introduce yourself” portion of the meeting, I got to rattling off the jobs I’ve done over the years. Because you folks would have no way of otherwise knowing this, I’ll tell you my number: eleven. Eleven in the past ten years. I’m counting as separate jobs a couple of re-hires to do the same job at the same company, which has happened twice at two different places. With a kind of resignation and familiarity, one of the industry men said, “Typical Millennial resume.”
I felt like I was slapped, understanding and having used the pejorative myself, but just sort of laughed it off as something I expected from a person who works in an industry where employees have long been known for their longevity. It’s not uncommon for railroaders to stay with their jobs for twenty, thirty, or even forty years. The insult I felt was for a couple of reasons:
- I was born toward the middle of the range of 1976-1983, so depending on your source, I’m either an X-er or a Millennial, but I look young enough to qualify as solidly 20-something. I can identify traits of both generations in myself. I also think I’m probably too sensitive about being called a Millennial, since I always equate that with “hipster”, which is an altogether different thing to be called, and nobody really fucking knows what that means either.
- The man was clearly unimpressed with his assessment, and though he may not have meant to be, was condescending.
- I am thoroughly sick of employers acting as though people who’ve chosen(or been forced) to change jobs are lesser humans than those who just put their noses down and grind on with one line of work.
The reality for anyone in today’s US workforce is that there are scant few jobs worth hanging around in. I don’t know if it’s always been roughly this way, and there is a genuine generational intolerance to drudgery that has arisen, or if the work has actually become crappier. It seems a subjective thing. There are, however, a few facts I can relate through my own experience:
- In 2001, I took an entry-level warehouse job that paid $11 per hour. Those same jobs today pay either the same, or less, than they did fifteen years ago.
- There are dozens of jobs advertised on my state job board that require a bachelor’s degree, and they pay anywhere from $12-$15 per hour.
- Health insurance plans offered by employers cost more, as inflation would predict, but cover less, as nobody in their right mind would predict. You typically need a union in this country to get anything like reasonable healthcare at realistic prices.
- Though every job advertises itself as an “opportunity”, “career”, or something pulled straight out of Satan’s asshole(I’m looking at you, Maverik gas stations, where a cashier at a truck stop is not an “Adventure Guide”, no matter what planet you come from.), those jobs are really about all the same from the workers perspective. As far as I can tell, they’re the same from the manager’s perspective as well, since apparently all you need to manage anything is a degree in management.
There’s nothing new here. People have been talking about wage stagnation forever, and retail jobs have always been shit. However, when someone balks at the idea of hiring a person who’s been unwilling to just molder on in a job with little opportunity or enjoyment, I get angry.
A “Millennial” resume exists because the reality of working in the US is that the majority of jobs are as interchangeable as the managers companies seek to hire: they won’t pay enough to make someone think twice about leaving; the benefits are some permutation of the package an employee will get at any job; the “opportunities for advancement” almost always include taking on considerably more responsibility and hours for a negligible pay raise and a significant stress increase; there will be enough people competing for the job that individuals don’t matter much.
So we shop around, we of the Millennial resumes. We don’t enjoy it. It’s stressful, tiring, and it causes the type of reaction I got from an industry professional. However, learning how to say “enough” to frustrating and pointless labor is a skill our resumes display. If a potential employer sees that, they may be turned off. All they should really be seeing, though, are people who are smart enough to know how expendable they are, and to know that walking away, bridges intact, is sometimes the best option.