They’re known as ‘Generation Limbo’. These are the college graduates who, between 2008-2010, were forced to create an entirely, different kind of job market for themselves. It’s called ‘Volunteerism’.
According to the Philanthropy News Digest, large non-profits like AmeriCorps saw applications increase among college students and graduates from 360,000 in 2008-09 to 536,000 in 2009-10. Other non-profits like the American Red Cross saw the number of volunteers between the ages of 19-24, increase by 1% as a proportion of its total volunteer force in 2010. In other similar organizations, applications continue to rise.
Some believe that this rise in volunteering is due to the tough economic climate they’ve inherited. But other factors could very well be at work. According to executive vice president of admissions, Elissa Kim, of the Teach for America non-profit organization, “people aren’t just jumping on the band wagon to do service because the economy is shaky. People are very attuned to what is being asked of them and the challenges of teaching. They take time to see if this is the right thing for them before committing.”
A New Way To View the Term ‘Career’
What is a career? The MacMillan online dictionary defines career – 1. (n) an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress. 2. Career means (v) to move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction. The second definition of career appears to define ‘generation limbo’ so much better.
According to a NY Times article, “Waiting it Out”, two graduates were both forced to take dead-end jobs after graduating with degrees. Unable to find a job in advertising, Stephanie Kelly found two jobs, one as part-time “senior secretary” for the Florida Museum of Natural History and the second as a volunteer freelance writer for a “secret Santa” website.
Or, Amy Klein who graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature. Unable to find a job in publishing like she wanted, Ms. Klein said yes to an offer she normally would have declined. Klein, one evening, ran into a friend who asked her to join a punk rock band. Seeing there was nothing really holding her back, she immediately found herself subletting her room in Brooklyn then touring across the country in an old minivan.
A lot of people would understand the frustration of these two women, but neither are unhappy. In fact, Ms. Kelly has come to appreciate life more. “I can cook and write at my own pace and I kind of like that about my life,” she said.
Instead of ‘generation limbo’ college graduates entering into hectic, money-centered, goal-oriented lives like their predecessors, most are being forced to ‘play’ around with unrelated talents first to see what it is they may want to do for the remainder of their lives. Many have accepted the fact that instead of searching for that ideal career for life, some may have to ‘career’ their way to it. And a lot of times, it’s beginning with volunteering.