Millennial Employment Woes
By Shereá Denise
Employment woes seem to be something that have or currently plague all millennials. As a group of people who refuse to settle in many of the ways that our parents have or that our grandparents may have been forced to, frequently millennials are left with only their friends to discuss their employment woes with. As I recognize that employment issues come in various shapes and sizes, I thought that I would take this opportunity to share my own thoughts and employment experiences with the A Milli Magazine readers. It is my hope that my experiences do not have to be yours, or that if you have experienced something similar, you will recognize that you are not alone.
Fresh out of college, I had a job offer. That is what we all hope for, right? The job lasted all of three months, until I realized that I had only been hired because I was an African American female, who my Supervisor thought would be foolish enough to pawn his motives off on college students. I gave two weeks notice without another job lined up. My parents thought I was crazy. About a month later, I received word of a temp assignment. I stayed in that position for approximately nine months, but was never hired full-time because I was considered overqualified due to my degree. Of course, I blindly jumped at a full-time, permanent position that was offered to me because health benefits were a necessity and I felt that I was wasting my time with the temp assignment. In this new position I would be working to promote and celebrate research by and about African American people. In my head, having an African American Supervisor was going to be the game changer. It was going to be what made all the difference. It was the 87th day of my 90-day probationary period when I learned that I was being fired. That my Supervisor had been plotting with a friend of hers in Human Resources to terminate me for reasons that were false. I called on an acquaintance (a licensed attorney) who had handled employment matters before. We were able to have my termination changed to a resignation and my former Supervisor lost her job. My decision to fight against my unfair termination led to many problems that I was not prepared to handle. It was during this time that I realized how problematic someone fighting for what they felt they rightly deserved was to people who thought that they were in a position of authority.
After practically a year of unemployment, I found a job that would assist me in getting leadership experience while I awaited acceptance letters for law school. I left this job to pursue higher education, hoping that – with a Juris Doctorate under my belt – my issues with employment would be far behind me. Turns out that the only thing worse than someone fighting for what they rightly deserved is an educated Woman of Color fighting for what she rightly deserves.
A few months after graduating from law school, I began working in the court system. After a few job changes within my office, I was terminated and had to pursue an employment discrimination claim for my treatment and the manner in which I was terminated. Again, this was me fighting for what I felt that I deserved. This was also me, panicking about being unemployed and how my employment experience would appear to potential employers.
Nineteen months and countless interviews later I secured a full-time position and a part-time position. In theory, things were improving. I am still employed in both of these positions. In the months leading up to and immediately following my one-year work anniversary, I began looking for alternate full-time employment. Yet again I am faced with a Supervisor who is a woman of color, but who has no regard for some of her employees. Despite information obtained by management and the termination of several of my coworkers, my Supervisor remains in a position of authority. This job has given me a different type of anxiety. It turns out some employment positions can be worse than unemployment. Yes, I am guaranteed a check each month, but the mental and emotional expense is far greater than the money can compensate me for.
Being a disgruntled employee is something that my parents cannot fathom. They are from the era of spending 30 years with a company and/or remaining there until the doors close. They did not change employers because health insurance and steady income were far more important than chasing your passions and being happy at work. Despite knowing that their concerns are justified in many ways, I also know that I am not built for a job that forces me to call out sick because I feel like I am on the verge of a mental breakdown.
After talking to several friends and family members with similar woes, I am convinced that millennials have a different type of emotional programming. It is not that we are weaker than past generations, but that we just refuse to endure some things. We refuse to be tied to situations that we have to recover from daily if, for no other reason, than the fact that many of us are still recovering from our childhoods and unlearning many of the damaging lessons conveyed to us by our families.
Though my employment experiences have not been ideal and, ten years later, I still feel that I have yet to have a quality Supervisor who genuinely cares about their employees, I also am hopeful that this will not persist forever… and I am thankful that I have had the courage to fight in ways that others have been unable to.
I recognize that we are the offspring of people who believe that much of who you are is determined by your job or career path, but I want to take this moment to tell you that you are more than your job and you should never feel obligated to endure unnecessary hardship just to secure a paycheck. You should not have to work to live and you should not miss out on living to work. Find a way to make peace with your process, be that in regards to employment or anything else. Do not resign yourself to being mistreated by anyone nor feel forced to deal with anything. You are living this life for you and setting an example for the generations to come. Our ancestors did not go through centuries of hardship for us to still feel like we are in bondage.