I stumbled across this article at Yahoo News by Orianna Rosa Royle and it touched on so many recurring themes here that I just had to pass it on. Here’s the situation:
“This is the most humbled I’ve ever felt in my life,” a teary-eyed Gen Z graduate reported back to her TikTok fans while holding a stack of résumés after a disappointing day of job-seeking—and the brutal wake-up call has struck a generational nerve.
In the video, which has amassed over 23 million views, Lohanny Santos, a 26-year-old from Brooklyn with a dual degree and three languages up her sleeve, shared that she’d been going door-to-door to find work to no avail.
but then you dig a little deeper:
After her online venture didn’t generate enough income to pay the bills, she went into several coffee shops to hand them her resume—just like she did when she was 16 and was looking for a job. But it wasn’t long before the Pace University graduate realized that not even “two degrees in communications and acting” is enough to land a $16-an-hour job in New York in the current tough job market.
“It’s honestly a little bit embarrassing because I’m literally applying for, like, minimum-wage jobs,” she cried. “And some of them are being like, ‘We’re not hiring’ and it’s like, ‘What?’ This is not what I expected.”
“This sucks,” she concluded.
and this gets to the crux of the matter:
Just last month, 27-year-old Robbie Scott similarly went viral on TikTok for insisting that Gen Z isn’t any less willing to work than generations before. Instead, he said, they are “getting angry and entitled and whiny” about the prospect of having to work hard for the rest of their adult life, only to “get nothing in return.”
“What’s sh-tty is, we’re holding up our end of the deal,” Scott said. “We’re staying in school. We’re going to college. We’ve been working since we were 15, 16 years old…doing everything that y’all told us to do so that we can what? Still be living in our parents’ homes in our late twenties?”
How in the world can this be happening when the unemployment rate is 3.7%? Let’s decompress this a little. Jobs today fall into several categories:
- Low-skill jobs that must be done in person. Wages for such jobs are under pressure from constant immigration and have been for thirty years.
- Jobs that must be done in person, are licensed and require credentialing. Some of the jobs in this category pay very well indeed but require specific skills and training and are frequently quite constrained in number.
- Jobs that can be done remotely and require the ability to read and write in English but not much else tangible. Wages for those jobs are under pressure from offshore and have been for thirty years. What’s worse those jobs are about to fall off a cliff in the form of large language model (LLM) artificial intelligence (AI).
- Jobs that can be done remotely, frequently require a college degree, and require skills and often credentialing in some specific disciplines, e.g. web development. Those jobs, too, have been offshored for decades. There are nearly as many people in India with college degrees as there are people in the U. S. Entry-level jobs in this category, too, will be under pressure from LLM AI.
Now let’s consider this young woman’s situation. The jobs she has been looking for are in the first and third categories and, frankly, she’ll never be able to make a decent living doing them. Her degrees are non-disciplines. Acting and content creation require talent, drive, and, realistically, looks but not a college degree. That has been true for a century or more. Her two degrees are useless. For the jobs that must be done in person, she’s competing with large numbers of immigrant workers and for the jobs that can be done remotely she’s competing with everyone in the world with a computer and an Internet connection. I wish her good fortune and her TikTok post will probably help her but I don’t envy her.
There are strategies which could mitigate the problem but they’re wildly unpopular because each of them gores somebody’s ox.