Allegedly, the term “adulting” first entered the American lexicon circa 2008, roughly the time in which first-run millennials were hitting their quarter life crisis. It laid dormant among social media circles for another five years before mass-memification overran our news feeds. Now among the common hashtags of our day, it raises an interesting question: what has changed for today’s young workers?
I’m thankful to be employed by a company with great advancement mobility. My employer has attempted to stay ahead of the curve by establishing college internships that nearly guarantee management positions to students that complete the three summer program. Not only does this keep the talent pool full for the purpose of company advancement and the retention of job culture, it also allows the next generation of workers to enter the industry with stability, confidence, and growing aspiration.
While these sort of opportunities have long been utilized within the trade industry, this is novel in the service industry. Pull up an Indeed job search in nearly any location and you’ll discover a flood of middle management positions in service. Much less can be found in either direction of the corporate ladder, but employer demand appears to be outweighing the supply in the center. How is this possible, if more college students are entering the workforce than any point since the early 70s?
Earlier this year, one of my employees expressed her lack of confidence on the job in relation to her inability to “adult.” I dug for elaboration, and she admitted feeling inadequate with being left in charge. Having worked in many environments, I suggested that our company trains and empowers its employees better than any I’ve witnessed, and encouraged her to continue challenging herself. Defeated, she countered that working and having her own place felt like she was “faking it.”
Feelings and perception are intrinsically linked. If we evaluate our readiness for life through the lens of a child, no manner of training or empowerment will suffice. When I returned home after college graduation, my dad sharply commanded, “You have one year to get yourself on your feet,” to which I sarcastically replied, “Trust me… nobody is trying to stay here.” It wasn’t through brimming confidence or an intricate plan of sustainability that I trumped his push out the door, but a desire to get on with my life. I could’ve just as well said, “Nobody is trying to remain a child.”
As a high school senior, it took me about two seconds after flipping my cap to turn the page mentally. After college graduation, I was chomping at the bit to find a job and support myself. When I was twenty-two, I dated with marriage in mind and considered what sort of mother she would make. Traditional or sexist as this may sound today, I had little reason to fear the future or believe that these steps were inappropriate or unattainable.
If anything, the greater struggle through my 20s was not “adulting” enough. As I continued to sneak through life on a modest income with no dependents, it offered the illusion that growing up was easy and a much-ado-about-nothing. I began taking offense with my younger co-workers accepting their parent’s health insurance at 25 and speaking as if they won the Nobel Prize for doing their own laundry.
It’s pointless to argue with perception. Reality or not, if growing up feels like an ill-prepared task, all the opportunity in the world will fail to inspire a passion for autonomy. What circumstances could help us change the perception?