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Advice for the ‘Boomerang Generation’

Building Skills Needed for Career Success

Massive college debt; stagnant unemployment rates coupled with disappointing hiring rates; falling or frozen wages for people starting their careers; rising gas prices; difficulty getting and affording a mortgage; these realities during the past few years have created a ‘boomerang generation’ where young adults continue to live with their parents or move back home.

New figures released in August 2012 show that more and more young adults are returning to live with their parents, a trend born from the period now formally referred to as the Great Recession, according to the US2010 research project, which examines changes in American society in this century.

Among the findings of the report:

  • 24 percent of young adults ages 20 to 34 lived with their parents in the 2007 to 2009 years of the Great Recession
  • The percentage of those under age 25 living at home jumped from 32 percent in 1980 to 43 percent during the recession.
  • From 1980 to 2009 the percent of 25- to 29- year-olds living at home rose from 11 to 19 percent.
  • Nearly 10 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds lived at home with their parents in 2009.
  • More young men were living at home with their parents in the 20- 34 age group, 26 percent compared to 21 percent of women.

"The recession hit young adults the hardest because they were often 'last hired, first fired,'" study author Zhenchao Qian, a professor and chairman of sociology at Ohio State University, said in a statement released with the study. "Many young adults find it comforting to return home, to double up with their parents when times are tough."

Moving away from home is a rite of passage to adulthood in America, but for those of the "boomerang" generation, those hit hardest by the economic recession, getting out and staying out has become harder than ever. The report found that 24 percent of young adults ages 20 to 34 lived with their parents in in the 2007 to 2009 years of the Great Recession, compared to 17 percent who lived at home in 1980.

While statistics show that more young adults are taking a slower path into self-sufficiency, Barbara Ray and Richard Settersten, authors of the book "Not Quite Adults" said having a little more time at home can be a good thing.

"What we found in our book is that a slower path into adulthood is often a path into a more secure future," Ray said. "What parents are providing by allowing their kids to move back home is a launching pad so you can make some smarter decisions because you're not feeling the financial pressure quite as much if you have to pay rent," Ray said. "This allows you to be a little more strategic and get a good step in the right direction with that first job."

Here is my advice for the ‘boomerang generation’: 

1. Accept the first job offer you get even if it’s not your dream job or part of your career plan

It’s important to build a work record and show you can do a job diligently and are a reliable employee. This will help you land a better job in the future.

2. Contribute something from your wages to home costs to show your parents you appreciate what they are doing for you

It’s important to learn how to live within your means and develop budgeting skills that will help you later on in life and establish good financial habits. 

3. Enroll in a class or classes at your local community college to strengthen your existing skills and build new ones

Computer and technical literacy skills are much in demand. Virtually all community colleges offer courses in these areas.

If you haven't graduated from college or are looking for a career choice, then the following list is for you. According to a Manpower study, the jobs most in demand in 2012 are:

1. Skilled Trades Workers

2. Engineers

3. Sales Representatives

4. Technicians

5. Drivers

6. Laborers

7. IT Staff

8. Accounting & Finance Staff

9. Chefs/Cooks

10. Management/Executives

Be careful about enrolling in for-profit colleges that claim to have high placement rates. They have been criticized for their misleading statements and promises not kept. In a court filing in August, a key industry group pushed back against the Department of Education's attempts to make for-profit colleges disclose statistics that would indicate whether students are likely to take on huge debts they cannot repay. Preliminary data released by the department earlier this year indicates that many of the for-profit programs would be cast in a negative light by making the disclosures, which would reveal that students are shouldering massive debt burdens and are often unable to repay student loans.

My workplace advice always has an ethical dimension to it. Today is no different, and my advice is the same I give to more season employees and even those at the top of their careers. You build a career one step at a time. Most people move from job to job and/or change their career five to seven times during their lifetimes. The goal is to build a reputation of hard work, reliability, and trustworthiness. In the end these are the skills that employers valuable most and the ones that will help you achieve your career goals.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 19, 2012