The job market through the eyes of college graduates in search of work
When the class of 2018 graduated from college, they were the first of a new generation — Generation Z — to join the workforce. They watched their parents lose their jobs a decade earlier and fall into debt and worry about whether they’ll be able to retire. They’ve seen the rise of part-time work, the decline of well-paying entry-level jobs, and the continued shrinking of once-stable career options. Although the economy has recovered, for many graduates, financial security still feels unattainable. Here, teachers, students, job-seekers, parents, and résumé-embellishers reveal what they think it now takes to earn a living.
Entry-level jobs are no longer entry-level.
In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, the nature of the entry-level job fundamentally changed. To cut costs, companies were increasingly driven to outsource or automate low-level work, eliminating the very office jobs that once served as a foot in the door. Meanwhile, as unemployment climbed to 10 percent, employers were suddenly faced with an abundance of skilled, experienced workers to draw from. So they revised their requirements accordingly. A job that once required a GED was filled by somebody with a bachelor’s degree; a role designed for somebody fresh out of school was given to an employee with three years of industry experience. This phenomenon, what economists call “credential or experience inflation,” would outlast the Great Recession. According to a 2018 survey conducted by TalentWorks that sampled 95,000 job listings, more than 60 percent of so-called full-time “entry-level” jobs required three or more years of experience. So how do you get started? A few recent hires offer their advice.
It’s OK to lie. A little.
Last October, I moved to the Bay Area and started looking for a job. I’d worked at the library all four years in college, so I applied for jobs at libraries. That was hard because I don’t have a master’s in library science. I was also looking at barista jobs, and though I hadn’t worked as a barista, I had worked in customer experience and retail. But everything from those barista jobs to these entry-level publishing and library jobs would ask for a couple years’ experience, or at least a year.
I’d sit in coffee shops or my apartment, looking and applying for anywhere from three to seven hours a day. I found work at a corner market in downtown Oakland. I was working at the register, stocking things, making people coffee, still looking for other jobs.
On my résumé, I’ve learned to lie about how much work I’ve done. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work, and that’s seen as less relevant than work you’ve been paid to do. So I learned to redescribe things using specific turns of phrase. Instead of saying “jobs and volunteer work,” just say “relevant experience.” You don’t have to specify whether you made money. In college, I’d worked on an arts and literature magazine. At first, I thought to put it under the “Hobbies” part of my résumé — I was a volunteer. Instead, I decided to describe the work like this: “I edited hundreds of poems and prose submissions over three years.” My library job in college was pretty low-key. I didn’t really do any cataloging. But I’d spent a lot of hours cataloging when I was helping my friend at his bookstore over the summer, even though I wasn’t paid. So I decided to say that I cataloged books at the library.
I guess I didn’t actually lie, though I am in favor of lying, too. It’s lying a little bit, but it’s also counterbalancing pre-existing power structures where certain kinds of experience are valued and other kinds are not. And going into interviews as a woman, I have frequently felt nervous, thinking, Well, I’m obviously not qualified. Nobody is going to take me seriously. Yet I know so many men who know jack shit. So it’s important to counterbalance, to talk the talk on your résumé. Because everybody else is going to do it.
Find a smaller pond.
Since high school, it was impressed upon me to make sure that I was building my résumé, and my back-up plan had always been to work in marketing. I’d done all the “right things” — I interned at a nonprofit doing social media, I had a job at the office of alumni and parent engagement all four years of school, I worked as a publicity director for our college radio station. I got as much experience as possible while balancing the need to make money over the summer, which meant I also worked at a Baskin-Robbins and at a cleaning service.
Three months after graduating from college, I started to buckle down on finding my first job. I was searching online for entry-level positions in Southern California. But even the entry-level ones required work experience. I was seeing all these positions that I thought I could do, that — if I were given the opportunity — my work ethic could make up for the lack of experience. But the opportunity wasn’t available. I also saw a lot of positions that were lowballing what was realistic to live on in California. Maybe it was part time, or maybe it was full time but barely minimum wage. I don’t know how you’d possibly survive, even if you had a roommate.
After three months of searching, I had to start paying interest on my student loans, so I was trying to find anything at that point. I was looking at nannying, part-time jobs, and Craigslist had a lot of those opportunities. Eventually, I started looking at Craigslist for cities nearby. A digital-marketing agency had posted a position for an assistant, and they were looking for somebody who was local, and that’s how I found my first job.
It was a smaller company, and they weren’t trying to spend a bunch of money to list a job on LinkedIn. What’s great is that there’s an actual person on the other end who reads your application, and the applicant pool also ends up being smaller, which makes it easier to stand out. I was able to wiggle my way in.
Work your connections (and ignore your college career center).
Gabriel Richardson, 23
I went to a private liberal arts college, where it’s almost assumed you’ll spend no more than two years between graduation and graduate school. My school gives you the preparation to do a Ph.D. program, but that’s not what most students want to do.
After I graduated, I started looking for entry-level positions,mostly paralegal or legal secretary jobs. My first tactic was to try the traditional websites: Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor. I’d click the “entry-level” filter and enter the search term “paralegal,” but you could spend four hours going down a list of available positions, some of which required four-plus years of experience, or a master’s degree and specializations.
At Reed, we all have to write an undergrad thesis our senior year, which we defend before we graduate. The advice I was given from my school’s career services was: “Take your thesis with you when you have an interview.” That was the worst mistake. I was applying to secretarial positions at law firms — helping attorneys file regulatory documents, basically being the good-old secretary for the counsel of whatever firm. I was interviewing with an IP firm that focused on a very particular subset of machinery coming out of Japan. I’d have to fill out forms and do data entry. I’d come in with my 100-page thesis that had a lot of graphs, visual analytics. I’d show it to the employer, and they’d look at me with an almost worried face and ask questions like, “Are you comfortable doing mundane tasks?”
When you come out of a liberal arts college, you’re in this Catch-22, where you’re a little too educated on certain things, but you’re not specialized and don’t have technical knowledge. We’re stuck-in-betweens. Some companies have programs for entry-level positions, but they recruit from large state schools or research universities. These types of schools have enormous alumni networks, as well as large career services to guide students into these systems. My friends spent the same amount of money as they would have to attend an Ivy League school — they have $15,000 on average in debt — but our networks are much smaller. College has prepared us very well academically, but it left us hanging when it comes to the real world.
For the majority of people, it’s who you know. A friend from college was starting this academic consultancy in Mexico and was looking for somebody to help her with the business. We prepare students for SAT, ACT, and applications. This opportunity came organically. I didn’t seek it out. I received that offer in the beginning of March, and I’ll be moving to Mexico City.
Embrace the fellowship.
Jake Silver, 22
Early in my search, I was on Indeed looking up words I associated with entry-level jobs: “junior,” “associate.” But those jobs required one, two, three years of experience.
I began tailoring my searches to look for “fellowships,” and that’s when I got less lost. I started finding programs geared toward workforce development, structured for people who recently graduated. Right now, I’m in an 11-month program, and for most of the cohort, it’s our first job out of college.
I get a monthly stipend that, after taxes, comes out to $1,600 a month — which, in the Bay Area, doesn’t get you very far. I can cover rent and groceries and some fun, but I’m damn fortunate my parents support me. They help pay for major life things — my phone, car insurance, health insurance. My car broke down last week, and a stipend like that doesn’t cover unexpected costs. But I want to get off my parents’ bill as soon as possible. I feel guilty about it. They’re trying to retire soon.
New workers are cobbling together gigs, internships, and contract jobs.
Work has changed. One in five jobs, according to a 2018 poll from NPR and the Marist Institute of Public Opinion, is held by a contract worker — a shift that’s affected industries from transportation to law to tech. Unlike traditional salaried roles, these jobs tend to be temporary and unsteady, and often lack health or retirement benefits. Recognizing the evolving employment landscape — and the new hazards it presents — colleges have been retooling their curricula. Wellesley’s career-education site has a section devoted to independent work. Babson College offers an MBA course on how to succeed in the gig economy. Lewis & Clark College offered a workshop last year on “Breaking Into the Gig Economy,” which advised students on how to “prepare yourself for a job that may not yet exist.” And in the fall of 2017, the California Community Colleges system launched a pilot project called “Self-employment Pathways in the Gig Economy,” the first statewide initiative of its kind. Twenty-three schools have since taken part. Here, instructors and administrators share how they prepared students for this world of work.
Vice president of Economic and Workforce Development at College of the Canyons
I’ve worked with different age groups, and the differences were startling. Those in their 40s and 50s looked at gig work as a side job, something to do until they got what they wanted. People in their 20s are more likely to look at it as a permanent option. They noticed that many of their friends weren’t getting decent, middle-skilled work after college. They see opportunities as having dried up; many graduate and all they have to show for it is debt. Plus, people in their 20s are willing to be more risky, much more than somebody with a family and a mortgage.
Business deputy sector navigator at San Joaquin Delta College
Many are going through school while supporting their kids or families. They use gig work to support themselves through college.
Business and IT faculty member at San Diego Community College
Registration was first come, first served — you had to be in line on registration day. Students were wrapped around several hallways.
Business faculty member at San Joaquin Delta College
Some students had already done gig work (see below to hear from someone juggling four jobs) before starting the program: renovating decks, dog walking, painting. One was taking pictures for friends’ events.
Gig economy project coordinator and second-year student at College of the Canyons
One inquiry I often got was about starting an Amazon online business — on Amazon, you can manufacture and sell your own products on the site, though it takes a couple thousand dollars in the beginning. My high school business-law teacher got me interested in it, and I’ve been doing it for a few years. The key is to not sell what everybody wants to sell — you need to target a very niche market. So I’d help students dentify a unique product, then figure out how to manufacture them cheaply outside the country and set up an online presence. The product I chose is an alarm clock that projects the time onto the wall.
Co-founder of Loconomics, a digital platform for gig and freelance work that partnered with the pilot project
The goal was not just to teach students how to get gig work but to be small-business owners. If you think of yourself only as a gig worker and not a small-business owner, you might end up being taken advantage of.
There is no safety net for those who gig and/or are independent contractors. The legislation has not caught up. We are letting our students know they should not gig unless they can one day earn an income that would provide them with a safety net. To do anything else is to put themselves at economic and personal risk. There’s an infographic we use, and we ask them: “How much do you think you need to eventually earn an hour to have a proper safety net?” They’d say, “I don’t know, $15?” We’d say, “You’re not even close. It’s closer to $70 an hour.”
Teacher, Business of Freelance course at College of the Canyons
I’ve told the students: If you’re working somewhere you don’t enjoy, and you have this fire burning within you to go freelance, you need to have money saved up and a plan. Otherwise, it’s dangerous. Because you’ll take anything that comes your way.
We ran the program very, very loosely. Freelancers don’t want something structured. I’d give out my cell number and email, and if a student had a question about a client, they would text me. I’d tell them, “You priced this service too low,” or “Why’d you give the client this turnaround time — you squeezed yourself too thin.” They didn’t want long conversations or lectures. It’s education à la carte.
Everybody’s working nonstop — they’re going to school four to five days a week, working part time or full time, and then they come to this program to get a side gig. Everybody wants to make more money.
Insights from a 24-year-old with four jobs
I work for a governmental agency. I’ve had two temporary contract positions with the state government, and this is my first full-time job. I like the permanence, but state salaries are not as generous as they look on paper: After Medicare and retirement, it comes out to $36,000 in take-home pay. The Reno housing market is insane, and the cost of living is going up because it’s got Tesla and Amazon and Apple. Pretty soon, it’ll look like Menlo Park, but in the desert.
I used to find house-sitting gigs on Craigslist, and I hope my mom never finds out or else she’ll lose her shit. Now it’s by word-of-mouth. People will say, “I have a house sitter: She’s a young professional who does it for a supplementary income,” and people say, “Cool, I trust this person.” People might ask, “We want you to watch our plant and also stay at our house, just in case.” I always wonder, Just in case of what? Reno is not a very crime-active town. One time, somebody made me watch their tortoise. Sometimes I watch people’s mansions, and they don’t care what you do, though they for sure have cameras.
I find these gigs through Wag or Rover or word-of-mouth. Dog walking scares the shit out of me. You don’t know the dog you’re walking, and if another dog approaches, you don’t know what that other dog’s story is.
The service is called Shipt, and it’s my best-kept secret — my friends keep asking me how I do it, but I won’t tell them because there aren’t enough orders for all of us. If the store doesn’t have something the customer ordered, then you text them and say, “We don’t have X, but how about this other thing.” Usually the answer is no, since the only people who get groceries delivered are old, and old people know what they like. Or it’s people who work at Tesla.
Finding the dream job is less of a priority. Having security is.
For those who entered the workforce immediately after 2008, their challenges seemed clear: They were graduating into the worst economy since the Great Depression. But for the people ten years younger, the recession had a quieter effect. “Our past financial anxiety ingrained in us this permanent fear that no matter how well we were doing, the money could disappear at any time,” says PJ Harris, who graduated in 2018. “Gen Z saw their parents struggle, their older siblings struggle, and became concerned about their futures,” says Sarah Sladek, CEO of a workplace consulting firm, XYZ University. “It prompted the question of, How can I avoid this from happening and ensure I have stability and security in my life? ” Three job-seekers — and their mothers — talk about what really matters for the future.
The sports writer choosing between his ideal job
and the one with better pay
Mason Bissada, 21
I’m a journalism major. I’d always loved to write, and I was interested in covering sports — specifically basketball. It’s the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., and I thought I could find a niche there.
Last summer, I got an internship at a daily newspaper in Los Angeles. It was a big office, but more than half of the desks were empty, and it was very quiet — there was little interaction between people working there. I knew that the industry was shaky, but seeing it firsthand was eye-opening.
I’d been leaning toward PR rather than journalism. Because of how on-the-decline the industry is, I figured I should try something more stable. So after that summer, I reached out to a ton of people on the Clippers organization and ended up getting coffee with their media executive. Six months later, he asked me to be their in-house beat reporter during my winter break. I’d write game recaps and player profiles for their website. It was my dream job except that I was working for a team rather than a publication, so everything had to have a positive spin.
What I’m grappling with every day now is which career to choose. I want to know that I’m going to be stable. One day I want to have a family, and I don’t want to have to worry if my job will be there when I wake up, or if my company will go under.
I was 11 during the ’08 crisis, and I remember seeing a lot of stuff on the news. I saw a lot of teachers get laid off. My mom makes decent money. We have a house in the San Fernando Valley, and she owns a salon and cuts hair. Luckily, people still needed haircuts, so my mom noticed a difference but wasn’t too affected by it, as far as I know.
People my age are realistic. That’s what happens when you’re raised by people telling you if you put in effort, do your best, results will come. Our generation has become disillusioned to that idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s wishful thinking. You could try your hardest and put in the work and the effort and get an education and get good grades, but you can still fail.
A response from Mason’s mother, Lori BissAda
I’ve run my salon for 17 years. In 2008, work was slow, and we cut back. I worried, but there was some leeway. I’ve never gotten the same paycheck every week, so I knew: If the money’s not there, you can’t spend it. Mason was 11 then. I hope I never portrayed worry to him about finances. It was also around this time that his dad and I divorced. Mason was mature and intuitive, and I think that scared him. From then on, I always told him: “We’re fine. I’ve got your back. You’re never going to be homeless. You’re going to stay in this house.”
Mason’s a very responsible and money-conscious person, but I think that’s a fear of his. When he was a kid, I always had to tell him to relax and have fun. I’m not kidding. I’d say to him, “If you don’t have tests and things are good with school, take today off and let’s go skiing.” I have to wring into him the idea: “Just do life.” I don’t think he’s extremely special in this regard: Most kids in that generation feel stressed.
I want Mason to find a balance between financial stability and taking risks. I hope he’s secure enough to go out and take those risks — to know that, if he does fall, there are people around him, that he can pick himself back up. The money will follow somehow.
The college senior who prioritizes
homeownership over job satisfaction
My great-grandmother grew up in Louisiana and moved out here to San Francisco. She was a single black woman, a mom of two, and she bought a duplex for $40,000. It was sold in 2016 for $2 million. Seeing how she could save money to buy a house and create generational wealth — that’s something I want to do as well. I’m minoring in urban planning so that I can know how urban policy works, and so I can be prepared to buy property. Because if I buy property before I’m 30, maybe I can turn it into an income property.
The financial market will drop again in my lifetime. I don’t want that anxiety, and if I can do anything to avoid it, I will. I didn’t know the full extent of the collapse, but I remember the $5 gas prices in the Bay Area, and I do remember our parents saying we might have to start carpooling, and I remember asking for less and getting less for Christmas. My mom got laid off around the time of the financial crisis. Things got a lot tighter.
I came into school with a partial athletic scholarship, which covered tuition and books. When I graduate, I’ll have to pay $12,000 in loans, which isn’t crazy in the scheme of things. I want to find a job soon because my mom keeps telling me she’s not going to pay for anything after I graduate. I thought she was maybe joking, and if I kept bringing it up, she’d say something different. But she hasn’t yet. I don’t want to get an apartment and get evicted, or ruin my credit score. My credit score is very important to me. If I have to have an unfavorable job and have over 700 on my credit, I’ll be OK.
A response from Chloe’s mother, Gina
My grandmother, Chloe’s great-grandmother, purchased a duplex in what used to be the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco. She purchased that piece of property so her family would always have a place to live. That was her motivation — the idea that it might generate wealth would’ve been beyond her wildest dreams. There was a time when my mom, brother, and I lived in one of the units, and my grandmother’s other daughter lived in the other with her family. In 1971, my mother, an entry-level administrative clerk, and her husband purchased a home in Richmond, California. Five years later, she was a divorced woman, working for little money, but was determined to hold onto that house.
Chloe’s dad and I purchased our first home in 1994. After we divorced, it was heartbreaking to go back to being a renter. Chloe would’ve been starting high school. That’s when I started telling her about homeownership — that you don’t want to throw away rent, that you need to build credit. A home is more than a place to live: It’s a way to gain equity, build your finances. In 2006, I was laid off but had a severance that was 70 percent of what my salary was. Later on, one thing I explained to Chloe was that, prior to 2006, we were living beyond our means. We wanted to have Warriors tickets and buy nice cars and pay for private school. We had to tighten our belts. Since then, we’ve had conversations about it, and she must have felt the dynamics.
My mother did not have these conversations with me, and I wished someone had when I was younger. I’d tell Chloe: If you want to control your financial future — so you’re not tied to employment and have something else you can fall back on — you can own property. I have an older son, but Chloe paid more attention. It’s always been the females in my family to take ownership, and she wants to continue that legacy.
The high school senior who wants
to avoid debt by any means necessary
Gabby Ayala, 18
In middle school, my Spanish teacher gave us a lecture on how much student debt she had and how she was struggling to pay it off. She was 40 and still had these huge monthly payments, and she told us about how the interest was killing her. I realized I didn’t want to be in that rat race of drowning in debt. This might sound greedy, but my first priority for finding a job is: Does it pay enough for me to live where I want to live and do what I want to do? I don’t want to leave Colorado. I never get lost with the mountains nearby, and I want to stay where I don’t get lost. Quite a few people are moving in, and the cost of living has risen, and I want to be prepared. My family has struggled financially — wondering whether we can make the next house payment or electricity bill. My mom has been a barista at Starbucks for 15 years. To watch her do that — I didn’t want her to go through that anymore.
I got interested in coding in middle school but didn’t have a sense of how strong a career it was. I went to a computer science high school, and freshman year they told us: Here are all the amazing jobs you can have; here’s what they pay you. I thought, This seems like a good plan — I’ll go for it. Then in tenth grade, a local apprenticeship program came to my school to recruit students. They told us we could get up to two years of college credit, and I was really down with that. You go to high school a few mornings a week, take college classes, and spend a few days working with a company in Denver. I’m in the third year of my apprenticeship at Pinnacol Assurance, a workers’ comp insurance company, and I’m doing work in IT and web development.
At the end of my apprenticeship, I might have the option to work for Pinnacol full time, instead of going to college, if they hire me. I’d be perfectly fine with that.
A response from Gabby’s mother, Jean Ayala
I started talking to Gabby about money when she was 6 years old. I put in her mind that she was going to go to college, get a good job, and wouldn’t have to have the same struggles I did. I’m a Starbucks manager in a Safeway, and it’s not always the easiest job. I want her to have a comfortable, reliable job that isn’t in retail. A job in which she gets weekends off and can plan for the future a little better. Gabby’s always seen me on a budget, figuring out what I could do to make the money stretch. She’s the oldest of three siblings, and I’m a single mother, so if I wasn’t there, she’d help me out.
As Gabby grew older, the conversation about money became more detailed. Right before she found the apprenticeship program, when she was 15, she came home and said, “I’m going to find a way to go to college to not hurt your budget. You have three kids, and I’ll find a way that won’t add stress to you.” I never want to instill my fears and doubts into my kids. Sometimes as parents, we don’t realize we’re nudging our kids to be more like us.
As a teenager, I worked at an ice cream shop in the airport, and it drove me crazy when mothers asked their child what they want, and the kid couldn’t figure it out. I always thought, I’m not going to let my kids be like that. They’re going to know what they want, and they’re going to know how to go after it.
Some are skipping college altogether to start earning sooner.
In 2016, James Boyd was deciding whether or not to finish his bachelor’s degree in psychology. He found his major interesting but wasn’t sure what it would lead to. And there was the $19,000 he owed in student loans. “I decided to cut my losses and work and pay back what I owe.” James enrolled in a local job corps program, where he’s being groomed for the automotive trade.
Of today’s new graduates, “there’s a generational awareness that college degrees don’t pay off,” says Matt Sigelman, ceo of Burning Glass, a job-market analytics firm. “When more people start earning a degree, employers stop attaching as much value to it.” Bachelor’s degrees can lead to better earnings over the long run, of course, but many feel they cannot afford to wait. James has a job lined up in Klamath Falls, Oregon, after which his plan is to save up so he can strike out on his own. Meanwhile, families and school districts across the country are beginning to look for potentially higher-return alternatives. Below, a by-the-numbers look at how the calculus of college is changing.
Others are rejecting the cult of the 24/7 workday.
When you enter the word “passionate” in the job search engine Indeed, it yields 345,000 results, 224,000 of which are entry-level: A seasonal warehouse associate, a content creator, and a full-stack developer all seem to require a minimum level of devotion. According to Cal Newport, a professor and author of the book Deep Work, the phrase “follow your passion” emerged as a popular career slogan in the 1990s and skyrocketed in the 2000s — giving rise to the “toil glamour” that has become mainstream (#ThankGodIt’sMonday, #riseandgrind). “The pressure to hustle comes from every angle,” says Armaan Malde, a 22-year-old engineering student. “You need to get good grades so you can find a good job — there’s a lot of uncertainty on whether that can happen. And if you’re coming out of school with loans, you need to find a job that pays enough.” But within a modern work culture that demands all of one’s attention, some are finding ways — even if temporarily — to reclaim their time.
The 25-year-old who uses two phones
The lack of worker protections leads to us all being on edge about having a job. There’s no bar by which you can say you’ve done enough. It’s like, Have I done enough work? Am I succeeding? And in a lot of tech or corporate jobs, your personal and work life converge because you’re expected to always be on demand.
I’ve learned to unwind my work from my life and my ego, and I actively take steps to prevent myself from working too hard. When I first started working as a software engineer, I used one phone and one laptop for both home and work. Later, I went out and bought a second phone and computer. I wanted a wall between my personal world and work world. On my personal phone, I installed only the things I’d want to use at home: some communication apps, YouTube, Spotify. Not my work email account. Setting up my personal phone was nice — it felt like moving. And on my home laptop, I’m only logged in on my personal email and some personal Slack channels. When it’s time to go home, I leave my work devices at the office. I am not a wellspring of infinite energy.
The 23-year-old who pretends to do paperwork
When I first started to look for jobs, my expectations of “I hope I get a job that I love!” flew out of the window. I was seeing all these positions where you’re expected to collapse your whole life into your job, and I avoided them. I wanted to guard my time outside of work.
I’m one of the only people at my work who doesn’t harbor any guilt about working as little as possible. In fact, I advocate for stealing as much time and money from your employer as you can. Sometimes at my desk, I take an hour to read and pretend to be looking at paperwork. It’s almost like hiding a comic book inside a textbook: I’ll have reimbursement paperwork in one hand and a novel in my other hand, and if people walk by, I’ll just cover up the book. I work with so many people who don’t want to leave their desks too long, or who work through lunch. I don’t think that the reason they’re not taking lunch is because they really care that this reimbursement goes out tomorrow or the next day — they just feel like they have to do really well at their job. But you can do mediocre at your job, and that’s fine.
There are these corporate buzzwords people use to describe work, like, We’re this community of people, we all love each other. It feels like a tactic to make work feel like a fun place where you hang out with friends. But they’re just trying to get as much labor out of you as possible. They want you to give up a lot of your time and to do so enthusiastically. I’m at work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and I don’t think that everybody should have to be at their job that much.
The 22-year-old who pads his hours
At our company, you have to log every minute you work in 15-minute intervals, and there are codes for how you spend your time: meetings, customer support, education. You pick your code, add a description of the task and the time you spent: “Customer Support, helped them on this issue, two hours.” At the end of every week, you have to make sure it adds up to 40 hours, and that’s how management makes sure your hours are in line with what they want.
In college, you were always competing to be busy — it’s a flex. You flex on people about how little you slept, how many clubs you’re in. The way you get validation isn’t by producing the best results — it’s by putting in the most visible work. You carry that into the real world. You have to outwork everyone else because you don’t want to be seen as a slacker.
When I log my hours every week, I just straight-up pad it. I’ve always done it. I pad it to make it look like the schedule of somebody with a full workload because I’m not trying to work more. When my manager asks me how things are going, I always give a neutral response: I have enough work, not unhappy and not happy. I don’t want to seem overworked or underworked. I kind of just exist there. It’s a place for me to make money. My company bleeds its employees dry. Management could hire a lot more people, but they know that these people can handle it for a year or two, and once they burn out, they’re replaced by a fresh set. It’s a big meat grinder. A lot of my friends work 50 to 60 hours a week because they’re given that much work. But I say, you owe the company the 40 hours they pay you for and nothing else.