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Big Easy Living: Why I’m ready to turn things over to the next generation

Three things I am glad about, on the sunset side of marriage and career:

–I don’t have to date.

–I don’t have to cook family dinner every night.

–I don’t have to look for a job.

With three daughters in their 20s, I’ve eavesdropped on the manner in which the latest generation approaches all three of these adult tasks. And they’re a lot smarter about them than we were:

–They don’t date, but rather roam in packs.

–They don’t cook, but rather drop by deli counters and take-out windows.

–They don’t want to punch a clock, but rather yearn to make an impact on the world.

I always thought that my own job as a parent was to make sure my girls were well educated, and then send them out into the world.

But nowadays, it’s a lot harder to get a job. There are few face-to-face interviews and no one returns phone calls. You send a thousand emails into cyberspace and are lucky to land a handful of serious responses.

I chatted about all of this last week with Laura Dodd, who has written a book called “Dig This Gig,” profiling various kinds of jobs for young professionals (that interview appears above).

“In a connected world, it’s easy to be connected,” Laura commented. “But it’s a lot harder to be noticed.”

Nowadays, young people have to be persistent to get a foot in the door. Dodd told me about one friend who wanted a career in broadcast news, so he started a TV show on his college campus to give himself an edge in the field. Dodd herself spent six months in gentle but persistent nudging before she landed an interview with economist Jeffrey Sachs for her book.

“You have to be creative about things,” she said. “I just read about a guy who put a grand piano on the beach to call attention to his application for art school.”

Or, as she more metaphorically puts it, “If you’re going to join the rat race, you need to be a taller rat.”

The thing is, of course, that many young people today don’t want to join the rat race. Or, if they do, they want it on their own terms.

I have one daughter who works endless hours to finish projects but hates punching a clock; she prefers jeans to three-piece suits. I have another who thrives on office pressure and critical thinking and loves the sleek sophistication of a clutch by Chanel or shoes by Jimmy Choo.

Discovering which careers feed these needs has been a voyage of luck, timing and experimentation. As Dodd points out, “Half of knowing what you want to do is knowing what you don’t want to do.”

Young people today are taking time to get it right. The 20s are no longer years devoted to marriage and family, but rather a time to establish a sense of self and explore careers. The average person in the U.S. holds 9.2 jobs from age 18 to age 34, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Here in New Orleans, we are benefitting from the energy and expertise of the Millenials. After Hurricane Katrina, they arrived to clean up, create, reorganize, rebuild. Inc. Magazine recently called New Orleans “the coolest start-up city in America.” NolaVie has assigned an editor full-time to covering the local entrepreneurial community, given what we think is its relevance and importance here.

This next generation may take awhile to know what they want to do in life, but I’m glad they’re doing it here.


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