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Feb 19, 2016

The Peter Pan Phenomenon: Being Unemployed in the 21st Century


Peter Pan

Guest Blog by Colm Devereux

My age group has often been referred to as the “Peter Pan” generation, ostensibly because we cannot (or are unable to) grow up. I think that’s an unfair rap, the term coming as it does from older generations who have no experience of the significantly more dismal employment prospects for millenials. One of the largest problems that our generation faces (which goes hand in hand with increasing youth unemployment rates) is that we are faced with much more choice than our predecessors, both a blessing and a curse.


An example of the fundamental difference between my generation and the one preceding it is a conversation I had with my father, the day after I finished with my university studies in Canterbury. It occurred to me that I had no idea how my father had ended up in his current career. Had he struggled with the same problems, such as lack of direction, that I now faced? I decided to ask him on the drive home, and his answer surprised me: he had chosen from two brochures, and the one he ended up with seemed better to him. I had not expected such brevity, and although I could see that his path was not without its problems, his dilemma was almost the complete opposite of mine – he suffered from lack of choice while I suffered from abundance.

Most of us will not have our paths dictated for us, but it means we must also struggle with a complete lack of direction. I myself have several more viable career options than my father had in the late 70s – journalism, teaching, research, a career in the arts, and others that I could still pursue – but I have no way of knowing which is the right path, especially with a profusion of competition. It is increasingly difficult to find jobs in my field, and even retail jobs are hard to come by, even fewer that pay London Living Wage.

I am aware that there are many people who view my generation with pessimism, and assume that all the benefits we have (and they did not) have only softened us, made us complacent and lazy. Even the argument I have presented above could be construed as passing the buck, a sign of immaturity from a generation who are already defined by that word. It is essential, though, to remember that the 20th and 21st century must be measured by different standards if anyone is to accurately comment on the work ethic of the current generation.

By Colm Devereux

I have been working in a research capacity for Chris Kane with his current project. As someone largely unfamiliar to the world of corporate real estate, the initial research stages were difficult as I acclimated to the information and learned the terms used in the field. Chris asked me to write a series of posts about my experiences as a newcomer, and to start my opinions on the differences between the way our generations work, and the world in which they work in.


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