The One Mistake That Can Cost Millennials

I’m not a teenager, but I’m only six years removed from being one. I can remember that era of my life quite vividly, and I can remember my many mistakes. I also remember that social media was in its’ infancy when I was a teen, so the worries about my mistakes haunting me were minimal compared to what is possible nowadays – not eliminated, but minimal.

But I’m not going to use this piece to discuss the “typical” mistakes we make when we’re young (underage drinking, partying) but rather much more subtle decisions that can have just as much, if not more, of a long term impact.

When I was a freshman in college I knew what career I wanted to pursue and was excited about it – but teens often think they understand everything when they don’t. It turned out that particular career path wasn’t right for me and I was pretty miserable pursuing it. By sophomore year I decided to switch gears and go back to the drawing board to find something I could commit to.

CodeAcademy offers free online courses for those that wish to learn coding languages like HTML, CSS, Ruby, Python, and Javascript.

CodeAcademy offers free online courses for those that wish to learn coding languages like HTML, CSS, Ruby, Python, and Javascript.

I had options, hundreds of options; and looked at all of them. Technical fields like computer science, engineering, and programming were all possibilities but I didn’t seriously consider these. I had had very limited experience writing HTML code in grade school; and of the many skills, and subjects, to concentrate on coding didn’t hold my interest in the slightest. With my very rudimentary HTML experience in mind I didn’t think I would stand a chance in a major that revolved around a skill-set like that. The vision of potential Cs and Ds in computer science danced in my mind, taunting me.

Not to mention I actually had an interest, and some skill, in a bunch of other subjects that kept me engaged: sociology, sustainability, philosophy, political science, history, psychology, urban planning, public policy – all of these, and others, held my attention more than coding.

Well, THAT was a huge mistake, being interested in subjects that aren’t code. Because it’s now years later and programming is the skill-set that employers are demanding. Whoops.

So after six years of full-time studies, and a lot of student debt, I started to look into learning to code while I was winding down my master’s courses. Problem is, it was still not something that interested me all that much. Sure I’d like to build an app, but to get to that stage you need to know Ruby, or Python, or any one of the various coding languages out there (or many of them). HTML and CSS are now considered basic stuff, even in some non-technical fields. And while creating apps would be neat, my interest doesn’t go much beyond cursory glances.

I know I’m not the only one in this position. There have been scattered reports over the past few years of tech companies being unable to fill positions because, supposedly, the applicant pool lacks the necessary skills for the jobs. And there are literally millions of unemployed and underemployed young people looking for rewarding careers. There’s a disconnect.

There are indeed some startups that actually try to teach coding to people without that particular skill-set – I’ve even tried some of the courses out there, but nothing has stuck. I’ve also heard that it can take roughly a year for someone to learn to code up to the level of being employable for that skill. I suppose once again trying these resources is worth pursuing because forget about paid-training, or an in-house development program for people to learn these skills on the job. I haven’t come across many tech companies willing to do that.

So here I am, typing this piece with Code Academy’s introductory Ruby course in the next tab over. This will be yet another attempt to force myself to love coding, but I’m not optimistic things will be much different this time either. But hey, you never know right? We try, we fail, we make mistakes. Here’s to hoping mistakes can be overcome.

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2 thoughts on “The One Mistake That Can Cost Millennials

  1. Please don’t force yourself to love something just because it’s in demand in the moment. The reality is that by the time you’re up to snuff, something different will be in demand. The people who are most successful in life are those who develop expertise. True expertise only comes when you’re willing to put in thousands of hours of practice – and it’s impossible to do that with something that isn’t intrinsically interesting to you. Even if you pick an “unpopular” area of expertise, in 10, 20 or 30 years there may be a market demand for it that, voila, you just “happen” to be able to meet. And even if there’s not a sudden demand, you’ll be satisfied all the same because you were building expertise in a field you actually think is highly meaningful and engaging.

    Just my two cents 😉

    • Thanks for the comment! I’ve gone back and forth on this for months. And in principle I agree with you, but the charge that’s levied against millennials is that we believe we’re entitled to rewarding jobs/careers. I certainly fit into that mold and I have to try and break out of it.

      I don’t find coding interesting, but I just don’t have the luxury of not learning a new skill anymore. I’m not putting all eggs in that basket either, as I’m looking for freelance writing and volunteer opportunities as well.

      But I’d be lying if I said there isn’t a sense of frustration that all the years already invested in school were basically for naught. In ether case I have to do something, and need something to do (other than applying for jobs).

      Thanks again for your input. I appreciate your comments and advice!

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