Millennials: Expect To Be Underemployed Unless You Do This ...

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underemployed millennials: grumpy old manFifty-four percent of college graduates under 25 are unemployed or doing a job that doesn't require a college degree: waiter, retail clerk, receptionist, and so on. That is according to an analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press.

People can debate what's causing that horrific statistic -- the educational system, political decisions, social mores or something else altogether. But something all could agree on is that many twenty-somethings could use some help.

There's no shortage of nurturing, supportive advice: Follow your passion; aim high. You've heard it before. I've been known to dispense some of that. But here, I'd like to balance that for those who could use a little tough love, a kick in the rear.

All right, it's time to stop sleeping late. Don't wait for a job to fall in your lap or for that dream career or entrepreneurial idea you think might finally light a fire under you. Most of my clients and friends who are happy in their career wouldn't have known it until they got into it: taken the time to become a go-to guy or gal, an expert.

For example, a client of mine with a liberal arts degree from Michigan State took a job installing dashboards at Case IH tractor company. He couldn't have cared less about tractors but that was the best he could find. But little by little, because he was brighter and more curious to learn than was the average guy on the factory floor, people increasingly came to him for advice. That made him feel good. He got promoted and now is happy in his career in tractors. Had he waited for a "more appropriate" career, he might still be waiting.

More:Employer's Tough-Love Letter To New College Grads

Just pick something. Circle a date on your calendar a month or two from now. Explore all you want between now and then but by that Drop Dead Date, pick something, the best option you come up with. Why? Because after that month or two, you're unlikely to come up with a career that's better, and with each passing day, you'll likely feel more inert and have a more difficult time convincing an employer to hire you.

Don't become your parents' 'welfare case.' Beware of your parents' "generosity" in being willing to keep supporting you while you're unemployed. That can afflict you with the so-called welfare mentality, in which getting your needs paid for decreases your motivation to look for work.

Once you've identified a career direction, sure, if necessary, go back to school for training but you may be able to get more practical training and make more connections by looking for a launchpad job--an entry-level position that will put you at the elbow of people who can train you and get you promoted.

Finally, please remember that all ethically done work is worthy. I'd go so far as to say that all ethical work is sacred. I'm not just talking about nonprofit work, which today seems to be deified above others. The middle manager who ensures that a good product is made and distributed at an affordable price is doing worthy work. The entrepreneur who comes up with a new service that people feel is valuable enough to buy is doing worthy work. Even our lowest-level workers -- dishwashers, janitors, grave diggers, etc.-- are doing worthy work.

It could even be argued that they are particularly worthy of respect: Despite the low pay and lower prestige, they show up every day to do those necessary, unpleasant tasks. They, surely more than our entertainers, should be our heroes.

Certainly, I respect them more than the countless college graduates who hang out waiting for some cool job to come find them while living off their parents' or taxpayers' labors. Do your best to not remain one of them.

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