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Millennials are doing it for themselves in the job market.
BY PAM HOUGHTON
WHEN OUR DAUGHTER WAS IN COLLEGE, inquiring
minds wanted to know, “What’s she going to do with a French degree?”
I don’t know. Speak French?
Though my husband had concerns about the degree’s marketability, I was
never opposed, figuring the ability to master a foreign language hinted at
other talents that would serve her well as she pursued a career.
After graduating from Michigan State University in 2015, she spent nearly
eight months in France working with French grade school children as an
assistant English teacher, a stint that didn’t require an education degree.
Though she didn’t know what she wanted to do after she returned home, she
quickly found a bi-lingual customer service job in the auto industry. Thank-
fully, those French-Canadians on the other side of the border buy cars, too.
So there – that’s what she would do with a French degree.
Millennials – defined by Pew Research as born between 1981 and 1997,
and widely documented as an optimistic, self-confident lot – have different
priorities than their hand-wringing Baby Boomer and Gen X parents. Raised
to feel valued and oh-so positive about themselves (the net result of everyone
gets a trophy, perhaps?), they are ready and eager to take risks.
They are also eager to get a jump-start on work that fulfills them.
“After seeing many of our grandparents and parents work tirelessly
just to survive, rather than work in occupations they were passionate
about, shouldn’t we try to avoid that kind of life?” asks author Whitney
K. Blaine in her book Stop Doing What You Should: The Millennial’s
Guide to Navigating Your Most Rewarding Career Path.
Unfortunately, not everyone has “the resources to take time and see
what it is they want to do. But if you have familial support or money
saved up or an ability to go after what you are passionate about, I think
it’s so important to go after what you want,” Abigale Belcrest, 22, says.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Belcrest is going after what she wants. After receiving a B.A. in Arabic
studies with a concentration in justice and law from Williams College
in Massachusetts, Belcrest is spending her first year out of college in
Morocco on a Fulbright scholarship. There, she will deepen her under-
standing of the Arabic language and family law, focusing on the justice
system’s treatment of women, particularly after divorce.
What drew her to such an offbeat path?
A class in high school turned her on to the “fascinating aspects of
Middle Eastern history,” says Belcrest, who grew up in Harrison Town-
ship and attended University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods
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on scholarship. After falling “in
love” with the Arabic language in
college, Belcrest, raised Catho-
lic, became “super interested” in
Islamic law after a study abroad
stint in Morocco.
How will she turn her interests
into a career when she returns
“I kind of have a plan,” says
Belcrest, who will pursue work in
the non-profit sector, even though
she admits, “Everyone is always
concerned with the job market,
to be honest.” Which makes the
ability to network – a skill she
practiced in college – even more
important, she says.
Carl Anthony, 34, parlayed two
media degrees from a small
community college in Iowa into a
career in the auto industry.
After honing his radio skills in Iowa for 10 years, he moved to
Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2013 to be near family. There, “I combined two
things I absolutely loved – automobiles and broadcasting,” selling cars
at a Ford dealership by day and working as a part-time disc jockey
and producer at night. He also started writing for Sioux Falls publica-
“All my broadcasting training made me excellent at the dealership,
even though I didn’t do a lick of
[automotive study] in school.
Eventually, through the auto in-
dustry, I ended up in Detroit.”
Today, the diehard Detroit resi-
dent works as a product specialist,
vehicle coach and facilitator for
a variety of automotive clients,
speaking with consumers, and
training dealership personnel
all over the country to get them
excited for new vehicles. He is also
the managing editor of automob-
No typical 9 to 5 job for him
although he wouldn’t describe
himself a risk-taker. “I don’t ever
exceed the speed limit; I drive
with two hands on the wheel, nev-
er gambled in my life and I don’t
drink alcohol. I think the riskiest
thing I’ve ever done is ride a few
He also follows a core philos-
ophy. “When you worry about all
the work that [may or may not come] next, you don’t do a good job
on the work you are supposed to do today.”
STABILITY’S THE WORD
With a degree in film and video from Columbia College in Chicago,
Breayne Riddle, 29, thought she’d end up writing screenplays in L.A.
But personal events back home – including her father’s bone marrow
transplant – led her back to Michigan where she accepted a coffee
Top and previous
page: Carl Anthony on
assignment for Chevrolet.
Bottom: Fulbrignt scolar
Abigale Belcrest in
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roaster apprenticeship with Great Lakes Coffee Roasting
A year later, she started work as a marketing assistant for
retirement community Henry Ford Village in Dearborn before
replacing a co-worker in a move-in assistant role. Not long
after, she landed her current role as a residency counselor.
“I never had a 9 to 5 before, so this was a big change for
me,” says Riddle, who worked café jobs in Chicago to help pay
for her education. The surprise? “I really love working with
seniors. It’s the best part of my job.”
Hired for her outgoing personality, writing and teamwork
skills, Riddle, who lives in Hamtramck for the “creative vibe”
with her musician-husband, appreciates the stability. “While
I do miss certain things about not sitting in an office all day, I have
financial security I didn’t previously have.” She also has vacation days,
a predictable Monday-to-Friday work schedule and is “learning to be
She also appreciates her employer, especially the kind treatment
after her dad, and then grandmother, passed away. “They said, ‘come
back when you are ready.’ These people whom I didn’t know well
made my life a little bit easier.”
RISK-TAKER WITH A PHILOSOPHY DEGREE
Royal Oak resident Rachel Reed, 33, worked in marketing, traveled
the world with the International Ski Federation and recently returned
from Africa after a gig as athlete liaison for the World’s Strongest Man
competition – all with a philosophy degree from Oakland University.
“It’s who you know,
not what you know,”
says Reed, who thinks
she was lucky to get a
job in digital marketing
right out of college.
“Someone gave me a
shot for that role and
that catapulted me into
the marketing world.”
you to see that third
side of the coin, to
take abstract ideas,
put them on paper
and speak them. I
found it incredibly
useful in marketing.”
It also helped her
career evolve into
subsequent marketing positions in the auto and beverage industries.
It was while working for Coca-Cola that Reed took another
unlikely step, thanks to a member of her by now vast network, and
traveled with the ski federation, cashing in vacation days to interview
athletes on the podium. Media outlets around the world purchased
What made her take such a leap of faith – especially for someone
without any broadcasting experience? “I’ve always been really outgo-
ing and love the challenge of being in uncomfortable situations.”
Still, she flubbed her first interview on the podium. “You put some-
one in a role they’ve never been in before and there’s a learning curve.
But I learned from my mistakes. I didn’t mess up again and stayed
with the program for four years.”
Reed, whose sister just had a baby, considers herself a free agent
after quitting her “dream job” with Red Bull to spend more time with
family. “I’ve always known the importance of family … but at 33 they
should become my first priority, not the other way around.” NS
Top: Rachel Reed
from a skiing event.
Below: Rachel Reed
(right) on assignment
for the International
Are Millennials attracted to the
According to a 2014 Bentley University survey, only 13 per-
cent of Millennials plan to climb the corporate ladder while
two-thirds fancy their starting their own business. Breayne
Riddle, 29, may fall into the second category. Even though
she appreciates the stability of her 9 to 5 job, she “thrived” in
café jobs that put her through school. “My ultimate goal, and
I’m not sure if it’s a pipedream, is to own my own café. That’s
where I’m really happy, working behind the coffee bar, in that
community space, talking to my neighbors.”
Joey Cobb, a 2004 University Liggett School grad with a de-
gree in media arts and studies from Wayne State University,
is a millennial entrepreneur who owns independent record
label Stone Group Records. He attributes the millennial
“thirst for entrepreneurship” to opportunities for monetization
not available in previous generations. Social media is a good
example. “If you are funny, you can record some You Tube
videos in your bedroom [for an audience] that can grow from a
few subscribers to 10,000,” a figure very attractive to adver-
tisers, Cobb says.