Life/Work Balance with a First Job. Too Much to Ask?

Last week I posted this on Facebook:

An entry level engineer just turned down our offer of employment. Not enough vacation time (10 days a year) for him and he “really likes to get out and do things”. I weep for the future.

To set the scene:
Last week a fresh-out-of-engineering school job applicant declined a job with my company. Anyone who has read this blog knows I’m here for the health insurance but it’s not a bad company. The company that I work for is a niche firm specializing in hydraulic and hydrologic computer modeling. I can make an educated guess that the compensation package offered to “Scott” (his real name), a recent graduate of the Univ. of State at City, included: salary of at least $50k, 10 days of paid personal leave, 10 paid holidays including St. Patrick’s day (which is dumb….should be the 18th for hangover care), birthday day off, employer paid health insurance, 401K, Roth IRA and probably other stuff but like I said, I’m here for the insurance.
My comment on Facebook reflected my opinion that the current generation of American 20- and early 30-somethings is looking for a work/life balance that prior generations had not thought of till later in life. In my opinion, they earned it. I think that we have a generation of “kids” who were given trophies for showing up. No winners. No losers. Just curry that self-esteem. I think they have been taught that they should have what they want when they want it and not let work get in the way.
I’m going to share some comments from Facebook and my thoughts on the repercussions of this generation’s decisions. I would also like to know what you, my brilliant readers think about this.
I had a few comments like the following:
“Ah, the Age of Entitlement. The saddest era ever.” and “He must have received a 10th place trophy as a kid. You can’t just give it to the team who wins.
But for the most part, my friends supported “Scott’s” (I think, that’s his name) decision to look for a job that offered him the free time he wanted. There were also comments from people who live/work in Europe or work for European companies. That is a topic for another day. For the purposes of this post, we are discussing the United States in the here and now.

So, here are some of the comments from Facebook:

I guess I see it differently, I’d say good for him! He’s probably in his early 20s, why should he settle for employment that won’t leave him fully satisfied? Engineer jobs are aplenty and he has a good 40 years or so of work ahead of him. I recently turned down a job with a $23,000 pay raise for another job that gives me more time off and I still feel like it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.
If he can find an equally good job with better vacation, why not? Sounds like he is just taking advantage of a free market where he has options.
Oh you and I could have a long conversation about this I’m 26 and just resigned from a FT position, some of the reasoning behind it was how much time I was selling my life to work!

I say good for him too. I actually applaud him for not settling for something that doesn’t fit into the lifestyle that he wants for himself. Maybe he doesn’t measure his self worth by how much money he makes, but by his life experiences. He may not need “things” like the rest of us do. He may have impeccable work ethic. He may have already figured out how much money he needs to survive, support his lifestyle and what he’ll need to retire and when. If all of this is the case, we should all take a page from his book and maybe we’d all be happier and fulfilled.


I know the people who wrote these comments and I can comfortably say that almost all of them have taken on great mental, emotional and financial responsibilities for themselves, their families, and their country. And if they say, let the next generation or two take it easy, that is their prerogative.
My thoughts on the subject differ from theirs (as you knew they would).
Scooter Scott, I understand that you would like more time to “get out and do stuff” and that is your choice. I want you to understand a few things, though.
1. You still need to pay off your student loans. I know they are onerous. Actually they are outrageous but you signed the papers. When you default on loans, it costs the rest of us money.
2. If, after you have received your degree in history or Aztec studies or ecological poetry or water resources engineering, you don’t get that “meaningful” job with plenty of vacation time to hike things, don’t go live in a tent in a public square and compose rants on your IPad against the 1 percent. There are plenty of 1 percenters who worked their asses off to get where they are.
Well there are, I should know.
Well there are, I should know. Except I don’t get paid $50k to blog and play Friends with Words.
3. I don’t want to pay for your insurance. If you drive a car, can’t afford insurance and get into an accident OR blow your knee snowboarding without any health coverage; my insurance premiums go up.
4. If somewhere 10-15 years down the line, you change your mind and decide you do want to buy a house instead of renting but can’t qualify for a mortgage because you don’t make enough money or your credit score is inadequate; don’t complain that it’s not fair and demand that mortgages be easier to obtain. Subprimes are no one’s friends.
Scott (if that is your real name), I understand that you want to have more time to enjoy life. Don’t we all? Go! Go Carpe Diem, Carpe hard! I only ask that you realize that your decision comes with its own implications and you are not freed from society’s responsibilities simply because you want to get out and do stuff.
I couldn’t get the YouTube link to work.
What say you?

Note: I have no idea what is wrong with the spacing on this post but I’m done fighting with it. Done, I tell you!


39 thoughts on “Life/Work Balance with a First Job. Too Much to Ask?

  1. I love his choice to take a job with more vacation time. Longer life and happier employee will be more productive and rise in the company. So it may take a bit longer to pay of his loan, buy a house or all the other stuff that seemed to be so important to him to acquire at 26. Duh we have one life and he chooses to live his life and not be chained to a chair, hating his job, wishing he was doing something else, in more debt because now I “can afford” to buy???? No, his doing what is right for him and I love this new generation who’s minds a broader than the social conditioning of so many past generation.
    We each came here with a purpose and in my humble opinion it’s not to be locked inside of a job, office, building or meeting, flying off somewhere to another meet, office or building.
    On the other side this is what some love to do and I am so happy, honestly happy that they are doing what they love, but don’t one shouldn’t purpose their purpose for someone else.

    Just my humble and honest opinion.

    Peacefully and gracefully unfolding,

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I agree with you, if this is what he wants, then go for it! My concern comes in and the problems are well-documented, when the people like Scott make the choice to play more and work less, they can’t afford certain things and the cost of their wanting their cake and eating it, too is foisted upon society at large. THAT is not okay with me.

  2. Addie

    I posted a comment on this subject on your FB–I think it made sense. I’m not sure these days, however, I’m in the hopes it did.

    ANYhoo–I agree with you on the entitlement issue and his nonchalance. I was thrilled to get any job back in the day, and, when I lived in NYC, almost cried when Macy’s hired me. I have a friend who has a daughter with her Master’s in Art Appreciation (yes, I’m rolling my eyes) and snubs almost every job offered…her parents pay for all her living expenses, and, she’s 29. Too many folk continue to provide an entitlement aura for their children, giving trips and housing and trophies for showing up at holidays, not realizing they aren’t doing a damn bit of good for their child or the world they live in, leaving the rest of us to pick up the mess.


  3. I think I agree with your general sentiment (my generation is entirely too entitled), but without knowing the backstory or details of Scott’s life, I don’t necessarily agree with condemnation of his choice. Personally, I’d chose more vacation days over a higher salary, and maybe that’s what he did also.

    HOWEVER, my generation’s policy of borrow/buy repeat x100 is destined to come back and bite us all in the ass. I have friends who don’t know what a 401(k) is, much less know to take advantage of their company’s matching policy. Those same friends drive around in new cars and can’t wait to buy their first house (brand new construction, of course) and think that having $5,000 is savings is plenty. We’ve grown up where nothing much has gone wrong, and we think we’re invincible. For the most part, our parents are financially stable (because they’ve worked hard and saved their whole lives) and have always been there to pay for our education and bail us out of life’s disappointments. We’ve never had to wait for anything; the world is our oyster and we want all the things. Right now. Gimme gimme gimme. There are a lot of root causes and I’m not sure exactly who or what to blame, but I am pretty sure that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

    How’s that for some positivity? Oof.

    1. I don’t know about Scott’s work ethic. I would think messaging wise, you might not want to cite vacation time as your reason for not taking a job. Your HOWEVER paragraph is exactly what I am talking about 🙂 Also, I’m raising two of you so I’m not blameless!

  4. As you might have guessed, Maggie, I applaud Scott for being clear about how he wishes to express his life.

    The most important thing we can do, in my opinion, is to exercise our freedom to choose, to exercise it frequently, vigorously, and fearlessly. The most important parameter, again, in my opinion, being “fearlessly.”

    I also defend that freedom to choose, and the freedom to experience the consequences of our choices. The freedom to be afraid to choose. The freedom to be envious of others’ choices. The freedom to wish to curtail the freedom to choose.

    It is not for any one of us to determine how another is to choose to live; only to make those choices for ourselves. I would wish that they might be well thought-out, educated choices, but that doesn’t always happen and I’ve learned to live with that. Happily, since I waste no energy on what might have been.

    I’ve spent a great deal of my life undoing the straight jacket I was brought up in. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, Maggie.

    You’re on a roll, my dear friend: making us think with your posts. Good for all of us! 😉 xoxoM

    1. Thanks M, as always. I also defend freedom of choices in all things. I also request respect for personal responsibility.

      And thanks! I was away from this blog for too long! xo

      1. It doesn’t look like he said he was accepting a position that paid less money. Just that he was choosing to take one that offered him more personal time, which he seems to value at least as much as he does money. Doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t respect personal responsibility or, since he did manage to get a degree that qualifies him for an engineering position, a laggard.

        It seems you’re passing judgment without being in possession of all the facts.

        Perhaps he’s choosing to pay his dues to society differently than many of us did. Paradoxically, the one stable thing in life, Maggie, is change. 😉 xoxoxoM

        1. That is true. I don’t know much more and I was thinking last night of any way I could follow up with him without winding up with my ass in a sling! I have been in the engineering world for many years recently and before I had kids. Believe me, a degree in engineering doesn’t guarantee a responsible person. 🙂 He can pay his dues however he chooses and I am honestly addressing a specific demographic which comes down to American, college-educated, white kids. There is substantial evidence to back up my concerns about loan default and lack of insurance. Two things that have serious adverse affects on you and me and the rest of the country that plays by the “rules”.

          I love our debates!

          1. I hear you and understand your concerns.

            This is what I’ve observed over the years: I have no control over anyone’s choices and/or behaviors but my own. I’m one of those parents who always looked at the people who said “Can’t you control your child?” as if they’d sprouted a second (maybe third or fourth) head, and say “No.” When she was having a meltdown, as the adult responsible for her wellbeing, I only had control over my own behavior and choices and my choice was, with very few exceptions, to remove her from from whatever was causing the meltdown and working through it.

            This was not, by the way, the way I was treated or reared as a child. My mother took that as a personal affront and waited for my child to become a juvenile delinquent because I as her parent refused to follow my own mother’s directions.

            She’s still waiting.

            My daughter is a lovely, kind, compassionate young woman, who has made, and continues to make, decisions that express who she is – not who I am. I don’t know what motivates her; she seems so different from me at her age in that respect that I have no idea how to help her. So I simply trust that she’s a good person (because she’s never demonstrated anything else) and that her decisions are right for her. And I support her in that.

            “Bad things happen to good people.” I’ve witnessed that time and time again. No amount of planning or intention prevents accidents, any kind of accidents, from happening.

            As for evidence, it has been my experience and observation that we can always find evidence to support whatever our point of view is. I rely on my own years of experience and observation to form my opinions and it is because of those years of experience and observation that I am willing to entertain the notion that I there’s still lots more for me to experience and observe unique to me.

            While we are all One, we are simultaneously individual expressions of that One. Equal, not same.

            And I love the adventure of individual expression!

            I also love our debates, Maggie! lol xoxoM

  5. I see both sides of this coin, Mags. There are “regrets” I have for taking the safe way out when I was younger or getting into work that didn’t make my soul sing. I felt I had to make a living as many do, but maybe this generation has something in that respect. I’m not saying some of them don’t feel entitled, I’ve seen it and it astounds me as it does you. I find it odd that everyone has to get a blue ribbon because life just doesn’t work that way and I think it’s a big wakeup call for these Millennials. (is that what this generation is called?) But maybe, the love what you do, do what you love has merit. I think it does, really.

    As long as you’re (universally speaking) good with the consequences that come with those decisions and don’t blame others or expect society to take up the slack. Him, making that decision, is his right, his choice. This is America, the best country in the world and he does have the right to make that choice. Who are any of us to determine what are the right or wrong decisions for him? If dude wants more time off, then dude wants more time off.

    As far as the other points you brought up (insurance, paying what you owe, etc., hellz yes). I had numerous school loans (and did this during my working adult years) and paid them off. Because I took on the debt, it was my decision, my choice and my responsibility. It never occurred to me to let that fall on anyone else.

    I don’t know all the reasons why young Scott did what he did but I guess I admire him a little for not settling. He’s young and if I had my 20s to do over, I’d probably be more fearless than I was. Your 20s are for that–messing up and finding out what you want and all the mistakes and decisions you make transform you into who you want to be (or not).

    Thought-provoking post, Maggie. Thanks for this.

    1. With you every step Brig! It took me till my 40s to figure out what I loved professionally and I’m working hard on it but I still have to have insurance and pay my bills.

      Thanks B!

    1. I hope I made clear my concerns. Scott is just an example that I’m using for this post. Another post can talk about tax breaks for huge corporations, etc. I have seen the article you posted on other news sites. I haven’t read it yet. I am skeptical when the source is Oxfam, because they definitely have a political agenda. I’m not saying there isn’t a 1 percent, it’s just not the subject of this post.

      Thank you very much for reading!

      1. Thank you. I’m wondering if you are going to group all millennial wouldn’t it be fair to look at the average millennial with the average age instead of a top-earning millennial? Also, you talk about all millennial as if they all snowboard and they are all putting your healthcare premiums at a risk. Have you seen the number of hospital visits for senior citizens? I’m not quite sure why you choose to only look at the negatives of millennial without perspective of the negatives of all groups of people. Because it is clear that millenials are left in a much worse state than every preceding generation before then. You are basically a bully picking on the smallest kid in the playground. Why not show empathy and understanding instead?

        “If you earn more than $35,300, you’re bringing in more than half of millennials, according to the Fed’s survey.”

        “40% of unemployed workers are millennials, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released to MarketWatch, greater than Generation X (37%) and baby boomers (23%).”

        “The average net worth of someone 29 to 37 has fallen 21 percent since 1983; the average net worth of someone 56 to 64 has more than doubled. Thirty or 40 years from now, young millennials might face shakier retirements than their parents. For the first time in modern memory, a whole generation might not prove wealthier than the one that preceded it.”

        The numbers don’t lie. Millennials have a worse career path than previous generations. Here’s the funny thing, after the Great Recession, previous generation are ALSO punished by having to work into a later retirement age. But instead of tracing where all of that money went, you’d rather have both of these generations fight amongst themselves, then trace the true villain. That is exactly why I bring up the 1%. But I can’t help you if you choose to ignore those numbers.

        “The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting the relevant data a century ago.”

        It doesn’t matter what numbers are presented. I know you won’t even approve my post because it goes against what you already believe.

        1. You are new here and I can’t figure out why it was asking me to approve this comment. I will check my settings because whatever anyone writes here is approved. I censor nothing. The reason I’m talking about millennials is because this post is about an experience I had with a 24-year-old job applicant, not a 74-year-old one. I know your generation has a harder road and that is not of your doing but it is the hand you were dealt. People didn’t ask for The Great Depression either but they worked their way through it. It’s a different time and your generation is going to have to find its way through the muck. I am the mother of two teenagers who are also going to have to find their way through this “new normal” and I hope they and the preceding generations and the generations to come all find a way to create a better “normal” than this one. Does it occur to you that all the stats you posted are an argument for Scott to have taken the job for $50k with vacation, holidays, insurance and benefits? If your generation is so sorely lacking in opportunity, why wouldn’t you have said “Scott, what the hell is wrong with you, man?! Take the damn job!” Seriously, why?

          1. Haha! Yes, I agree Scott was offered a good opportunity.

            The only issue is that the rest if the post contains “ive lost hope for an entire generation” which belittles the new struggles thay millenials have to deal with. Also, the meme you posted with a millenial with a sign that days that he does not work EGREGIOUSLY misrepresents the struggles that this generation has to deal with. Its fun y for Scott, but its making fun if the entire generation. Whether you intend it to be or not, it is very mean spirited. This generation and following generations would have much better livelyhoods if there was less bully talk and more focus on the actual source of the problems.

            I dont know if you acknowledge any of the sources Ive posted, but thank you for listening, and letting me post on your site. Discussion is key to a healthier community.

        2. Please tell me where I wrote “I’ve lost hope for an entire generation”? The closest I come to that is the original “I weep for the future” comment from Facebook and that’s just Facebook. I also make fun of whoever I want on here and I’ve taken PLENTY of heat for it in the past and I’m sure I will again. I’ve looked at your blog and you guys are controversial too. I also think that what you are labeling “bullying” may be called “tough love” by others. As I said, I have a daughter who graduates from high school this spring, I know the world she is facing. It ain’t pretty.

          You are always welcome here! I love the debate.

          1. Well put Maggie. “Tough love” is sometimes a necessity. As long as you are mixing it with realism of what produced the problems for this generation then you will be fine. And by your kind and personably tone, I think you and your daughter will do well.

            Sorry for my misquotes. I was typing on the WordPress app on my phone and it doesn’t render as well as a computer monitor. But my point of not demonizing an entire generation still remains. The meme is quite hurtful and very broad. That is bullying. Can you at least admit that? I’m not sure that you understand it. It’s very important that you are able to have perspective on what truly put this generation in turmoil.

            Why not do this; keep with your good parenting of “tough love”, but also do something to improve upon the conditions that have set the next generation up for problems? You have yet to acknowledge any one of my sources, which tells me that you are not gathering information. By ignoring necessary information, the quality of life for your children and potential grandchildren will be even worse, no matter how good of a parent you, or anyone else is.

        3. OK. I know what put this generation into turmoil. I am not apologizing or acknowledging that I have bullied anyone. That word has become frightfully overused. Did you read the caption I added to the meme? I have that job!!! I’m making fun of me, as well as of the expectations of a lot of millennials.

          The WSJ article is a good one, of course. I had student loan debt. I paid it off. It was no near as crushing as student loan debt is now. I sit on the board of directors for A Better Colgate and have for years. Our organization is fighting hard to turn around the rising costs of college education by starting at our alma mater. I know what I’m talking about.

          OK. I can’t focus anymore because my daughter just called and she got into her school of choice so I need to focus on her student loan debt!!! (Which she will be required by her parents to pay off!)

          Best to you!

  6. As a recent grad in an area where jobs are VERY limited, I would take what I can get. But then again I’m a person who loves to have a job and the schedule and balance that comes along with it. I have a lot of friends who are being picky because of stuff like that and I noticed a lot of them were raised without working so they weren’t used to it. But hopefully he figures it out! And maybe someone better will come along for the job.

    1. I admit I’m raising two of these kids and battling the lack of work ethic. I know it’s hard because there aren’t enough jobs for people who have years/decades of experience but my kids volunteer, etc. And he can do what he wants, of course, I just don’t want to pay for it down the road.

      Good luck with your job search!

  7. I would kick my soon to be an engineer daughter’s butt if she turned down a job that paid well and offered stability. But you know what? I don’t have to worry about that because she is at 21 supporting herself and knows the value of hard work, grit and more importantly, committed to serving others. ( yea that’s right, I’m proud and I’m letting it hang out)
    I must admit though, I was a tad jealous of the lad’s gumption. There is a part of me that was pleased. Two weeks vacation for busting your hump all year stinks.. Right?

    1. Your girls wuz brung up right.

      I get more than 2 weeks of vacation a year. Surely, he could put in a year with only 2 weeks vacation and another 10 days of holidays and his birthday off before he went up to 3 weeks???

  8. Maybe it’s we “old folk” who believe in “a bird in the hand…” “save for a rainy day” and all those other cliches!! I have a 24 and a 27 year old and I have drilled it into their heads the importance of Compromise and Balance – so perhaps no one is right!!

  9. Effie Maree Vincent

    I see both sides of this – if he were in a field where jobs were scarce and he only had one offer to choose from, then I agree that his reasoning was selfish. But… I graduated with an engineering degree too and after busting my butt in engineering school, I had many many job options to pick from so I picked the one that fit into my lifestyle. Granted, I took every internship that was offered to me in school so I looked particularly worthy when I graduated. That is the privilege that comes with getting a degree in something that most people won’t put in the work to do. I am 29, have almost 4 weeks of vacation, fully insured (car/health/life), pay off my debt and I am able to travel regularly. I could be making twice as much money if I wanted to work 24/7 or go into “hot” industries, and for the record, I make pretty good money either way, but I chose to take a less-pay job for the freedom and stability it offered me. When you have a marketable in-demand skill, you can afford to job-shop to find the job that works for you.

    On the other hand, a close friend was an art major who did nothing in school to differentiate himself. I think he assumed people would recognize his genius and beat down his door to offer him an awesome job. He has struggled to find a decent job and struggled to pay bills and whatnot since he graduated. He has to take any job offered to him since he doesn’t have a skill that people need and are willing to pay for.

    Kudos to Scott and I hope he found what he was looking for!

  10. darwod1

    Yeah -you’re right. We can’t always get what we want. But why not try? And we don’t all want the same thing. He’ll learn something from turning the job down. It may not be what you want him to learn but your desires & ideas about this young man’s life are not something he knows or cares about. How do we even know people will be using mortgages to buy singke family homes in the future?

    1. I think I need to write an addendum to this. I don’t care if he wants to make a ton of money or dig ditches or anything in between. My point is that he is free to do whatever he wants but I don’t want the expectation to be that society picks up the bill when his choice to “get out and do stuff” leaves him without the resources for the less than fun stuff.

  11. As a recent college grad, maybe you shouldn’t judge all 20 and 30 something’s off of one guy’s actions. There are plenty of people struggling out there and working hard to get jobs. There are also people smart enough to realize there is more to life than work and money. I think my generation is understanding that you CAN live with less and be more fulfilled. Cheers to Scott!

    1. As I said in my last response, I don’t think I made myself clear at all.
      First, I’m not judging all of you by Scott. Your generation had this reputation long before Scott showed up in this office. Sorry but it’s true.
      I know your generation is struggling and I am very worried about it….I have two kids in high school right now. Their future is scary, too.

      I’m not judging his choice. I think his messaging was off. My concern is that in the need to “get out and do something” things that are less entertaining like paying student loan debt and buying insurance get put on the back burner. I’m not making that up just because of Scott, he was just a character in the story. My concerns are happening and that is a problem.

      You don’t know me but I have never been one to make choices based on money although I have always paid my debts and continue to do so. I’m glad you read and commented.

      Thank you!

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