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Perseverance is key for my generation to succeed — and create change in the world

Key Points
  • Oluwatoyin (Toyin) Fadahunsi is a student at Rutgers University
  • His generation – Gen Z – faces a lot of obstacles right now, from coronavirus to social change, the environment and the toughest job market since the Great Depression.
  • He has hope that with perseverance they will succeed – and make the world a better place.

CNBC's "College Voices 2020" is a series written by CNBC summer interns from universities across the country about coming of age, launching new careers and job hunting during a global pandemic. They're finding their voices during a time of great social change and hope for a better future. What money issues are they facing? How are they navigating their student loans? How are they getting work experience, networking and applying for jobs when so many opportunities have been canceled or postponed? How important is diversity and a company's values to Gen Z job seekers?  

In life, challenges arise, but they are meant to be conquered through perseverance, and never giving up. This is something I was taught at a young age. As a kid, I ran track and field, which presented obstacles — both literally and psychologically.

As much as I wanted to believe in never giving up, the notion of doing so always lingered in the back of my mind during harsh practices and races that did not go my way. I did not like losing (even today!), but I especially did not like knowing that I could put everything I had down on the line, and still come up short. It was through this that I realized hard work and dedication do not always bring wins, but they do bring a spirit of perseverance, and from this perseverance — hope.

Toyin Fadahunsi on campus at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Source: Jeremy Elleman

I did not prepare for the world we are in today. No one did. Coronavirus has devastated the economy — the unemployment rate has skyrocketed and the job market is the worst since the Great Depression. Graduating, finding that first job and launching your adult life are difficult enough but add in all of this and it can be overwhelming. Yet, just like how I used to jump over hurdles as a runner back in high school, all of these issues are just obstacles that we need to jump over in order to press forward with our lives and our careers.

It all comes down to one thing: perseverance.

The coronavirus has changed all of our lives: The way we consume, go outside, and work have all changed because of this pandemic. We need perseverance more now than ever!

One obstacle in particular that I believe my generation will have to overcome is social justice. Through the death of George Floyd, protests have occurred all over the country. What many are hoping, including myself, is this wave of protests help bring not only light, but true change in terms of how African Americans are treated in the system and everywhere – including the workplace. This includes being equally paid, better represented in positions of power and more financially supported on the local level. As an African American, I know the continuous struggle of not only having to be your best in every place you step foot in, but knowing a mistake could be the spark that confirms a bias or stereotype that is the product of generations worth of racism and abuse. I hope that as bad as this coronavirus has been, and the protests that have come from generations worth of frustration and anger … that perseverance and goodness come out through it.

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Another hurdle I believe my generation has to overcome is student-loan debt. This has always been an issue but now, many classes are being pushed online, but the cost of these classes has not gone down. The price tag that comes along with a four-year+ degree adds up to decades worth of paying back debt. (The typical repayment period is 20 years for student loans of between $20,000 and $40,000, according to the Department of Education.) And sometimes you don't even wind up working in the field you have your degree in! I know personally that my first priority in finding a job is to be able to pay off my loans as quickly as possible. The ever daunting thought of carrying thousands of dollars worth of debt does not rest easy in my mind. But I know that the education I received has given me the opportunity to garner wealth for generations to come. My hope is that I can persevere through this battlefield called life with my newfound skills and knowledge.

And, of course, for all of us in Generation Z, there is the challenge of finding our first job out of college. What would be a daunting task already, has been heightened by the coronavirus. For me personally, I find that my job search has turned from wanting to find a Fortune 500 company job, to wanting a more local business. My thought behind this is finding ways to help businesses that want bright and hungry young people who might otherwise not get that talent because of the enticing income that comes from larger corporations. I hope to put my skills to work to help a company move toward a brighter tomorrow!

More than 18 million people are unemployed in the U.S. right now, according to the Labor Department — and the number is bound to go higher if restrictions on businesses stay where they are or increase. The struggle for all of these people to find good paying jobs will be reminiscent of the Great Depression fight for jobs — long lines and countless job applications to simply find a job to help pay bills. There are already so many people out of work and an entire generation graduating college and trying to join the work force — it becomes simple math to understand that not every one of us will get a job. This makes me concerned and frustrated but this obstacle will not stop me. The perseverance I learned growing up will help me to not give up when faced with challenges, no matter how big they are. I owe it to my family and friends to strive for success, because it is only then that I can be a better individual.

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I also want my generation to do better for the environment. Like most people, I take the danger of climate change and global warming very seriously. What we do today will impact the way we are all able to survive in the future. As a result, the way that we work, operate and consume must change as well. Like many Gen Z young adults, I want the impact I make in my everyday life to help maintain our Earth, especially for the future generations that come after us.

Hard work and dedication don't always bring wins, but they do bring a spirit of perseverance. Perseverance brings hope, and hope brings forth action. As an African American, I think the future looks bright, but only because of the groundwork that my generation is putting forth to not let underrepresented voices go unheard. I truly believe that as hard as this next decade will be from a financial and job-status perspective, there will be positive change.

I believe a lot of people in Gen Z and generations to come won't just go for jobs in typical fields because of the money, they will look for jobs that can make a true impact — both professionally and personally. Having representation in fields that are overly male or overly white do not help people. In fact, we as a society end up working backwards when that happens. Rather, we need to extend our arms out to bring everyone in and be honest about the history of our country -- and where we wish to go from here. These hurdles will be just like the hurdles I once used to jump over as a track athlete. And just like it took hard work, dedication and perseverance in order for me to do my best to get over those hurdles, we will all have to do the same to get over these hurdles.

It's time to tap into the perseverance within all of us to get through these challenging times and make the world a better place for generations to come.

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.