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Gen Y, Are You Ready to Reinvent Yourself? Six Tips to Ride the Wave

June 18, 2017

Job Seekers

Okay, I admit I’m one of those Baby Boomers detested by Gens X and Y. “Ah feel yo pain,” as President Bill Clinton liked to express when pressing the flesh. We’ve inundated you with non-stop rock-and-roll for far too long. (I admit that I still love Hendrix and Led Zeppelin). To be frank–and hopefully helpful to Gen Y (and also to my fellow Boomers)–it’s time to get over the inter-generational resentment.

Gen Y (Millennials) was sucked into the group Kool-Aid think that as Baby Boomer exited their organizations that the world would be their oyster, where they could tell their ageing boss to shove it and where they’d have lattes served on golden platters at work every morning. It’s understandable why Generation Y is confused and resentful, due to their ongoing deplorable labor market conditions, whether in Canada, the U.S. or Europe. Gen Y has a right to feel cheated and mislead.

Sue and I have four adult kids, three daughters and a son, between 27 and 37, and six grand kids. My son likes to say to me, “Dad, suck it up!” Indeed. Sue and I have sucked it up aplenty during our 40 years of marriage. I’m sure that many of my Boomer cohorts have done the same.

We got married very young and started a family shortly afterwards. We sold our second-hand Volkswagon Rabbit when I quit my job with a finance company (collecting money at month-end from single mothers eventually wore on me) to return to do a Masters degree in economics. This occurred while I was helping raise our first born. Quitting a full-time job to go back to school came with risks, especially when I graduated during the 1982 recession. We went three years without a car–but we were happy.

UnemployedFar too much Kool-Aid was drunk during the early 2000s by policy wonks, economists, politicians and demographers, who collectively enthused that Gen Y would have its pick of the jobs and that employers would have to adjust their managerial practices and workplace conditions if they wished to have a hope of attracting talented young people. So-called experts and purveyors of the job market proved to be way off the mark on the subject of Gen Y’s role in organizations.

So where does that leave Gen Y, whose labor market status remains vulnerable and uncertain? The urgency has increased as the youngest of Gen Y are entering their family formation years. Far too many young people are unemployed and underemployed. What’s especially distressing is that failing to get a foothold in the job market in your early twenties, despite having gone to college or university, is a predictor of stunted career development and lower lifetime earnings.

Let’s take moment to look at some data provided by The Economist, based on the OECD’s survey on education:

For college and university graduates aged 25-29 working in low skill jobs, the percentages compared to total graduates by select countries are (the numbers to the right are average labor costs in U.S. dollars):

Spain 44% ($38,100)

Canada 38% (50,500)

United States 32% (70,900)

Poland 28% (14,800)

Britain 26% (70,000)

Australia 24% (23,000)
OECD Avg. 23% (49,800)

Canada was in second place, followed by the U.S. This is clearly not a good picture for youth, not just in regard to unemployment but also underemployment.

Since 2007, the OECD reported that the number of unemployed young people (15-24) rose 30% to about 26 million. The International Labour Organisation also reported that some 75 million young people globally are looking for a job. And the World Bank’s analysis revealed that a staggering 262 million young people in emerging markets are not engaged in the job market.

What clearly does NOT help the job situation are some of the self-serving practices of organized labor, in which retirees are not only able to return to the public trough but actually encouraged. Retired teachers in Canada have the opportunity to boost their pensions to close to 100%. In America, teachers earn typically lower salaries and have been getting whacked by state governments on the verge of bankruptcy. Retired teachers in Canada may wish to reflect on thinking beyond yourselves and give up supply teaching to provide a helping hand to those just entering a profession with a saturated labor market.
SurfingMaybe what I can offer Gen Y is to find someone who has some perspective. Forget about seeking out your bureaucrat boss as a mentor; find someone who has had to make a go of it on his or her own resources, whether an entrepreneur, artist or an accomplished musician. You want someone who won’t give you the answers to your challenges but who challenges your self-reflection and personal inquiry, and who stimulates your creative thinking.

It’s evident that the lengthy recovery, with uncertainty at every corner, has no end date. Tens of millions of Americans have had their 401K retirement plans decimated over the past decade. North of the border the picture has been less brutal. The irony, however, behind this is that as much as Boomers are seeking to extend their participation in the labor market, they’re feeling increasingly sandwiched as their ageing parents place greater demands upon them. It’s almost beginning to feel that the inter-generational war has begun in earnest, where Dad at 61 is telling his mid-twenties Gen Y kid to hit the road to find a job because his pension is now toast. Unless something changes radically in the next few years, the picture will not be very pretty.

This brings to mind the importance for Gen Y to reframe how they perceive the world and how they approach the job market as they contemplate their careers—existing or future (for those still in college). Here are six tips to help you in your journey:

1) Be open to outcome, not attached to it. This means exploring opportunities when they present themselves.
2) Take calculated risks when deciding on a venture.
3) Avoid taking on unnecessary debt.
4) Don’t covet the material things your peers acquire (see number 3).
5) Embrace the mindset that less is more, and that simplicity enables a healthier and happier life.
6) Begin with the End in Mind: interlacing tip numbers 1 and 5 will help keep you focused on the path to happiness as you choose opportunities that align with your values.

Ride the wave!

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.
– President Theodore Roosevelt


Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


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