Four Ways We Can Help Young People Get Ready for a Career


What are four practical ways to encourage young adults and help them prepare for a career and for adult life?

You already know this. Teens and twenty-somethings (Generation iY) are delaying their entrance into adulthood. It’s old news. What’s surfaced recently is that these young adults often won’t embrace adult life because they can’t.

It’s true. For a variety of reasons, even college grads from Ivy League schools are delaying their real careers and settling for a job at Starbucks or retail stores. Stephanie Morales, a recent graduate of Dartmouth is now waiting tables in New Jersey and making $2.17 an hour plus tips. “We did everything we were supposed to,” she said in an interview. “What’s the point of working so hard for 22 years if there was nothing out there?”

Others graduate or just quit college and return home, unable to make any jump to life on their own. There has been a 40% jump in twenty-somethings living at home over the last two and a half decades. Some don’t even seek a job, much less a career. Many tell me firsthand, “I’m just not ready to launch into an independent life yet.”

So, what can we, as caring adults, do to enable them to get ready for a career and for adult life? Let me offer four simple ideas.

1. Help them jump into volunteer work.

Even if the full-time career job isn’t open right now, help them step into doing some meaningful volunteer work, for experience and to add to the resume. (It sure beats sitting around the house). Volunteering has become a popular outlet for grads who find themselves in between school and career.

2. Introduce them to your network of professionals.

You add to their net worth if you will share your network. Even if they’ve met some of your colleagues briefly, set up a lengthy lunch interview, so they can ask questions about different career paths, and appropriate steps to take to prepare. You may be surprised to find how often conversations over a meal turn into more.

3. Guide them in clarifying what’s really important to them.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology compares traits of college students today with previous generations as students. There is an increasing trend of valuing money, image and fame more than inherent principles like self-acceptance, affiliation or community. Push them to think outside of themselves.

4. Encourage them to identify a cause and add value, not vice versa.

We’ve all heard this before—Generation Y hates the phrase: “Pay your dues.” Sadly, they’re prone to build a resume and sell themselves to the highest bidder. Instead, encourage them to not seek a job that pays the most but one where they can add the most value; one where they actually seek to pay their dues because they believe in the work. They may have to start small, but this is where real career growth happens. Money usually follows a person who adds value.

I believe this list is only a beginning. If you have a moment, let’s complete it together.

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