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Sandra Finkelstein

4 Things Parents Should Know To Help Children Navigate Today's Job Market

This is a four-part series written to help parents better understand today's job market and help children navigate through it.

PART I: Understanding the world is different today

The world is so different today from when we grew up.  The path that we took was for the most part linear: get a good education and you will find a good job. Most people started with a company and grew with it through advancement and promotions (if desired).   It is not uncommon to speak to someone in our generation and learn that they have worked with the same company for 10, 15 or even 30+ years.  In researching my book, We’re Not Gonna Take It, I found in my Boomer versus Millennial comparison that many Boomers hold the belief that Millennial youth are lazy, entitled, don’t want to work hard, want work/life balance and want to make a difference and have their voice heard.

Can you tell me a younger generation that didn’t want to challenge systems and bring change? This sentiment is as much a truth for the Boomer youth as it is for today’s Millennial youth, your children.  The greatest difference for this youth is that post-recession 2008-09 everything changed permanently.  The economy has not ‘righted’ itself and the opportunities as I saw in the mid-1990s as a young adult do not exist in the same way for the Millennial youth.  Jobs and industries that we were once very familiar with are disappearing. New ones are emerging that we do not even begin to comprehend.

We are constantly encouraging our children to focus on a four-year program at an accredited post-secondary institution. But the cost of post-secondary education has skyrocketed. It can cost up to $100,000 for four years depending on whether you live at home or not and which program you attend.

Many of the Millennial youth graduating are finding themselves underemployed and saddled with student debt taking sometimes 10 to fifteen years to pay off.   Some children are returning to school to get a Master’s degree or even PhD.  This is not the answer.  What we are creating is an overeducated youth population.

In North America, many employers hire today for precarious employment: short-term, part-time and contract positions. Some will hire for their immediate need and often at a level beyond entry level. The idea of loyalty both ways has diminished.

The market is competitive today. What is going to give our children the competitive advantage that they need to come out on top are not high marks in school. Rather, they need hands-on learning and the ability to develop life skills and soft skills that can be transfered into various different working environments. Employers today are less interested in the degree title and more interested in your competencies and more importantly - the ability to create value in their organization. The technical skills can always be taught.  Don’t get me wrong, education continues to play a huge role in mapping out your children’s plathways to success. However, the youth today are so stressed with getting high marks to get into post-secondary education that so many valuable experiences and tools that exist in their growth are being put aside, like Career Cruising.

As teens many of you worked part-time or volunteered and this helped you develop into the person you are today.  The decision to have your child work, volunteer or intern should be encouraged irrespective of whether or not you are covering their expenses. The idea should be encouraged not as a way to earn some extra cash, but as a way to gain valuable experience that will equip them with a much needed competitive advantage. There’s something to be said about an individual that has exciting stories, a variety of experience, knowledge about the industry and good grades, as opposed to one who just has the grades.

There is so much value in working during holidays, paid or interning.

The world has changed from when we were kids.  The sentiment “it’s a competitive market out there,” means that your children need to be creative and think outside the box when looking for work experiences.  To help them come out on top, we must first inform them of all of the options that are available to them. Then we have to expose them to real world opportunities and experiences that will help them decide what pathway they want to follow and will ultimately help them come out on top of the crowd.

Stay tuned for the next part of the series which will provide tips on how to get started.


Part 2 | Importance and value of employment opportunities.

Part 3 | Tips on how to help your child begin the process of looking for volunteer positions, internships or paid work.

Part 4 | Your role and your child's role.




Sandra Finkelstein is an author, youth advocate and empowerment consultant. Her book, We're Not Gonna Take It is a resource book geared to the millennial youth to give them, their parents and youth workers the tools and resources to assist in their decision-making process and provide the foundation for their success in this market. She is currently working with companies on intergenerational relationships (motivation and engagement strategies that bridge the gap between different age groups to create a cohesive and engaged work environment).

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