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‘I’m not the only person in this situation … but people don’t talk about it. It’s a bit like mental health that way.’ (Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)
‘I’m not the only person in this situation … but people don’t talk about it. It’s a bit like mental health that way.’ (Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)

Rob Carrick

Job seeker on Gen Y's struggles: 'I didn’t think I’d be here at 30' Add to ...

There’s no happy ending yet for the 29-year-old who lit up our website last spring with the story of his difficulties finding a job.

To quickly catch up, he recently turned 30. And while he’s been working away at contract jobs in recent months, he has yet to find the full-time position he’s seeking. It’s no less tough out there today for young adults trying to build their careers, he’d tell you.

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This young man sent me a long and articulate e-mail after reading a May 7 column I wrote on how today’s college and university graduates have it tougher than I did when I graduated in the mid-1980s.

We published the letter in full on our website and a massive number of people read it and responded with comments and e-mails. Then, earlier this month, the story surged again online after being discussed on the website Reddit.

It was then that I decided to check in with the author of the letter to see how he’s doing. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation (he asked that his name not be used):

How was turning 30?

Awful. I didn’t think I’d be here at 30. I thought I’d be a little more settled. By the time my parents were 30, they had kids, they had their first place and they had their careers reasonably settled on. That’s not really the case with me.

Where are you right now?

I’ve done more contract work with various marketing and promo companies. It’s been awesome as far as gaining experience and more contacts.

Are you on a contract as we speak?

No, I’m between contracts.

Why haven’t the contracts produced a full-time position for you?

Good question. It’s because there’s no full-time opportunity. The jobs pay rather well while you’re doing them, but it’s a lot cheaper for companies to hire as they need people and then dump them.

Were you surprised at the huge response to your letter after we published it online?

I wasn’t expecting it. I’m not the only person in this situation, but [the job challenges of young adults] are not something that gets talked about. You’ll read about it in The New York Times and The Globe now and then, but people don’t talk about it. It’s a bit like mental health that way.

I’ve seen people respond to your letter by saying Generation Y ‘wants it all’ and isn’t willing to put in the work to make it happen.

We want it all? Yeah, we want it all. We were sold it all. We bought in. I went through my early childhood to my late teens being told that if I worked my ass off and did everything I was supposed to, it would work out.

What about the comment that young adults won’t put in the work?

It’s the single most frustrating thing you hear. If I were to actually honestly list my job experience, it would be six pages long and have about 18 service jobs on it.

Are your friends in the same position as you?

A solid majority of people I know are either vastly underemployed or really doing worse than that.

How are you getting by financially?

That’s the great part of being good about saving money. When you know money ebbs and flows, you plan for the ebbs.

Do you have your own place?

I have three roommates in a house in the Vancouver area.

How supportive has your family been?

I don’t know how to say ‘amazing’ enough. They’ve been great. They’ve been people to go back to and say, ‘this really sucks,’ and they turn around and say, ‘this isn’t just happening to you.’

What’s your academic background?

Four-year communications degree. Good school. I’d hate to have the name published because it would be unfair to blame the school.

After your letter was published, a number of corporate recruiters offered to help you with your résumé. How did that work out?

Anybody who offered help, I got in touch with. I think I went through about 40 versions of my résumé with about half a dozen recruiters. I’ve come up with something pretty solid.

Has it helped you get contract jobs?

Yes, absolutely.

What would you do differently if you could go back and repeat your university years?

First, I would have taken a year off before university. If you’re 18 and you’re going to [university or college], don’t. Take a year because you’re not ready for it. Also, I would have taken a much closer look at corporate Canada, and what sectors are doing extremely well. I would have majored in something related, or at least minored in it.

In your letter last May, you said you were hopeful of finding a career-starting job despite the challenges. Are you still optimistic?

I’m still trending toward hopeful for sure.


Do you have a question for our job seeker? Send it to businesscommunity@globeandmail.com. He’ll answer the best questions in a blog.

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Montreal’s Tom Smith is a writer in the creative department of a large advertising agency, where he has worked for the past three years. After reading about the 29-year-old job seeker earlier this month, he sent an e-mail response to Rob Carrick. Read it here:Why this 29-year-old believes Gen Y doesn't have it that bad

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For more personal finance coverage, follow Rob Carrick on Twitter (@rcarrick) and Facebook (robcarrickfinance).

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