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Lauren Friese
Lauren Friese

Leadership Lab

Passion vs. practicality: Young people, get ready for the future Add to ...

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

The stress of achieving their life goals has youth across Canada feeling increasingly worried. In a recent survey conducted by RBC on young people’s perspectives and optimism for the future, Canadians as young as 14 cited finances and getting a job as their top two worries (67 per cent and 61 per cent). This is disheartening, particularly when combined with the findings that 96 per cent of youth believe that doing what they love is important, but less than two-thirds believe they’ll get the chance.

The struggle to transition from education to employment is nothing new. Every generation goes through a learning curve as they head out into the working world. What makes this generation unique is how much the world around them has changed from what their parents and grandparents experienced. Gone are the days of entry level jobs where an application would get you your first role and “busy work” would take up most of your day. Today, those jobs have mostly gone to technology. Employers are looking for grads to have valuable work experience and be able to provide strategic and creative insight from day one.

Today’s youth have grown up being told to follow their passion and do what they love. But this is hard to put into practice. RBC’s survey paints a clear picture of how this impacts Canada’s youth: when asked what excites them about their future, 81 per cent of people aged 14-25 say starting their career. Faced with the reality of working life, young people are finding their hopes drop dramatically. Once they reach their twenties only 61 per cent of males and 64 per cent of females expect to be able to get a job in their chosen field.

The gap between expectation and reality is wider than ever before. Society, including parents and teachers, has built up the belief that anything is possible. Young people are told to “follow your passion.” Don’t get me wrong, passion is a good thing. We’ve brought up a generation brimming with education, idealism and confidence. But we haven’t, in the meantime, put systems and experiences in place to help them figure out what that passion might be. The workplace also hasn’t evolved to meet those same expectations, leaving a wide, unrealistic gap between expectation and reality. For many youth, this difficult transition is the first time they’ve truly failed at something.

It’s important we recognize that we all have a role to play in helping guide our passionate youth into the motivating and rewarding careers they seek.

We need more companies to provide paid internships that expose youth to the varieties of collective work that makes a company successful.

We need more community groups and institutions to support our youth with education, volunteer roles and information.

We can help young people to carry the optimism of youth into adulthood by equipping them with the tools they'll need to thrive and be resilient in a changing world. I often share three career planning phases in which every parent can help: Discovering what they want to do; exploring the environments in which they want to work; and building a plan to get a job – from networking to resume building.

The other challenge is helping our idealistic young adults match their passion with the practicalities of the job market.

We need our young people to have workplace exposure. Even if you’re the smartest and most capable applicant, employers want to know that you can show up on time to do a job – the younger you start the better.

Young job seekers need to build a framework, to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are – their likes and dislikes – appreciating what employers are looking for and how they can fit in.

They need to job search outside the lines. This means exploring every opportunity that uses their specific skills and interests; if you like elements of being a teacher, but don't want to work in a classroom, look for other options that encompass the elements you do like.

Above all, we need to provide support as a community. Landing a great job is hard work. It requires research and insight into the employer and the working world. Young people need to be able to look to the people in their lives, parents, teachers, peers and mentors of all kinds, to build knowledge, increase exposure to the working world, and, ultimately, improve their opportunity to follow their passion.

The transition to working life will always be a challenge, but we can do more to give young people reason to be optimistic about their futures.

Lauren Friese is founder of TalentEgg, the online career resource for students and recent graduates.

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