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Four Ways We Can Help Youth Get Ready for a Career


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 new issue of 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.

What would you add to this list to help parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors and employers guide kids into a career?

Join me for the National Leadership Forum

“Growing Leaders, Not Just Graduates”

June 28-29, 2012

Atlanta, GA



  1. Trent Thomas on April 17, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Warning, warning!  Credit Cards are lurking.  A few years ago, the average college student graduated with over $4,000 of credit card debt.  That makes them desperate for work out of the shoot!  They need to learn the value of budgeting, savings, and the dangers of debt before it’s too late.  That is why I teach that in my “5 Steps to YOUR College Success Program” to local high schools. 
    Also, setting goals and choosing friends wisely are important lessons I include in the program. 

    • Tim Elmore on April 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

      Great lessons for students to learn before they get to college. Much better than learning the hard way!

  2. Veronika on February 13, 2022 at 12:45 pm

    You are right, now in order to get the desired position it is worth preparing adequately. Start by writing a good resume, and it’s easy to find help online. I found it here

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Four Ways We Can Help Youth Get Ready for a Career