Peter Boys, Boys Financial Services

The Challenging World Facing Generation-Y


Generation-Y is an interesting topic for me, especially being the father of a member of this group born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.   With over 12 million of them in Canada, Gen-Yers are the largest demographic group since the baby boomers, and face some major challenges.

I hear small business owners complaining that they tend to be self-centered and feel entitled, but to their credit, this generation is tech-savvy and tends to be a more adaptable and accepting generation.

Gen-Yers are the most highly educated generation in history, with a larger percentage of them having obtained post-secondary degrees or diplomas than any previous group.  Unfortunately though, too many of them have education that’s not relevant to today’s job market needs and are stuck in low paying part-time or menial jobs.

They are also likely to be the first generation to be financially worse off than their parents.  Finding suitable employment will be a challenge as no matter how one slices it, as their employment prospects aren’t great.  They face challenges their parents didn’t have, such as the increasing occurrence of part-time employment and corporate downsizing.  Downsizing impacts them particularly hard as they lack both experience and seniority, making them vulnerable to market changes.  Think about all the layoffs at Blackberry!

Politicians hype about all the part-time jobs being created, disregarding that more than 27% are unable to find the full-time employment they want.  The trend going forward looks to offer ever more precarious employment options, with short-term contracts and part-time jobs the wave of the future.  This is a frightening prospect that will have serious repercussions on our economy unless we address it, as part-time workers have little disposable income at $11 an hour.

None of us know exactly what the job market will look like 30 years from now, but people with a diverse set of transferable skills will always be in high demand.  My wife and I encouraged our children to play sports to help them build teamwork skills and to volunteer to improve their interpersonal skills.   I know that my volunteering with Rotary and other organizations has helped me to better understand people, learn how to motivate others, and better deal with those difficult situations life throws at us.

One overlooked area for today’s youth is taking advantage of all available grants, bursaries and scholarships, as these are severely under-utilized in Canada.  I recommend applying for every form of financial assistance available.  Never underestimate the power of networking, people you volunteered with, interned or went to school with.  These people can help you with your future endeavours, whether it’s looking for a job, a referral or a career change.

In order to succeed, Gen-Yers have to step up their game, by thinking bigger and expanding their skill sets at every turn.  When in doubt, take advantage of the two traits that define their generation: acceptance and adaptability.

I always remember one of the VPs of New Holland farm equipment, whose catch phrase was “Always try to do better than 100%”, a trait that I passed onto my children.  With all of them successful, two of them with their own businesses and one with a senior CA position for a British re-insurance firm in Bermuda.

This country offers boundless opportunities for young people with at good attitude and who are willing to work hard.  The trick is to think like Wayne Gretsky, who said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  In other words, only by challenging yourself can you succeed!