Leaders: What Does the Future Hold for Our Aimless Youth?

Generation Y

The young people we know as Generation “Y” will soon overtake the rapidly retiring boomer generation in the workforce.

When that changing of the guard comes to full fruition, the young people of today will be expected to keep the country running by filling all of the jobs and running all of the organizations that their Boomer predecessors leave behind.

Dazed and Confused

In every generation, there are keeners; those amazingly talented, intelligent, resourceful people who know what they are good at, what they want, and how to go out and get it.

However, many of the young people who graduate from high school and make their way into the workforce every year are frankly, dazed and confused…they don’t know what to do and they are afraid of what the future holds.

“They are aimless and lost in a sea of bewilderment.

You Made Them What They Are

Considering the amazing amount of contradiction and misinformation that Boomer and Generation “X” parents have tossed at Generation “Y” all their lives, it is no wonder many of them are aimless.

They have been praised, protected, doted on. and rewarded by parents and teachers all of their lives.

They have no idea what overcoming obstacles means and they have a profound lack of understanding of the subtleties and cruelties of the business world. They have been taught to believe in themselves and have an ingrained faith that they will succeed.

However, as they near the precipice of independence, they are beginning to realize that neither their parents nor teachers prepared them for real jobs in the real world. They simply have no idea what they might excel at or where their talents might be best utilized.

“Generation “Y” has a fundamental belief that they should never settle for second best.

They want to start at the top of the pay scale and they believe they should have everything their parents have, almost immediately after they leave home.

Because of their liberal and generous upbringings, many young folks make it all the way to high school graduation without ever contemplating the fact that they will ultimately be singularly responsible for their own lives.

Imagine the horror of leaving the nest without a mature, functional pair of wings!

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They Have No Direction

Parents and teachers in most cases have done a less than effective job of preparing our young people for the real world. They did not encourage them into any particular profession or career path. Oh sure, they bought them laptop computers and I-phones and they told them they would be great at whatever they did as long as they did their best, but they did not map out a clear path for adult success.

Many parents and teachers told kids that they should become computer literate, get a good education and avoid dirty jobs where physical labour is involved.

Of course, they wanted the best for their kids when they provided all of that support, but they did not think it through; they did not balance their encouragement and advice with research and practicality so that they could provide clear direction to their progeny.

Hence, many of our youths are wandering the streets, avenues, and shopping malls of North America with a deeply embedded sense of despair and no clear plan for their lives. Here is what they might be thinking:

“Should I be a doctor, a lawyer, a pharmacist, a writer, a teacher, a computer programmer, a rock star, a movie star, a disc jockey, an entrepreneur, an employee, a CEO or a taxi driver? Mom and Dad told me I would do well at anything I tried but what in the name of Bill Gates and Britney Spears, should I try? I don’t know what to do!”

What Is the Answer? How Can We Fix It?

It is never too late to help your children find their true calling.

The first thing you need to do is sit down with them and ask…

“What do you want to do?”

Do not assume that what you want for them is the right thing because if you try to force them to do something that you feel would make a wonderful occupation for them you might find that it is quite the opposite of what they want.

In the worst case scenario you might also eventually find out that they are simply not capable of doing well at it after spending thousands of dollars on education costs. Let’s face it, everyone cannot be a great surgeon or a skilled airline pilot and in both cases, the practitioners of those occupations must be extremely good at what they do. Just doing their best when their best is not good enough will not cut it.

Know Your Skills

Create an unthreatening, safe environment and have an open, honest discussion with your kids about what they want and then agree to help them achieve it. If they are completely confused and simply have no idea what they want to do, you might have to dig deeper.

In that case, you can employ a professional employment counsellor to work with him or her. That can be quite costly however, so for much less expense, you can do a skills and talent assessment that will point you both in the right direction.

Most assessments can be done online with a report generated on your computer within seconds of the survey being completed. They are very accurate and extremely helpful.

For maximum clarity and impartiality you should have a trained professional debrief you and your son or daughter on the report. Once you have been through it, you will have a much better idea of what sort of occupation your kids belong in.

No Clear Direction

Your Kids Might Not Have Any Clear Direction For the Future

Once you have accepted that they have no plan for the future, ask them if they know where they want go and what they want to do. Make it clear that even though their direction might not be what you expected, it is okay with you and that you will support them.

“Do not make the assumption that they will get by on their brilliance and sparkling personalites.

Although they might seem mature to you, they are just young impressionable people who need a boost from you to make the next big step in their lives.

You created them and they are yours from birth until death. You owe them every opportunity to succeed.


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Wayne Kehl is President and CCO at Dynamic Leadership Inc
He is author and behavioral analyst who lectures on leadership and motivation
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Image Sources: egonzehnder.com

14 responses to “Leaders: What Does the Future Hold for Our Aimless Youth?

  1. As a society, we have extended Generation “Y” too much flexibility in life, as well as their expectations in life. In fact, we have spread that flexibility across all living generations to the extent that we are now living our own nightmare. Yes, it can be fixed. We have to start NOW!!! We need to bring back the core values of duty, honor, courage, commitment, selfless service, integrity and respect. We can still create the proper perspective in anyone if we dedicate ourselves to changing the culture and instilling a sense of pride, professionalism, responsibility and accountability that will make every person and every organization successful.


  2. Hey Dale, Agreed. We (Boomers and Gen X) created the problem and it is up to us to fix it!
    All the Best


  3. While I agree with the first premise that we (Parents of Gen Y and Millennials) have not properly prepared our children, I also think that “we” (as a generalized whole) are ill prepared ourselves to try to “fix” or even guide them in the traditional sense. The world itself is rapidly changing. “Our” old paradigms are outdated, irrelevant, and rather flawed. Dale, you’ve hit the nail on the head in one respect (a return to core values), but I think our generation has to “fix” its own house first.

    What Gen-Y and Millennials are seeking is a deeper, truer meaning and purpose in life and most boomers and Gen-Xers have little idea of what it is anymore than they do. We’re ALL on the cusp of either a great awakening or a deeper nightmare.

    What is see is a huge opportunity for these generations to far surpass their parents in achieving a quality of life most boomers cannot imagine. What we can do is celebrate them and support them in discovering their own meaning, find their own purpose, and experience their own potential. And we need to do the same thing for ourselves. They may seem aimless, but at least they are not aiming at the same target most of their parents did.


    • Bang on Peter! I believe as long as the Y generation can go to bed each night asking “was I better today than yesterday” our world will be a better place.

      We are all expected to ask ourselves that question and not focus on the next generation to be better…. It all starts with each individual regardless of Y, X, or Z… By the way after Z what happens… Or is this going to be another Myan Calander doomsday prediction?? Lol 🙂


  4. Hmmm… Aren’t the baby boomers part of the peace love hippy era? Did they have the direction or were many wondering aimless?

    I caution looking at many of the bright up comming youth are not aimless… And unprepared…. I see many who are brilliant, hard work yet work smart.

    Because they may not approach life ad work the way baby boomers have does not mean it is not better.

    As leaders…. The baby boomers job is to bring out those skills, talents, And values…

    Peter is bang on in what e says as sees!


  5. We have left the Gen Y alone because we do not understand how they work. Now they are kicking up a gear and demanding their normal be our normal. Much like having Windows and then because we did not read the manual, it starts doing auto updates and reconfigure all by itself and all we can do is sit back and wait for it to do its thing.
    We need to learn how to engage the youth and allow them to integrate into our world with their values but not change the status quo.


    • Hmmm… I would ad …. It is not them which need to integrate into our world… Rather us integrate into theirs… As baby boomers retire … It is really not their world anymore … Is it! Also to engage, as I see it, means to listen and I would dare say integrate into someone else’s world first…. Like youth… They drive their own bus … We can offer road maps and offer to navigate… That is about it… They are bright intelligent individuals… They will find their way was the baby boomers did, ae their mistakes and learn from them… The key is accepting their mistakes and more important them accepting their mistakes…. This is truly the key to being “better”


  6. Pingback: » Some of today’s so called leaders are best ignored·

  7. This is a provocative article (I like it!), As I read it I was thinking of all the parents getting defensive.

    I think you make several very valid points – this generation has had it so easy in some ways as compared to other generations. However, I think they’ve had it harder in other ways. More than any other generation, this generation has had to deal with the complexities of a non-traditional family (which is now actually traditional) – divorce, blended families, multiple moves in a life time. This makes them more adaptable than ever.

    As a result of this generous upbringing, I find them to be more creative in their approach to work and intelligent in ways we haven’t even considered yet. I would agree with Barry that they are very bright and intelligent. This is going to be very important given the amount of debt our generation has left them with.


    • Yep! It is interesting the resiliency/adaptability…. Also given the world sociodynamics … The every changing institutions ect… To me these aimless youth are certainly becoming well equipped (more so than the baby boomers) to their new leadership roles …. Although I am not a baby boomer I am confident these youth will rise to the challenges.

      FYI … I am not a parent … Soon tho…. In about 45 days! 🙂


  8. Interesting article. As a parent of one of the children you describe, I go between kicking my self for not pushing harder and getting defensive at some of the statements made. Funny, most of our parents strived to provide us a better life. They worked hard to give us more. If you look back at thoughts about my generation (I’m 41) you could see the same comments that Wayne made pointed at us. In fact, since Aristotle older generations have looked upon younger generations with a little disdain, thinking them coddled and given too much. Isn’t the generation that you are writing about the same ones that gave us Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring? I think we can’t be too quick to judge them.

    Are they different? Sure. Were they given more opportunity? Sure, some more than others. Do they have the same work ethic as previous generations? That depends on the person.

    Although I have to agree we need to help this upcoming generation, we can’t do it with the belief that they have no direction. It’s just different than we would expect.

    This statement -” They have no idea what overcoming obstacles means and they have a profound lack of understanding of the subtleties and cruelties of the business world.” could have been said about any of use before we started working.

    You can’t know how to swim before you actually get in the water.

    Appreciate the insight Wayne.


    • It sounds like we are all on approximately the same page. Kids are kids in every generation just as adults are adults. I was considering this morning that every war the so-called free world entered into under the direction of the Boomers and their parents was spawned by a great and righteous belief in freedom and fair play. Our Generation Y, youths are aware of the causes our brave military men and women fought for and they are huge believers in freedom. I hope they are able to end future warfare because even though it shaped our current reality it killed and mamed a lot of innocent people. The world is in the hands of these (aimless…”I say with tongue in cheek”) youths and it will soon be theirs to do with as they see fit. I am optimistic that they will do the right things! 🙂


  9. Interesting article. It has generated a lot of responses from both sides. I call that a win. However, I will have to admit, when reading it, I was a bit taken aback. I have a lot of faith in our young people today. They learn more in school, travel more, get envolved in more, than I ever dreamed of when I was their age. I remember my dad wondering how I would ever make it. Then my kids came along and I wondered the same about them. Now I am a grandparent and what my grandchildren are going to have to face and deal with in their lifetime scares me to death! But you, they will survive and grow in “their” world.


  10. Wayne — Another gem (as usual). There is a wonderful (not expensive & very predictive) assessment that people can take that gives a numerical match, based on an individual’s hard wired character and interests, to about 50 career fields.

    It’s easy and quick to debrief, can be taken on line in about an hour, with the results back within another hour or so. It’s the best tool I’ve ever seen. For details, or to order, contact me at http://www.trin-linc.com or http://www.smartworknetwork.com. Ideal for use in schools, guidance counselors, placement agencies, etc. Check it out.


    • Thanks Scott!There a lot of assessments on the market. My advice is to choose one and use it on your kids…I offer an assessment in my business too and find that Gen Y loves the results. They are the communication generation and they like lots of information and solid facts to help them make decisions. The cost is minor compared to the direction the report provides.


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