The Problem with Youth Unemployment: a Call to Action
I regularly listen to CBC Radio and often hear stories documenting the challenges that educated and talented young people are facing finding employment in their field. These stories often stereotype young people with one or two degrees who can only find employment as a barista or waiter/waitress in a restaurant.
Unfortunately, I do not think this problem is a result of the skills, talents or enthusiasm that these young people have; but rather a problem with our broken corporate recruiting processes. As a point of evidence, I was chatting with a young professional who has recently graduated with an advanced degree, with a professional designation, and finished in the top 5 in her class. Of all the job postings that she applied to, she has not had a single call back, not even to acknowledge receipt of her application. At the same time, of all the jobs that she was referred to by a mentor, friend or family connection, she has received 100% call-backs, advanced into second, third and fourth rounds of the interview process and received three job offers. Two of these jobs were not even posted to the company’s career website. The difference is black and white: Apply to a job through a company’s prescribed application process – 0% interviews; Get a warm introduction – 100% interviews. This example is not an isolated incident. I see it occurring all the time.
This is also not a new phenomenon. We have all seen circumstances in our careers where young people who come from families with “connections” get interviews and jobs. Contrary to some urban myths, this is not because of favoritism or nepotism, but because when they get a door opened for them, they demonstrate their talents and capabilities and get hired. To use a baseball analogy, I call this, “getting an at-bat”. You can’t hit a single, double, triple or home run, if you never get a chance to stand at the plate.
I was at a conference recently and coincidentally ran into a former employee who I have been mentoring for the past 10 years. He is one of the most talented young people that I have ever encountered. After ten years working for start-ups, he is starting his own technology company. During the evening, I introduced him to five companies that are potential clients for his new company and he has five follow-up meetings. I don’t know if they will lead to business, but he is getting his “at-bats”.
So, what is the problem with our recruiting system? Simply put, young people with connections and networks get “at-bats” which leads to jobs. Equally talented young people without connections don’t get “at-bats” and struggle to get jobs in their field.
So here is my simple ask of all of you in my network and those who are reading this post:
- Find a talented young person.
- Give them the benefit of your time and get to know them well enough that you are willing to open a door.
- Actively look for opportunities to do a referral and give them an “at-bat”
The lunacy of the situation described above is that companies are starving for talent… young people need those jobs… It is up to us (you and me) to match them because recruiting processes and systems at most companies today are failing to do so.