looking down the road (and young people unemployment)

unemployed young“I trained for a world that doesn’t exist … I feel I have no future …” – Maria Ulldemolins <unemployed Spanish 20something>



These are my thoughts on young unemployment and that mind numbing thought … “feels she has no future.”


Who the heck is Maria Ulldemolins?

A smart, confident young woman. She has one degree from Great Britain and is about to conclude another in her native Spain. And she feels that she has no future.

Ms. Ulldemolins belongs to a generation of young Spaniards who feel that the implicit contract they accepted with their country—work hard, and you can have a better life than your parents—has been broken. Today Spain’s unemployment is 21.2%, and among the young a staggering 46.2%.


So. I do not personally know Maria.

But I do know that while the youth unemployment are staggering … the youth unemployment issue is staggeringly concerning from a long term perspective.


I began addressing this issue in my 2013 predictions.

Here is what I said:

Youth unemployment

This is about hiring as well as what we do with them when we do hire them. The young are getting screwed in a number of ways. And while being unemployed seems like the biggest issue it is actually only the first domino in what we need to be sure we address.  By being unemployed there are 3 key issues we need to be prepared to deal with:

–          Lack of training: typically as we hire young people we have lower expectations. We permit them some time for ‘on the ground training’ as they gain experience. The longer they stay unemployed the longer they miss out on this practical training. Now. Most youth are not remaining mentally idle … they are thinking, observing & improving personally. This translates into a new, different type of entering workforce. Existing management needs to think about that … very carefully. It represents a challenge … and an opportunity.

My main prediction? Existing management will fuck this up. They will remain with status quo thinking and get poor results … but most importantly … we will miss an opportunity with this generation of youth.

–          Lack of earnings: studies have shown the longer you wait to begin your earning history the less you earn in your lifetime <for a variety of reasons>. Short term this may not mean a lot but long term there is a huge issue with regards to earning history, savings and lifetime net worth.

My main prediction? Existing management will fuck this up. Mainly because they will only see the short term as an opportunity to get an older, more mature, cheaper employee and not recognize the longer term issues that will arise.Spanish Crisis Closes The Door Industry

–          Lack of ROY <return on youth>: youth and young people are the cheapest innovation engine in any organization. While typically overlooked in an innovation model their innate ability to provide a fresh perspective through fresh eyes is invaluable. Organizations may not recognize their current loss with the ‘lack of youth’ within their organizations but it is having an impact. It has a domino effect within an organization. Without the ‘hidden youth engine’ more pressure will fall on older employees for innovative ideas … and these employees are more focused on ‘safe behavior to maintain employment’ and … well … you can see where this ends up.

Focusing on the youth <and not the organizational issues> … I believe we will not manage this issue well. Mainly I believe this because we will tend to focus on numbers & jobs and not some key psychological aspects … some Maslow stuff.

At the crux of the self-actualization <Maslow> aspect I have one word … productivity.

Society has tightly tied the concept of individual productivity to labor … work. Especially at a young age <the hierarchy of importance … i.e., giving back to society, can shift with age after your ‘labor’ efforts has been actualized> productivity is pounded into our young heads that your productivity is a tangible way to define your personal success.

We teach in schools with an eye toward labor productivity <the entire school system is set up in a “here are the labor requirements and if you produce you get ‘x’ system & process”>.

We teach in home <parenting> with an eye toward labor productivity <work hard and you will succeed>.

We teach in cultural events & media <movie, tv, etc.> with an eye toward labor productivity.


Let me clear.

None of these teaching things are bad.

Directionally, and with an eye toward purpose, it represents a practical focus.

However, an emotional or psychological issue arises when the teachings do not bear fruit.

What I mean by that is we have guided our youth to a point … and then have put them on hold <being unemployed>.

Everything they have been taught, and prepared for, is unfulfilled.

This is an aspect I tend to believe most businesses will not give a shit about and society will be hesitant to grasp <society including parents>.

*** end of my 2013 youth unemployment prediction> ***



I purposefully began this with Spain.

Because Spain’s unemployment figures are particularly horrendous. But youth unemployment is rising and/or remaining at disturbingly persistent high numbers across much of the developed world.

This issue can easily be ignored as everyone else struggles with their own professional & Life challenges … and we always think that the young often have parents to fall back on or they can use the time to expand their education but we don’t see them as being ‘lost’ … just ‘on hold’ for now. In addition most have no families to support nor dire medical needs they need to insure against.

All this is compounded by the fact that this young generation is so damn positive <I mean that in a good way>. Pew Research shows that despite the fact their professional lives are being significantly challenged they are quite optimistic about their future. unemployment young adults remain-optimistic-about-their-own-future


What do I say about that?

First. They don’t know what they don’t know <but they are pretty damn resilient so there is hope>.

Second. We older folk have a tendency to look at the young unemployed differently than we do older unemployed <and information like the Pew report make it easier to do so even more>.


We need to revisit that type of thinking <and put it in the garbage where it belongs>.


In America just over 18% of under25s are jobless.  Young blacks, who make up 15% of under25s, suffer a rate of 31%, rising to 44% among those without a high-school diploma <the figure for whites is 24%>. Other countries, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Mexico, have youth unemployment rates below 10%: but they are rising.

<numbers source: The Economist>


Globally there are now approximately 3.3+ million unemployed workers between the ages of 25 and 34 <more than twice the level in 2007>.

Globally there are now approximately 2+ million unemployed college graduates of all ages <nearly three times the level of 2007>.

Globally there are many millions more that are underemployed <those unwillingly working less than full-time or unwillingly working in a job outside their field which pays less than jobs in their field>.


Here is why we should start caring more than we do.

There is research that suggests youth unemployment does lasting damage <file this under the category of ‘they don’t know what they don’t know’>.

Young people are hit particularly hard by the economic and emotional effects of unemployment. The best predictor of future unemployment, research shows, is previous unemployment. In Britain a young person who spends just three months out of work before the age of 23 will on average spend an additional 1.3 months in unemployment between the ages of 28 and 33 compared with someone without the spell of youth joblessness. A second stint of joblessness makes things worse. – Jonathon Wadsworth Labor Economist


In addition.

Research from the United States and Britain has found that youth unemployment leaves a “wage scar” that can persist into middle age. The longer the period of unemployment, the bigger the effect.

Take two men with the same education, literacy and numeracy scores, places of residence, parents’ education and IQ. If one of them spends a year unemployed before the age of 23, ten years later he can expect to earn 23% less than the other <yikes … one year and 23% less>.

For women the gap is 16%. The penalty persists, though it shrinks; at 42 it is 12% for women and 15% for men.


They will not be unemployed forever <and that is what this post is actually about>.

So, when hired, if the objective were solely “speed to productivity” I would probably put the burden of responsibility on the mid30somethings as they have just figured out the maze to success. But the objective is “speed to long term productivity.”

In other words … sustained productivity.

Therefore I am going to end up putting the burden on the 50somethings capable of assuming this burden <and will outline in detail at the end on how>.

Now. I am not suggesting 50somethings do this for free. They should be paid handsomely. Personally I would be delighted to be paid primarily thru performance. Yeah. Teach and earn off of future value/contribution. Hmmmmmm …. that may seem nuts because a bunch of people will say “gosh Bruce that means the bulk of what you earn will be when you are already sitting at the great beach bar in the sky.”

Well. Maybe. And maybe not.

Guess it depends on how quickly, and how effectively, the people I mentor become productive.


Moot point. No one <but me> would do it.


Regardless <getting back to the young unemployed and how to ramp up productivity in a way that will sustain it later in their careers>.

It’s about teaching.

It’s about teaching data points.

Providing relevant data points.

Teaching how to assimilate data points.

How to prioritize and assess data points.

How to effectively use data points (make decisions).

What am I saying?
Young unemployed people are lacking data points because they just do not have the work experience. The burden of this generations’ 50somethings is they need to become the search engine optimizer for the young generation (with the “if you bought this you may be interested in this” feature).


They query and we optimize against the query.



Please stop. I can already hear the shouts from my sage old peers.

This generation is lazy. They need to think for themselves. OUR generation did it the hard way…we worked our way to the solutions. That’s the way to learn.” (and add in a bunch of exclamation points)

I call ‘bullshit’ on that.

I see little evidence that high unemployment is due to the shiftlessness of youths and far more evidence that high youth unemployment is due to systematic weakness in labor markets associated with a shortfall in aggregate demand.

Look. Some of all those issues older folk have with the younger generation may have some merit … but not in this situation.

We have a significant group of quite capable smart ambitious young people who have thru no fault of their own not had the benefit of experience. We have the responsibility to figure out how to squeeze the experience into shorter ramp up. To me that suggests iterative teaching. Which is admittedly a pain to the SEO generation because it is … well … a lot of work. And it takes an SEO nimble accumulator and assimilator mind. Not everyone can do it. Heck. I am not sure I could do it (but I sure as hell would give it a shot).young and unemployed

I say all this because I believe we not only owe it to these young people but we owe it to the global economy. The true productivity of this generation will be 20 maybe 30 years from now when they are leaders and influencers. Selfishly I would hope they would then be sharing perspective – past, present and future type thinking with the next generation by then.

Aligned with whatever the challenge is at hand.

Because that is what we mentored them on.



Now that I have ranted, and stated the issues/problems/challenges … I will actually offer some solutions to any company and 50something who cares to listen.


Solutions suggestion:


Companies <training>:

a.      Develop a 3-to-3 training program. <3 years into 3 months>.

First you have to get your head out of your ass<es> and understand the incoming 26 year old is not the 26 year old with 3 years on the job training but rather 3 years of life training … and it ain’t the same. What to do? Now that your heads are out of your ass put them together and develop a training program that replicates the on the job training one should have achieved in the first three years.

This does not mean ‘on the job training’ like we old folk think of it because it is too slow and they missed three frickin’ years of that on-the-job stuff already.  Think of this as maybe an MBA real situation case study program without all the academic bullshit. This isn’t ‘learning the abc’s of our business.’ This is replicating real day-to-day business in training. But you gotta figure out how to cram those 3 years into 3 months. But we are supposed to be smart enough <and experienced enough> to be able to do that shouldn’t we?

 b. Develop a reversed shadow program.

You know how young kids used to shadow a senior person watching and listening? Yeah. Well. now you are hiring a young person and slamming them into a responsibility & role … and you are having project hired experienced people to shadow them for let’s say the first 2 or 3 months. Sound expensive? Maybe from an out of pocket sense but the company benefits <monetarily> 2 ways. Call this person a ‘productivity catalyst’ and it is the new employee catalyst initiative.


–          The young person is significantly more productive faster.

–          The young person will be more valuable to the company faster <down the road>


This idea also slams an entire tier of experienced knowledge down to a lower level in a way that doesn’t bog down the process <because it is simply being injected and doesn’t stay invested day in and day out month after month>.


Old/experienced folk:

You are now a ‘productivity catalyst.’ Suck it up. You are no longer a manager nor are you a long term brand strategist … you are parts & pieces of all those things and yet none of them. Your job is solely to make your talent & expertise appear like Scotty has beamed them there in Star Trek in a particular moment and place.

Remember? Earlier I discussed ‘data points.’ That is what this is all about. Teach in the moment but do not over teach <in the moment>. Part of our experience is simply about navigating the moment. I learned by watching others … and having them explain later.

Do the same.

Help navigate.

Design your teaching skill session by taking notes.

Use notes to teach skill <and background perspective> in pods at a later date.


I have written about 50something transformational people who are very good at bridging the old fart knowledge and the young whippersnapper arrogant know-it-all-leave-me-alone exuberance <https://brucemctague.com/older-experienced-people-and-transformational-hires>.


Those transformation people are a minority within the 50somethings.

Most 50somethings suck in dealing with the young generation.

So do not ask them to manage them.

This shadow idea focuses the 50somethings, who do not deal with the young people really well, on specific projects and short term ramp up. Will it take some mental work on their part to suck it up? sure. But they have to figure it out or they just will not be hired <or be successful>. But there are enough of them who will get it at some point.

They will stop living in the past and decide to build the present … moment by moment.

They will learn the art of e-communication … and quit blaming things on lack of face to face.

They will make a decision to try and walk in the young person’s shoes <and along the way they will realize that they aren’t much different than we were at that age>.

They will learn to define fun, and success, differently … because this is … well … different.

And those who don’t do those things?

Will stay unemployed.




That’s my rant <with a solution>.

Young people and their career development later, with high global unemployment now, is one of the most important issues facing businesses globally today.

Here is a business/Life truth <whether older folk want to face the truth or not>.

Professionally it is tough for young people to not be a mess.

thoughts deep_thoughts-t2_largeThe world has changed from when us old folk began work. Options in this new greater more open global economy are limited <sounds odd but companies are running leaner, have less patience for less the 100% productivity and desire generalists but hire on a specialist role/responsibility acumen … meaning that in general most businesses are confused with what they actually need>.

Insecurity dogs even the best young people … even if they know they are quite capable … if not even very  good … because businesses are becoming increasingly less tolerant of mistakes and are increasingly risk averse.

Therefore fear of failure shadows every moment and every action.

This is the generation entering today’s global economy … well … this is the generation that WILL enter once they finally get to leave the unemployment lines.

I know. I know. There will always be the exceptions to what I have just written.

But to focus solely on the exceptional exceptions? It is silly, if not stupid, for us as adult leaders.


We <us old folk> owe it to the next generation to assist them … because we put them in this position.

And you know what? If you want to look at it selfishly … we old folk can benefit. We can have more jobs doing what I outlined and be productive <businesswise> for a longer period of time <and be employed>.

I don’t really care why you may do it … but we need to get our heads out of our old asses and get doing it.

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Written by Bruce