Last week’s post on the unemployment rate among young adults reintroduced our friend Eric, an impressive 28-year-old who has struggled to find steady work since graduating in the spring of 2008. We got a lot of feedback on the piece. So I checked back in to see how he’s doing, two years after our original interview. (Please also check out part 1 and part 2 of this series.)
“A lot has changed,” he began. Eric has moved back to Vancouver with his girlfriend. Since we last spoke, he’s completed a successful internship at a prominent financial regulator and added HTML coding, web analytics and graphic design to his skill set. He studied web development at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and he’s made a decision to focus on that field.
He keeps doing all the right things. But in important ways, not much has changed at all. Eric has yet to find a permanent, full-time career position. He continues to juggle the pressure of a seemingly endless job search with part-time and temp work. And I’m afraid that the frustration I heard from him back in 2010 is developing into a deep cynicism about the Canadian economy.
Eric said three things that I found really disheartening:
- He’s losing confidence. “Right now I’m working in a restaurant to pay my rent,” he told me. “I’m working late nights all the time, trying to develop my interests, trying to get out two or three job applications a day, going to informational meetings. Emotionally, it is very tiring. There are times when I wonder: Am I completely unemployable?”
- He’s losing hope. “There have been days when I felt very troubled and very lost,” Eric said. “Every single time you get a no, you get a little bit angrier. You get a little bit more negative. And you realize you don’t know what you’re going to do. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life.”
- He’s disillusioned. “We grew up seeing employment rates super high,” he said. “People were working in companies their whole lives. This is what our teachers told us. You’re in high school to go to university, to get out of university, to get a job, work that job and then retire. That’s your life. And then we were in our last year of university and everything changed.”
Most of us had a tough time getting our careers started. But this is different. When 15% of young adults can’t find work, and when thousands more struggle to establish themselves the way Eric is, there’s an inevitable social impact.
These young Canadians are stalled, professionally and otherwise. Eric describes himself and his friends as stuck in a kind of “in-between state.” He told me they’re “stifled by a lack of security, a lack of having any kind of savings. They don’t know where their careers are going, whether they’ll even have a job this year.”
That insecurity prevents more than just professional development. These folks aren’t saving or investing. Home ownership is impossible. “It’s not even realistic to think about buying a car,” Eric told me.
I’m afraid that what these young Canadians are experiencing will shape their views of this country for many years to come. Our economy may well have fared better than most after the 2008 financial crisis. Clearly, though, some have been hit hard.