Youth Mobility and the Love – Career Balance

This week marks the first in which Will, my partner in crime and hiking, is working full time with Dillon Consulting Limited out of their Oakville, Ontario office. His job title, Field Biologist, thrills us both with its weight and heft. I am fascinated by his descriptions of the work culture and his experiences with co-workers. It’s ‘real life’, ‘adulthood’, and his ‘life’s passion’ all rolled up into one.

But there’s a novel element to this new position that is central to our current experience  – that is, the daily commute and Will’s physical mobility. For the pre-field season, he’ll be based out of Oakville (we currently live in Kitchener) and during the five-month field season he’ll be doing work up in northern Ontario. He felt lucky when he didn’t have to move to Alberta to start his career, a significant trend for young Ontario residents in the 21st century (Hinkson, September 2013).

Although we’ve formulated a theory (based on anecdotal observations of friends and peers) that young people are increasingly mobile to fill desired career positions, the statistics prove otherwise. In the U.S., Census data shows that the willingness of 20-somethings to pack up and move for a job has dropped 40% since the 1980s (Woodruff, September 2013). Availability of jobs is unequally distributed across provinces, countries, and states, and young people are consistently under- or unemployed. So why aren’t youth packing up their bags to find employment?

Googling these terms leads to a whole new slew of terminology describing 20-something’s job prospects – “Generation Wait“, “Generation Why Bother“, and the “Go-Nowhere Generation“.  In sharp contrast, the counter-culture movement in the 1960s brought about a significant amount of youth mobility (Yen, November 2013). This subtle attitude shift has also impacted the driving habits of today’s youth:

“In the most startling behavioral change among young people since James Dean and Marlon Brando started mumbling, an increasing number of teenagers are not even bothering to get their driver’s licenses. Back in the early 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year-olds proudly strutted out of the D.M.V. with newly minted licenses, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. By 2008 — even before the Great Recession — that number had dropped to 65 percent” (Buchholz & Buchholz, March 2012).

Economists and others have speculated on the reasons behind this anti-movement culture, including:

  • The high cost of moving and a higher proportion of individuals staying with the same job (even low-paying jobs) over time (Woodruff, September 2013)
  • Risk aversion and fear of the emotional and psychological costs of moving to a new city with few social or professional connections (Woodruff, September 2013)
  • More time spent on the internet by young people is reducing the fascination with physical mobility (Buchholz & Buchholz, March 2012)
  • Young people are choosing to stay close to their home towns when finding work, perhaps due to an increasingly globalized society which emphasizes the charms of home and hearth, rather than the romance of travel (Buchholz & Buchholz, March 2012)
  • Kids who grew up during a recession period will focus on the importance of luck in their job search and will be more inclined towards staying put than exerting effort to find a job further afield (Buchholz & Buchholz, March 2012)

Even previously thriving Southern Ontario cities are finding that unemployment is on the rise. For example – Toronto, Ontario recorded an 8.4% unemployment rate in December 2013, a higher rate than the Canadian national average of 7.2% (Flavelle & Kane, January 2014). Consequently, the need for travel and mobility is more important than ever in the career-planning efforts of today’s youth.

For me, the mobility required in the job search means that I must carefully evaluate love of family and friends and balance this with my desire and drive to find meaningful work. Although I disagree wholeheartedly with the ‘do what you love’ mantra so common to our job-search culture, I also think that it’s important for today’s youth to be willing to take measured risks for better pay and stronger career prospects.

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