Beyond the Bend

The Places I Go

Today on my way home from work I took a little different way. I needed to pick up some food that is slightly out of my way. The road I was on is a four lane state road where 55 is normal, at least between the lights. It has a somewhat spansive medium of grass and wiry bushes dividing the lanes. I’m familiar with the road and I can picture what is around each bend.

This past weekend I had the opposite experience. I was driving to Cary, NC for a family party. I printed directions and set out on my way. Most of the trip I’ve made many times before, but the last 2 miles were new to me – there were about four turns in that span. But, despite having the directions and practically an exact detail of the distance between the them, my anticipation of the turn made the distances feel so much longer. I’m looking and looking for the left, there is a car behind me, and it feels like forever.

The difference between these situations is my mental image of what was to come.

Youth Work Situations

The NY Times ran a couple of segments that caught my attention recently. They’re somewhat divergent in their take, but similar in topic. One is the weekly interview they run called Corner Office. This week the interviewee was Bill Carter , the founder of and partner in Fuse , a youth marketing agency. The second was an Economix blog entry called Young and Unemployed, Around the World .

The first question for Bill Carter is for him to talk about early leadership lessons. He responds that he played lacrosse for a successful team in Maryland. Winning was expected and ingrained as a culture. As the interview goes on, Mr. Carter explains how his business functions. He wants his youthful employees (25-32 year olds) to be professional from the beginning. No excuses. Confidence is key and if occasional mistakes are made, then they can be corrected. Performance is matter-of-fact and it isn’t necessarily a longest in the office competition. If someone is ready for a big presentation then they are ready. A competitive environment is good to have as long as it isn’t personal.

In Young and Unemployed, the stats show the ratio of unemployment by age against the entire population for several industrialized nations. There are all kinds of potential flaws in this (data collection methods are varying and the population of 16-20 year olds is in such a state of flux between school a real job, and a part time job for example), but it does show the differing approach for getting the youth into the workforce. But the US stats are pretty significant for the long term. Right now it’s just over twice the average unemployment rate (9.7%). And the point of the post is that having a delayed entrance into the workforce has societal side affects. For instance, the experience that is garnered during the first years is obtained a couple of years later and is replaced with idle or tax sapping periods (unemployment benefits, food stamps, or even jail). The income level takes time to recuperate as well and the standard of living could suffer at the aggregate.

And this makes me wonder. Are the recent graduates not skilled for the entry level type of job, are other age groups taking the jobs they would normally have, are the jobs going unfulfilled, or are they gone altogether? Do these type of stats make us change the schooling to “train” people for these responsibilities? Or do we go the other way and acknowledge the positions for what they are – a stepping stone role?

Psychology of Youth

The environment established by Bill Carter is like how I started this post. You can imagine what the road looks like after the bend. You know what is expected and you get into a zone just driving the car. You are performing with an end goal in mind. You stop at the lights and see the bushes on the side, but they don’t prevent progress.

The environment of unemployment for a youth is filled with anxiety. Each turn is anticipated well in advance. And there is no idea what comes after that – even with a map. You can’t imagine success.


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