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Youth Career Counselling: Tips for Engaging Generation Y

by Judith Thomas


Youth born between 1980 and 2000 are known as the Y generation. Sometimes, they are even referred to as the “Why Not?” group! This is because they are so accustomed to instant problem solving through their various technological devices.


However, when it comes to career decision making, I have found them to be often bored and uninterested. Perhaps it is the “career” word, when they are thinking more along the lines of “jobs.”


Here are a few tips for keeping their attention:


Statistics for Stirring Interest


  • The average Gen Y person is expected to change jobs 29 times during their life.


  •  The average job retention rate for this group is expected to be 1.1 years.


Therefore, they desperately need to know what sort of positions they would enjoy, how to effectively job search and how to manage their own career process.


There are many other facts out there concerning Gen Y. In particular, the changing world of technology will have a huge impact on how careers will be transformed.


If your youth aren’t worried about the statistics, show them a short YouTube presentation put together by the Google team. Considering it was made in 2008, it is even more relevant today. It can be found at:


Comparison to a Computer Game


Compare two games on a shelf at the same price. One is “World of Warcraft” and one is called “World of War”. The first one is well known, advertised on television and probably more than half of your group will own it, or at least know a friend who has it. The second one has no description on the box. Ask which one they would buy and why?


In discussion, compare selling yourself to an employer with packaging your product (you) to sell. Part of your packaging could be:



  • Dressing for success at all times
  • Knowing yourself, so you can put things on your package!
  • Your resume, attitude, elevator speech, business card, cover letter, etc.


Terrific Qualities List – For Groups


Type each person’s name on the top of an individual sheet of paper. Pass the sheets around the room. Each youth must write down one quality, value, or skill, that they admire about the person whose name is at the top. Every word must be a different one from the others already listed.


When the sheets have been given to all, and returned to the appropriate person, participants will be left with a great start for their resumes. This activity also inspires confidence and self-worth in participants.


Job Name Calling! – Group Activity


Type one career name per sheet of paper. Using tape, attach a job to each youth’s back. Have them all wander around the room. Participants must give one skill, education level, quality or personality type that would fit that occupation. Let them know not to be too specific and give the game away. Facilitators should walk around also, assisting those who are having difficulty.


When the person guesses the occupation that is listed on their back, they sit down. Once the whole group is finished, discuss the implications of being a good fit for your career choice.


Characteristic Charisma


Have youth research on the internet some Gen Y characteristics. They will find many such as: tech savvy, achievement oriented, excellent problem solvers, team focused, recent education, innovative approach, attention craving, etc.


Discuss selling what you have, not what you lack (i.e. many years experience).


Even characteristics such as ‘attention craving’ can be looked at in a positive light, as it means they will need employers who recognize their achievements. This could lead to discussion on filling the job-seeker’s needs, not just employer’s.


Using the Personality Dimensions Training Tool
Youth will have great fun while learning about themselves and how every “colour” has value in life and the workplace.


There are many more tools and techniques for use with youth. The main thing is to keep their attention by introducing different activities and keeping the pace flowing, whether counselling groups or individuals.


Judith has been an employment specialist for many years, working with various groups including marginalized youth. Judith will be presenting at the OCASI 2010 Spring Professional Development Conference, at the Nottawasaga Inn Resort, Alliston, Ontario, May 12-14, 2010. Her sessions are entitled “Hope Based Counselling for Newcomers.”

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