McNay on Money

Youth unemployment: Is it the bad economy or inability to overcome adversity?

By: Don McNay
By: Don McNay

I have a young friend who has been looking hard for a job for several months. As time has gone on, he started looking at jobs far beneath his education and experience.

"He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at making anything else."

 

- Benjamin Franklin

 

I have a young friend who has been looking hard for a job for several months. As time has gone on, he started looking at jobs far beneath his education and experience.

 

He is back for a second interview at a fast food restaurant. I didn't realize the economy has reached a point where fast food restaurants had gotten selective. I'm sure my friend will make it as he keeps trying and trying.

 

I have another young friend who is supposedly looking for work. His career path is currently based on mooching off his mother.

 

Unless someone knocks on his door and makes an offer, he is not going to get off the couch and find one.

 

Unemployment for young people is running about twice of the national average. The bad economy impacts people with lack of experience and there are some professions where supply far outweighs demand.

 

I wonder if young people understand how to deal with adversity.

 

I was unemployed 30 years ago. The economy was nearly as bad as it is now. I left graduate school at Vanderbilt to work for a candidate for Congress. He unexpectedly lost. Instead of a comfy job on Capitol Hill, I was thrown out on the streets.

 

I found a job on the cleanup crew at the Kentucky Horse Park.

 

It was the defining moment of my life.  

 

When you are cleaning up after horses, it makes you consider different career options.

 

I realized that I never wanted to depend on someone else to hand me a job or control my future. 

 

Thus I wound up in the financial business. I worked 90 hours a week, mastered a distinctive niche and celebrate my 30th anniversary next month.

 

It took me years to realize I have a unique ability: Tenacity. Whenever someone does a personality profile of me, the "Energizer Bunny" analogy comes up frequently.

 

I just keep going and going.

 

Knowing I will never give up gives me comfort and confidence. My relentless focus gets me through hard times.

 

It can drive people crazy. Especially if you are the one attempting to say no to me.

 

I can't turn my tenacity on and off. Sometimes that means I use time inefficiently.

 

I recently wasted five hours trying to get Time Warner Cable to do what they promised to do.

 

The local manager "Chris" was supposed to come to my house and solve the problem. Within the hour.

 

It's been two weeks. He's not coming. I should have immediately done what he truly wants me to do. Cancel the service and leave him alone. It would have given me five hours to do something else.

 

Overall, I consider my tenacity to be a core strength.

 

It has taken me decades to figure out that few have the driving ambition that I have.

 

For a long time, I thought that "can't find a job" meant they weren't really looking, not looking in the right places or not willing to take a job below their life expectations.

 

I look at youth unemployment and start to wonder if that holds true.

 

The fast food and service industries have normally been the "jobs of first resort."    Twelve percent of all Americans have worked at McDonalds at some point in their lives. 1.4 million people work at Wal-Mart. 

 

That those jobs are getting harder to come by tells me that this "recession," caused by the Wall Street collapse, bailouts and the inability of government to say no to special interests, is far from over. 

 

I'm also wondering if you can teach young people to have tenacity, think "outside the box" and create opportunities for themselves.

 

If young people have been sheltered from overcoming failure, they may not understand that adversity ultimately leads to opportunity.

 

When I started in business, it was like the Bob Dylan song: "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose." I had plenty of time and needed little money.      

 

I spent a lot of time doing volunteer work, which helped the community and allowed me to develop some great relationships.

 

If you are sitting at home watching reality shows, you aren't learning new skills, developing new relationships or putting yourself in a position to ultimately succeed.

 

I don't know if they teach determination and tenacity in school.  I don't know if you can develop it if you don't have it. 

 

If we are going to reduce unemployment among young people, somehow they are going to have to acquire the skill of working hard, never giving up and getting back up when you get knocked down.

 

I'm waiting for someone, running for anything, to start taking that issue on.

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