Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been hearing about labour shortages everywhere. People are retiring early or refusing to work. Mental health is at an all-time low. More and more young people are joining the ranks and “lying flat” while not actively contributing to the workforce. Many more are lurking in online forums advocating for anti-work or not working.
Even your average teenager is no longer interested in getting a part-time job, but rather sitting at home, scrolling on TikTok, or playing video games.
The labour shortage is disproportionally affecting skilled trades and lower-tier jobs such as retail and fast food. It’s no surprise since these fields have been labeled as “lower class” by our parents’ generation and every kid was told to go to university. Then they wonder why university graduates are becoming increasingly unemployed, underemployed, and underpaid.
Sure, people argue that it’s not worth putting up with the poor working conditions of trades and physical labour, but ultimately, I believe it’s a rite of passage to work that job. It builds character and social skills. The skills you learn on the job are valuable for the rest of your life.
“But AI and ChatGPT are going to replace these jobs”. No s***. It’s been talked about for years but it still hasn’t happened yet, whether it be construction or truck drivers. Some jobs may be replaced, but new jobs will also be created. Think AI engineers and prompt engineers. Most jobs will not be replaced by automation!
Statistics have shown that Gen Z has a lower rate of seeking traditional employment compared to previous generations.
Nowadays, too many young people see YouTube videos about ways to make quick money, such as crypto / NFTs, opening an online store, video game streaming, or social media influencing. Then they go in and wonder why these fields are so competitive and oversaturated. Of course, when the barrier to entry is so low, easy money will no longer be easy. Everyone wants to sit in front of a computer all day instead of going out and working an actual job!
People are addicted to instant gratification, and today’s generations have more ways to get that instant gratification than ever. Everyone is glued to their smartphones, computers, or gaming consoles. Substance abuse problems are at an all-time high. More and more people have ADHD-like symptoms. People are becoming less social. Nobody has the attention span to actually go out and work hard. Everyone wants to make money with the least effort!
So today, with the way society is heading, I believe it’s more important than ever to get off your ass and find a job!
Now I want to acknowledge that the system has failed us. However, we should all stop blaming the world for our problems. You as an individual cannot change the system. You can only change yourself.
Traditional education is dead. Modern academic education is more disconnected than ever from reality. Schools teach skills that are outdated and never used in jobs. As I will outline in a future blog post, the public education system does not teach critical thinking and is designed to transform people into drones that will listen to orders and do work.
I understand that many of you reading this are currently in high school or university, aspiring to be something. Many of you are told by the school system to “pursue your passions” instead of learning something that’s useful. I think it is one of the worst pieces of advice out there. Many young people have unrealistic goals such as becoming an artist, a streamer, or an athlete, while there are labour shortages in skilled trades. It is easy to daydream.
Do not let school define you, or depend solely on learning from a school. You need to have a clear and realistic goal of what you want to do, before carving out your own learning path and figuring out how to learn the things essential to your career goals.
There are tons of online resources that allow you to learn useful skills, whether it be programming, accounting, or the trades. You can program an iOS app or fix a driveway simply by learning from YouTube videos. There are also tons of online courses, even online degrees on various subjects that are relatively affordable (e.g. Online Masters of Computer Science at Georgia Tech).
You should also take advantage of any co-op programs available at your school. Co-op education is I believe the closest thing that mimics real life, and you learn much more actually doing the job than sitting in a classroom and reading textbooks. If you are deciding on a university major, I strongly recommend entering a program with a co-op.
Furthermore, you need to build extracurricular experience in your field (or anything outside of the classroom). Whether it be volunteering, working on a personal project, joining a club or a design team, or taking part in competitions related to your studies (e.g. hackathons for programming). These experiences will make you more well-rounded. It will give you more talking points on university and job applications, and make you a more interesting person in general! Nobody wants to hire a bookworm who knows nothing other than studying and writing tests.
If you have time to spare, stop scrolling on social media or dreaming about making it big on crypto, and go find a part-time job! Doesn’t matter if it’s retail, physical labour, or trades. What you will learn at these jobs will be invaluable. These jobs may not teach you much in terms of hard skills, but they will build your character. You’ll develop a thicker skin, learn how to interact with people and deal with customers, and most importantly, learn about the virtue of hard work.
So understanding that our education system is deeply flawed and doesn’t prepare you for the real world, why do you need to get a job?
Well first, jobs let you explore your interests. Many young people say I want to do this and do that in the future, but how do you know if that’s what you’re interested in if you haven’t even tried it? What you read or hear from others is often very different from your own experiences.
Most kids these days have no idea what they want to do, so they blindly take advice from their parents and go into something (think engineering, computer science, medicine, law, etc.) then realize they either hate it or suck at it, and become depressed. You need to try different things so you know what you like and dislike, and what you are good at. Scrolling on Instagram or Reddit all day will not get you there.
You need to learn skills. As I mentioned earlier, you cannot rely on schools to teach you the necessary skills for your profession. Many people put their heads down and study in school, before graduating and realizing that they have no employable skills. Also, even entry-level jobs are increasingly requiring multiple years of work experience. How do you even get that?
As I said above, you need to learn these professional skills through experiences outside of the classroom, whether it be a part-time job, co-op, volunteering, clubs, competitions, or personal projects. Even jobs that are unrelated to your field will help you build transferrable skills, such as communication, teamwork, conduct, and the virtue of hard work.
Remember, school is a very sheltered environment, and only working will allow you to learn the harsh truths of reality and develop the professional skills necessary to grow in your career and grow as a person.
You need to make money. Some people like to say they don’t need money, but the truth is, being poor sucks. Having money gives you a lot of options, whether that is investing, retiring early, starting your own business, or starting a family. Lots of people say they want to start a business, but how are you supposed to do that if you don’t have money and skills?
Many poor people have this victim mentality where they think their life is doomed and lose all hope, so they do nothing to change their situation and remain in poverty. Remember, only you can help yourself. So if you’re desolate, stop complaining, get off your ass, and change your situation.
Also, financial literacy is one of the critical skills that many people don’t have nowadays. But how are you supposed to learn financial literacy if you don’t even have money to begin with? Go get a job and make some money!
Also, don’t overlook the skilled trades! So many Millenials and Gen Z (especially immigrants) were brainwashed by their parents to study in a university and look down on people working in the trades or physical labour. The result? You end up with all these people with useless degrees with tons of student loan debt who can’t find a job in their field, while the trades experience a massive labour shortage.
Whether you’re a parent or a young person reading this, consider going into or encouraging your children to go into the skilled trades! These jobs are not “lower-class”. There are many opportunities in metalworking, plumbing, construction, or truck driving compared to social work, gender studies, law, or medicine. The salaries in trades are higher than you think, and you don’t have to go through years of schooling and tens of thousands in debt for some useless degree. If you need to make money right away, it is the way to go.
Finally, you need to contribute to society. Modern Western culture has taught people to be individualistic and selfish. You end up with lots of people who only want to satisfy their own comfort/happiness or live their “own” life. But how do you expect a functional society if everyone is encouraged to do whatever they want and not be considerate of others?
You need to wake up and realize that you are a part of this society and you should actively contribute to it. You should not be a parasite. Think beyond yourself and do something that the world needs. You should be learning skills that are useful for the world. And at the very basic level, go and contribute to the workforce!
Ok enough rambling for now, but you get the point. You need to get off your ass and act instead of complaining or daydreaming about this and that.
Personally, I worked in summer camps, swim instructing, and lifeguarding in high school, as well as in various research and co-op roles in university. Outside of my full-time tech job, I continue to do research work at a lab, as well as help my parents with property management and construction work.
Aside from the money and résumé points, these experiences have gotten me out of my introverted shell, and I learned how to deal with people as well as develop a basic sense of financial literacy and professional responsibility. I would not have gotten to where I am today making 6 figures, having multiple academic publications, and owning properties in a HCOL city in my 20s without all of these work experiences over the years.
A nobody doesn’t become somebody overnight. It takes years of growing and character-building, and how are you supposed to grow if all you do is eat, sleep, and scroll on your phone all day?