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A Generation of "Y"-ners? I Don't Think So

HuffPost Canada has been Asking Y -- presenting a series to dig deeply into the malaise which has come to characterize the ostensible hijacking of my generation's shot at upward mobility.Were we duped, en masse, to believe we could do anything? I don't buy the nay-saying.

HuffPost Canada has been #AskingY -- presenting a series to dig deeply into the malaise which has come to characterize the ostensible hijacking of my generation's shot at upward mobility. Apparently, we've taken note.

Yes, the numbers appear frightening. But any unscientific survey of our friends might capture the same experiences: We are moving home in droves. Some of us -- the lucky ones, it might be said -- are working multiple jobs just to scrape by or to "pay our dues" in unpaid internships so we may earn the right of (entry-level) passage into an industry that might actually hold some meaning for us.

Were we duped, en masse, to believe we could do anything?

I don't buy the nay-saying. Of course, this sentiment is cold comfort for my friends and those who currently face unemployment and the seeming refusal by old-school employers to make new-school hires. These candidates are abundantly qualified: Most have advanced degrees, relevant work and volunteer experience, a handle on new technologies, and diverse interests that make carrying on a stimulating conversation not just possible, but -- shock! -- enjoyable, too.

Contrast these millennial-pioneers with their neophyte siblings quickly filling the ranks in universities, community colleges, and vocational trades, and their prospects might seem all the better.

But lamenting by and for us is no solution. When the time comes, dear Boomers, please exit gracefully. To our Gen-X forebears: Please do share the stage.

After some questionable diversions, Grant McCracken of MIT advised recently for Boomers to "take advantage of what [Millennials] know. Promote them in the organization. Install them in the C-Suite. It's simple really. It's time to let Millennials roll up their sleeves, show off their tats, and get to work." Hear-hear. As Rob Carrick, The Globe and Mail's personal finance columnist, points out, it's not like Boomers don't need us. Even if we wanted to buy their super-sized homes (I'm in -- only so long as there's an indoor basketball court), who could afford to do so? Our discontent is decidedly more modest.

And if we encounter fervent opposition -- armed with cascading numbers, the power of our convictions, an activist spirit, and tech-savvy -- there really is no time like the present to take matters into our own hands, to change our communities, and to shape the futures we seek for ourselves.

"Yes, Jeff, that's well and good -- but how?"

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Think you know your generation?

The Canadian Millennial: Survey Says

True, we can't all incorporate and self-label as "management consultants." But nor can we all be lawyers, doctors, and bankers -- notwithstanding how happy that might make our mothers.

Not everyone has the stomach for risk, the time to experiment, and the resources to gamble on entrepreneurship. Then again, there are now more opportunities than ever before for one's great idea to be validated through crowdfunding and impact investing schemes, with whip-smart financiers looking to both do well and do good. Indeed, stories abound of enterprising and curious millennials identifying a market lacking some niche service or product and becoming their own boss to plug that hole.

And, hey -- even our provincial and federal governments have begun to talk the talk when it comes to legislating market conditions to support more entrepreneurship and public-private partnerships.

To the cynic, this may look like a desperate play by bloated, cash-strapped bureaucracies -- or an effort to privatize problem solving. But it's only a matter of time before they figure out how to more efficiently allocate capital resources -- and if that takes the form of the entrepreneur's incentive-laden ecosystem, that's a great thing. It's the stuff for which Generation Y is made.

But, more fundamentally, why shouldn't our current woes and challenges serve a useful opportunity to re-examine the paradigms we've unquestionably come to accept? Perhaps the single-family household model will prove to be dated. Maybe the institution of marriage will be replaced by something entirely more appropriate for our present conditions. (Or, maybe it won't be). Admittedly a more difficult notion to ponder for families beset by adult-sibling rivalries, but why might not a variation on the "joint family" -- two brothers, their partners, children, dogs, an ever-lingering mother-in-law or three -- popularized by necessity in India, be a feasible arrangement from a financial, if not a sanity, standpoint?

Surely this example undercuts our middle-class "dream" of single-family home ownership, but couldn't it -- or hopefully far-improved ideas -- lead to healthier, warmer, and more productive relationships? Could new ways of conceiving millennial-suited living standards not actually promote more innovation?

Yes, our generation will be forced to confront enormous challenges -- how to address climate change, care for aging and vulnerable populations, maintain and design better public infrastructure, and support a precarious economy, to name but a few. Meanwhile, despite an arsenal of advanced tools in our most modern of times, we still face lingering problems of poverty and homelessness, unequal access to good opportunities, and a yearning for fulfillment not being met.

Carrick, of the Globe, claims that most of Canada's millennials "don't actually want to rebel -- [we] want to conform." HuffPost and Abacus Data's polling seem to echo that sentiment. But a little rebelling is not just good -- it may be our only salvation. Whether we really need start-ups to prepare us for working in start-ups is a matter of debate -- or ridicule, depending on your vantage.

But, if you'll indulge me: Do brainstorm. Collaborate. And create. It's high time we shook off the shackles of dependence and gave swashbuckling a try.

-- Abacus Data has focused research on the Canadian Millennial. Read more here.

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