By Marie-Sylvie Dionne

My experience with young people has taught me that they offer far more than we believe or perceive

In one of my articles published on the OrientAction and Huffington Post websites, I discussed how certain values identified in young people are as strong as ever from one generation to the next. Family, happiness in couple relationships, success at work, money and fame are widely valued symbols. They are often taken into account in their choice of career, driven by a certain vision of success.

However, when we dig deeper to help young people identify the source and actual importance of these values on their sense of competence, or what they would be willing to sacrifice for the sake of these values, insecurity sets in. That very moment, which may be described as “momentary confusion,” is one of the most important junctures in their journey to self-awareness.

Family, culture and society all influence their values

In this brief interval when beliefs start to waver, these same young people who, just a short time ago, safe in the reassurance of their symbols, are now dropping the adherence to their community, family or cultural values, to meet this still unknown part of themselves – their very essence. And, since the word essence bears the word “sense,” they realize that their life is not merely a quest for status symbols.

An encounter with their inner reality informs them, shaping them from within, to the idea that they have their own personal place to refer to, affirm their identity and find inner strength, so that their choices make sense and life has meaning. This might translate into a new set of values. Values fuelled by a need to excel due to their developmental stage, and which underlie a fundamental need to feel alive

A life that meanders its way to the working world can only be called a success from a place of personal conscience which reflects where young people are in their lives. It could be said that in adolescence we gain an identity through family, cultural or societal affiliations, including a set of associated values. My experience with young people has taught me that they offer far more than we believe or perceive. Their lives are more complex and diverse than in previous generations. If we have a superficial relationship with them, it will stay that way. If we ask them to deepen it, they are open and prompt to follow, because they are hungry to learn.

Young people are interested in their inner character once they discover its existence and importance. In realizing that they are not merely consumers of goods and services but rather beings who are able to provide context from themselves and from the outside world, they gain access to their freedom. And since this freedom must continue to grow and prosper, they will one day become the actors who transform the world of work with their vision. And their job market expectations? What expectations? They want to join it and then transform it.

Entry into the working world

Fresh in the job market, they soon learn that success is merely a notion and that this notion widely varies from one individual to the next. In learning to trust their interior universe, young people are able to identify a wealth of possibilities that evoke their sense of competence. This is why they will develop projects, allowing them to fulfil themselves as human beings. Moreover, these will be innovative projects because the world of work always needs these.

Knowing from the outset that work doesn’t rule their lives, young people want to recognize themselves and be able to affirm their intensity. When they dare to live as they want, despite external conditioning, they are given the opportunity to convey meaning and humanity. When we deprive them of this, under the pretext that we have to comply with certain standards, adhere to what the working world needs, adopt socially accepted values, we impede their vitality for transforming the world.

Each one of us could become this roadblock in their quest. Perhaps from time to time we should evaluate our own beliefs and values, as everything we believe is right in our own eyes. The lens through which we see the world can sometimes help us in our relationships with young people. If we were to question our perceptions, our vision of success in the job market would no doubt open, broaden and improve our inclination to learn how young people see and represent things to themselves.

Young people are our only hope for the future of humanity. If we were to truly love them, we would immediately stop judging them and trying to mould them “for their own good.” We would place our trust in them, without passing on our fears and limits. We would do everything to better communicate with them and to listen to what they are really saying.

Young people have enough potential to transform the world in keeping with their ambitions. I have never met any young person who does not want to play a constructive role in the future of our world. However, I have been in the company of disillusioned adults that were imprisoned by the armour of their restrictive belief system, and sustained by a “reasoned” vision of life.

Young people’s expectations of the world of work may be summed up in a few words: Once they see for themselves what the world of work entails, their only desire is to transform it in their own way. Why not come out in thousands to actively encourage them?


Marie-Sylvie Dionne is a career counsellor and the Director of Services at Parachute Carrière. She works with youth and adults in transition. With over 25 years of experience as an organizational consultant, she also lectured at the university and college level for 10 years. Blogger with the Huffington Post and on the OrientAction website, she has developed the MEIP (entrepreneurial method for professional integration) and created the website.