The DeBruce Foundation Releases Groundbreaking National Research Report on Youth and Careers

Report Offers Guidance on How to Talk With Youth About Careers

Kansas City, MO, Nov. 07, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As part of National Career Development Month, The DeBruce Foundation released a comprehensive national research report titled "How to Talk with Youth About Careers." This groundbreaking study, conducted from June to October 2023, delves into the experiences, aspirations, and challenges of young people aged 16 to 24 in America today. Building on similar research conducted in 2019 and 2021, this report focuses on best practices for engaging with young people on matters related to their careers. In its introduction, it provides actionable tips for educators, parents, and others serving youth.


  1. Youth are confident and may not believe they need help. Overwhelmingly, 90% of youth are at least somewhat confident they will attain their career goals. This confidence holds up regardless of race, class, educational attainment, or identity. That is their starting place.
  2. Despite this confidence, youth face significant challenges right now. The leading challenges in this generation involve mental health, dealing with inflation, and the rising cost of living. One practical outcome of this strain is that young people focus more on seeking jobs that pay well and express more interest in jobs that account for mental health e.g., flexible hours, mental health breaks, and insurance that covers mental health costs.   
  3. Youth do not see opportunity in the current “employee’s market,” nor do they look for career choices and how to prepare. Unemployment is down in this country and many employers struggle to fill jobs. However, youth still struggle, in large measure because they believe the jobs available to them do not pay enough. When it comes to deciding on a career or occupation, less than half of youth in our survey have researched their potential earnings, figured out qualifications needed for a job, or even researched a job online. 
  4. This generation is historically diverse. Less than half of youth in our country are white and a growing number (23% in this study) identify as LBGTQ+. Any outreach must account for this diversity. However, LGBTQ+ youth in our research have basically the same career goals and expectations as other youth, just as youth of color express the same goals as white youth.  
  5. Youth have a distinct set of strengths and values. They also have some self-ascribed weaknesses. Youth describe themselves as tolerant and inclusive. They convey strong confidence about their ability to change the world. They also project a real entrepreneurial spirit, reflecting the existence of an increasingly open marketplace on social media. At the same time, they are the first to admit their reliance on social media—74% spend four hours or more per day online—and recognize that social media is a primary source of mental and social anxiety.  
  6. Youth view the world through a 3-inch screen. A significant number of youth say they would not bother exploring an issue if they could not use their phone. When it comes to researching jobs, youth are more likely to use phone-friendly platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.
  7. Youth have a more nuanced view of college and the “necessity” of a four-year degree. Youth are not necessarily inclined to incur a six-figure student debt to “discover” themselves in college. Rather, their approach to college is transactional; if they are interested in a career that requires a degree (e.g., engineering), they will pay the cost. However, many youth are interested in careers that do not require a degree.   
  8. Young people will change their jobs and possibly careers frequently. Over half (52%) of youth say that one should stay at a job for no more than 3 years before moving on. For some, this frequency reflects a recognition of a rapidly evolving market, where technological change creates new jobs and extinguishes old ones. Other youth look to lateral job movement as a strategy for increasing income and benefits, as they hunt for better pay in a difficult economy.   
  9. Work experience is paramount and too often overlooked. Youth with experience are more confident they will achieve their career goals, are more interested in researching future careers, and do a better job preparing for a career. Some youth learn invaluable work-related skills and habits in their first job; others learn what they do not want to do and are inspired to prepare themselves for more rewarding work. 
  10. Youth are also interested in self-discovery. Six years and three waves of this specific research, testing tools, surveys, and messages, have taught us that youth are interested in discovering themselves and understanding how their unique interests and strengths can apply to their careers. The DeBruce Foundation believes engaging them on this journey of discovery is the starting point to helping youth expand their career pathways.  

"This report sheds light on the complexities and aspirations for our youth, providing valuable insights and practical tips for parents, educators, employers, and policymakers," said Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Executive Director & COO of The DeBruce Foundation. “If we want to help young people become employment-empowered, we first have to listen, and meet them where they are.”

The report comes on the heels of the Foundation’s national Employment Empowerment report showing the importance of career literacy and network strength for people of all ages. For a more in-depth analysis of the research findings and research methodology, please click here.

About The DeBruce Foundation
The DeBruce Foundation is a national foundation whose mission is to expand pathways to economic growth and opportunity. The Foundation is committed to helping individuals unlock their potential and find career pathways. By developing solutions such as the Agile Work Profiler, we change how people pursue careers. By partnering strategically, we increase experiences and exposure to widen career opportunities, starting with youth and working across the lifespan.

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How to Talk with Youth About Careers When asked about careers, youth say:

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