School leavers are increasingly putting people before profits, as Joshua Ross from EdSmart ticketing partner Humanitix demonstrates.
The results of Australia’s 2021 Census confirmed an important generational change occurring in Australia. Where once the Baby Boomer generation (roughly people born between 1940 and 1964) held sway, the numbers now show that Millennials (1981 and 1997) and Gen Z (1995 and 2002) are on the cusp of becoming the single biggest demographic bloc in the country.
And this changing of the guard brings with it some seismic shifts in people’s priorities and aspirations.
A 2021 global survey of more than 14,000 millennials – The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey – covered a wide range of issues (most notably, the coronavirus pandemic, given the timing of the survey) and painted an enlightening snapshot of what matters to Millennials and Gen Z. As the report’s authors write:
“No group of people is homogeneous, but… Gen Zs, on the whole, seem more persistent, more vocal, and more apt than others to question and even upset the status quo.”
“[This cohort isn’t] just resilient — they’re channelling their energies into holding themselves and others accountable. They’re the people most likely to call out racism and sexism and to shun companies and employers whose actions conflict with their personal values.”
“It’s evident in their approach to everything from the pandemic to social justice – an approach that has real ramifications for employers, retailers, and every other organisation and institution.”
Given how our next generation views the world, it shouldn’t be a great surprise that Joshua Ross, co-founder of the Australian-based social enterprise ticketing agency Humanitix, spends a lot of time speaking with young people about what led him to start the organisation.
A former hedge-fund analyst, Joshua and co-founder Adam McCurdie – an engineer working in Tanzania – hit upon the idea of Humanitix while hiking through Sri Lanka not long after the end of the country’s decades-long and bloody civil war.
Their travels brought them to an abandoned house that had been partially destroyed during the fighting. The scene, as the Humanitix website explains, featured “cups and saucers still neatly stacked on the kitchen shelves, [striking] them as a powerful reminder of how volatile and unfair life can be – and how lucky they were to have been born into such safety and comfort in Australia.”
“That night,” the story continues, “they decided to dedicate their careers to making a difference in the lives of children who weren’t so lucky, making a pact to escape the corporate world and do something different – and meaningful.”
With driving positive social change and challenging the status quo high on the list of priorities for Millennials and Gen Zs, Joshua’s journey has resonated strongly with young people, particularly students in the schools that Humanitix services. If he was limited to giving just one piece of advice to those looking to follow in his footsteps, it would be to “find out what you don’t want to do, as much as understanding what it is you do want to do.”
Don't feel you need to start something on day one
“I think many people lock themselves into a degree that’s quite specialised very quickly,” says Joshua. “I know for myself and many of my friends at the time, we had no idea what we wanted to do when we left school”.
That’s where voluntary work helped Joshua find the answer to the ‘understand what you don’t want to do’ part of his post-school journey.
“I spent quite a bit volunteering at different businesses to determine if I actually wanted to be an accountant. You have no idea what the job really entails at age 17. It can help you find out pretty quickly that ‘no, I hate this’ or ‘yes, I like this, rather than doing a four-year degree and getting a $50,000 HECS debt to then work out you don’t like it.”
“Work out what you hate and what you like,” he advises young people. “It’s hard to find what you like. It’s effortless to rule out things you don’t like.”
Similarly, for people looking to get into social impact, Joshua suggests volunteering at a social enterprise or two and gaining some first-hand insights into the sector before trying to start their own venture.
“It’s tough to do a social enterprise because, A, it’s hard to start a business but, B, it’s harder to start a business when you’ve got to solve two problems — being sustainable and fixing a social problem. It makes things doubly hard.”
“So, my advice [for getting into social enterprise] would be to go for it but don’t feel you need to start something on day one. There are plenty of great social enterprises like Thank You and Who Gives A Crap, which are proliferating and need smart people to come to join them. After years in one of them, you’ll be in an excellent position to get a sense of whether it’s something you want to start from scratch. Or are you just happy being part of a great mission going places?”
The importance of a kindred spirit
Resilience and self-reliance are essential character traits to possess but Joshua believes you sometimes can’t make it on your own. He’s candid about the impact of his Humanitix co-founder, Adam McCurdie, on the success of their venture.
“I could never have done this on my own,” he says. “I teamed up with my best mate, whom I met at school. I implicitly trust him, and I would’ve failed a long time ago if I was to try and do it my own.”
As Joshua emphasises, finding a like-minded person with similar values on your team “improves your chance of success”.
Dream big and expand your mind
The final advice Joshua offers for young people looking to make some positive change is to go all-in on your vision, especially when leaving school and before you encounter the kind of commitments that come with being in your 30s and 40s.
“You get in your head that it’s scary, but there’s almost no downside in our [Australian] culture,” he explains. “You’re finishing school in a country with free education and free healthcare. It’s almost impossible to starve to death in Australia.”
“Be bold when you’re young,” he encourages. “You’ve still got a high school education and speak the language of one of the luckiest countries in the world. Use that luck – don’t take it for granted.”
Find out about how Humanitix integrates with EdSmart for better event and excursion management.