The Immigrant’s Dilemna: An Interview with Richard Young

Many children-of-immigrants are told that the only acceptable careers are lawyer, doctor, engineer and accountant. Anything outside of the narrow definition of a “traditional” job is deemed unacceptable and is often seen as a failure. This was the reality for Richard Young growing up with his parents who immigrated to Canada.

“You see things from TV or film, but you have no real tangible connection to it because you know what you know,” he said to New Canadian Media.

Young’s father worked at an engineering company; so when it came time to choose a university program, engineering made sense.

“I was at Queen’s University, and after my first year I realized I couldn’t do it. Not that it was too hard, but I hated it,” Young revealed.

Eventually, Young completed his MBA at the Schulich School of Business then worked as a brand manager.

However, “I was miserable,” he explained. “I was talking to a colleague who worked beside me and she was so in love with marketing, and the products and branding and I thought to myself, ‘I just want to love my job the way my colleague does.’ And I knew it wasn’t that, it was the arts. So I quit my job — my well-paying job — and moved back in with my parents.”

Young is currently realizing his passion, working as a writer and an actor. His latest film, Maternal, is about a girl, born in Canada with a Caribbean mother, who’s waiting for an acceptance letter from her dream arts program. In the film, the mother has to make a heart-wrenching decision about her child’s artistic future because the family has limited resources.

The premise of the film came from the discord that arose between Young and his family because of his decision to pursue an artistic career. Giving up his stable, traditional job led to fights and strained relationships with his family, leaving Young feeling angry and hurt.

Young spoke to NCM about Maternal, his family and careers in the arts.

Richard Young. (IMDB)

Richard Young: Of course, my parents were not happy. At first, I thought it was because they were ashamed of who I am. But later I realized the reason for all those fights was love. I started to look at it from my parent’s perspective; they came here to give me a better life and then they saw me struggle as an artist. Even now that I’m doing fairly well, if I’d stayed with my traditional job, I’d be in a better position with better job security. So for my parents, it wasn’t about shame; it was more about not being able to give me the life they wanted to because of what I wanted to do. The arts is an industry that’s non-traditional and all about connections. Yes, there’s schools and programs you can take, but it’s really about who you know, more so than other careers I’ve been in. Actors, writers, agents, casting directors, producers – when you’re in high school nobody knows what these careers are or how to reach them. When I had my audition for the acting program at Humber, the program’s director treated my dream as a reality. And it wasn’t that my friends and family were saying “you don’t have what it takes to be an actor.” For them, there was no tangible way (to make my dream happen). Whereas this program’s director was a professional actor himself, so to him it wasn’t just some fantasy.

Marcus Medford: If you weren’t able to use your family as a resource or support system, who did you turn to?

RY: In university, I started to open up more because I was away from my hometown. That’s when I started to get involved in more plays and writing humour articles. When I finally made the leap to the Humber program, the good thing about those two years was, in addition to the actor training, they also brought in professional actors and casting directors etc. There was more of the formal process of “here’s what to do.”

MM: Who do you think was most disappointed by your decision to pursue a career in the arts?

RY:  When  I was changing careers, having fights, it seemed like my parents were just disappointed in me. But underneath all anger is fear, and underneath all anger is hurt, so I don’t want to say disappointment. What I think they felt is sad and hurt. When they see me struggle it hurts them. If anything they feel disappointed in themselves.

MM: Was there a particular incident which lead you to write Maternal?

RY: I know my parents love me wholeheartedly, but if they had the ability to go inside my brain, change the part of me that loves the arts, and change it so that I loved accounting or engineering or some traditional career, they would. And it’s not because they hate who I am; they just want me to have enough money to be happy. They don’t want me to have to struggle the way they did. And I think that’s where the anger and the fights came from; that’s where my inspiration came from.

MM: What have your experiences writing this film and the conversations with your parents taught you about “adulting?”

RY: When the audience finds out the mother is hiding her daughter’s arts program acceptance letter, some people will probably think, “how dare you destroy your child’s dream?” and then other people will say “I get it. It hurts, but I get it.” The broader discussion I’d like to take place beyond whether you’re pro-mom or not is that this unfair arts industry exists where decisions like this have to happen, and that’s wrong. Where people have the talent, but because their financial situations or a lack of opportunities parents can give their kids, children’s dreams are denied. Ironically, aspirations are a privilege.

MM: Is the mom the villain in this film?

RY: If anything, this movie is a massive indictment of the art industry: this is why underprivileged people can’t get ahead. The arts need to be more inclusionary.

MM: What kind of conversations are you hoping the audience will have after the film?

RY: For any frustrated artists who feel like their parents aren’t supporting them, hopefully, this movie humanizes the parent. For the parents who are against their kids doing something non-traditional, hopefully seeing the parent make that decision will make them take a step back. I hope there’s forgiveness on both ends.

MM: For parents who aren’t supportive of their children’s choices and aspirations, what would you say to them?

RY: You need to ask yourself why you don’t support it. If the reason is because it’s a financial risk, personally, that’s realistic. Then you have to work with your kids to figure out how they’re going to bring in income, like taking a business or entrepreneurship course. Or what are the connections you need to make? If it’s a shame thing, that’s an entirely different issue. Then you need to ask yourself what you care more about, loving your child or your ego?


Young is currently realizing his passion (and no longer living with his parents), working as a writer and an actor. His acting credits include Kim’s Convenience (CBC), Jett (Cinemax), and Taken (NBC) and his writing credits include 16 Hudson (TVO Kids) and Sudden Master (Rogers/OMNI).

Maternal can be seen at the CaribbeanTales Film Festival in Toronto, Sept. 4 onward.

Starting a Consultation Business

The job market is changing. More and more people are exploring entrepreneurship as a career or a side hustle, for passion or necessity. According to Intuit Canada, 45 per cent of Canada’s job market will be made up of self-employed people by 2020. This is worrying given that 30 per cent of small businesses fail within five years of entering the marketplace and nearly 7000 businesses go bankrupt every year in Canada. The main reason these businesses fail is due to a lack of planning and inexperienced management, according to an Industry Canada study.

A consultant is an expert in a particular field who gives professional advice to entrepreneurs and businesses to help their businesses thrive. As the number of small businesses increases so too does the need for consultants. If you’re looking to start your own consulting business, these are things you’ll want to know.

Identify your area of expertise

There are several different kinds of consultants, business, legal, marketing, and technical are a few examples. The first thing you’ll want to do when starting a consulting business is to figure out what your strengths and areas of expertise are. It’s important to be honest with your self-assessment, ask yourself questions like “is there a demand for this service?” and “do I have a unique point of view?” You should consider areas you excel in at work, hobbies you’ve mastered or other areas of interest as the focus of your consulting business. Whatever niche you choose it should be one you enjoy, especially if you’re consulting full-time.

Other valuable assets for a consultant to have include good communication and interpersonal skills, strong time management abilities, sound organizational skills and acute critical and analytical thinking. Whether it’s software, cutting-edge information or professional certifications, it’s crucial to find out what’s important in your industry and expand your knowledge in that area.

Get certified

The licenses and certifications required for you to start your consulting business will depend on which field you specialize in. Consulting for certain fields, like real estate or engineering, requires you to get special licenses, for legal and competitive purposes. In other fields, it’s common for consultants to hold special designations such as a CGA (Certified General Accountant) or a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant). The Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation is the only international certification for consultants, it’s recognized in over 40 countries.

Most municipal governments will require you to have a municipal business permit even if you’re working from home. Starting a consulting business doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to start and register a corporation, in many cases you can simply work as a sole proprietor. Also, register your business with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) if you plan to hire employees or will make more than $30,000 a year in profit. Regulations vary from one jurisdiction to the next so it’s wise to contact your local government business agent. BizPaL, a partnership between multiple levels of government, is designed to streamline access to information on certifications, licenses and other permits you may need.

To compete with other consultants, it’s helpful to know what qualifications employers are looking for. Most employers require consultants to have a minimum of two years of working experience or a bachelor’s degree majoring in a subject like business, accounting, marketing or finance.

Find your target audience

If you’re an insurance consultant, it’s not enough to say that your target audience is people looking for insurance. You need a clear idea of who your target audience is and how to best serve them if you’re going to be a successful consultant. Consider the following questions when trying to narrow down your target audience: where is your target audience (are they local or global), what are the biggest challenges they face, why are they seeking your help, who is their competition, what makes you unique, what are your clients end goals?

It’s important to match your skills to your prospective clients, particularly when you’re just starting your business. Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t think you’re a good fit for the task. If possible, recommend the client to someone who’s a better fit for their needs. Also, beware of spreading yourself too thin in the early stages of your business, it’s better to avoid doing too much than lose sight of what your business your does best.

Networking

Networking means connecting with people involved in your industry as well as having a digital presence to connect with potential customers. A recent Local Search Association report finds that 63 per cent of consumers use websites to find or engage with businesses, and 30 per cent of them won’t consider a business without a website. Also, Google gives your business more authority in local rankings if you have a website — be sure to make it SEO (search engine optimization) compliant. Services like WordPress and Squarespace make building a website easy, and you can secure a domain name through services like GoDaddy.

Networking and referrals are crucial for building your business so consider joining Facebook or LinkedIn groups that your target audience might frequent. It could be useful to develop an outreach strategy. Writing and sharing posts will make you familiar with the community and vice versa, allow you to show your expertise and keep you in the know with events, workshops and networking opportunities.

Set your rates

It’s easy to charge less than you’re worth when you’re new to consulting, especially with no proven results. Your best bet is to first research what consultants in your field are charging in your local area, sites like Glassdoor.com can help with this. It’s important to be realistic and also to remain competitive when setting your rates. You’ll want to figure out if you’re charging clients an hourly rate, by day, by project, based on their goals or by some other measure. Consider how you’ll bill your clients and how you’ll accept payment. Platforms such as Freshbooks, Invoicely and Due allow you to automate billing cycles, track and manage invoices and payments and run reports on your earnings.