There has been a lot of coverage recently of the high youth unemployment rates in the UK and around the world. The national unemployment rate is 7.8% while the youth unemployment rate is 20.5%. If these statistics have not scared you enough, what about the billions in lost wages that UK youth will experience over the next few years?
I read, hear, and watch these media reports and understand exactly why students are flooding into my office looking horrified about their future prospects. I see why the anxiety, stress, and depression levels are high in this population. Not only do we live with the constant threat of impending doom from terrorists and swine flu but, to top it all off, the current generation are going to spend thousands of pounds on an education and will end up unemployed, underemployed and broke.
If we send young people out into the world of work with expectations of disaster that is exactly what they will get. I prefer a less defeatist approach. After all, people are more likely to hire recent grads is they are full of energy and optimism.
So let’s turn it around.
Great News, 80% of youth are going to be employed soon after they graduate! That seems like a not so bad number and the chances of ending up in that category are likely pretty high if you are taking the time to read this post. It means that you are dedicated to doing something about your future, taking action, and getting results. In fact, it appears that things are at least beginning to turn around. The unemployment rates are down 82,000 and the number of youth claiming Jobseekers Allowance was down by 61,300 from the same time last year.
The truth of the matter is that there are people without jobs and almost as many jobs without people. What we need to do is educate youth on emerging markets and required and desired employability skills. So rather than sit back and wallow in self-pity, blaming the baby boom generation for not retiring already, do your research. Take a look at where the jobs are. What are the growth industries? What personal and technical skills do you need to succeed? And then start planning. Be strategic, focused and dedicated. Take a couple technical courses, volunteer with an organization to gain practical skills, attend networking events and, most of all, stay positive. You are more likely to be motivated by working towards a positive outcome than by trying to avoid a negative one.
When you are on the job market, faced with putting yourself out there and facing rejection time and again, you will need to stay focussed on what matters to you, set smaller attainable goals, and find internal motivators that are sustainable. If you are going to have the ability to pick yourself up, you will need to manage the 40% of your propensity for happiness and resilience that is within your control.
To do this, focus on 3 main strategies that will help build the stamina you need to keep going:
- Set Modest Goals: Rather than striving for a potentially unattainable dream job, set your sights on something that is within your grasp and see it as a stepping stone rather than a final destination. Also set goals that relate directly to the search and not just the final outcome. This way, even if you don’t get a particular job you can still feel a sense of accomplishment in making it to the interview stage, or making a new contact, for example. You need to give yourself some credit for the effort if you have any hope of sustaining yourself throughout the process. Set the goal of making 5 new contacts this week, or conducting 3 informational interviews. Developing those relationships will help to build your confidence and broaden your network.
- Focus on Intrinsic Rather than Extrinsic Motivators: Think about what makes you feel satisfied, interested and rewarded (intrinsic factors) and set your sites on those jobs. Because those sorts of goals are based on your values and things that you care about you are going to find that it is easier to motivate yourself to work towards them. If you are looking for a job that is going to impress others or make you the most money (extrinsic factors) then you are less likely to be genuinely motivated to achieve those goals and may burn out sooner.
- Frame Your Goals Positively: Rather than striving to avoid something negative like unemployment or being dissatisfied at work, (“avoidance goals”) think of yourself as moving toward something positive such as finding a fulfilling job (“approach goals”). As Biswas-Diener and Dean explain in their book Positive Psychology Coaching, “There is a preponderance of research evidence linking avoidance goals to increased distress and anxiety, decreased levels of happiness, lower levels of social satisfaction, and poorer perceptions of health.”(66) By focussing on moving toward something positive rather than avoiding something negative you will find that you have more energy to focus on action and you’re using less energy on worrying.
And when you have just been turned down for a job and are starting to feel defeated, take the advice of Napoleon Hill that “most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
Author: Clare Tattersall is a Global Career Development Facilitator working at Huron University College in Canada. She has over 10 years of experience in the communications sector and postsecondary administration and is a frequent presenter on career development, not-for profit management and effective leadership. Follow her on twitter @Careers4Grads.