As you are probably aware I am a career coach and I come across many examples of the difficulties that individuals have as well as their families. This is an example from a friend who gives an illustration of what I am afraid is only going to get worse over the next couple of years.
Life isn’t easy; everyone knows that. And millions have very, very difficult lives so what I am about to say is really of no consequence or significance, and measures a minus on the ‘Richter Scale’ of life’s stresses in the big real world.
So whilst acknowledging the above, what follows is a cameo from one parent living in the South East in Autumn 2010, who has a comfortable life, but is simply accepting that the welfare of their children and the attendant worries and stresses are for life whoever you are.
My son has had a successful formal education in good schools, with considerable extra-curricular experience including volunteering and charitable work: 14 GCSEs most at ‘A*’, 4 A-Levels at ‘A’; an Arts subject 2.1 from a good Russell Group University; all in all a good grounding. Add to this a little travel to broaden the mind and then all systems ready to work.
‘To work’, to get your first job, a simple notion; a given. In reality, right now, possibly the hardest piece of work of his lifetime, and almost certainly as difficult as it has been for 50 years.
The conventional ways of job-seeking have of course been blown apart by the Internet and the new providers of jobs being search engines and on-line recruitment agencies. My son’s generation were weaned on the instant power of the net so that they can fire off a CV and application letter without moving from armchair; cut ‘n paste and bespoke para or two rule ok!
But first of all job availability in recession is partly driven by a lack of business confidence and so natural recruitment cycles are postponed (or abandoned) and available places and jobs disappear. So every job that comes up has hundreds of applicants and scores of serious candidates.
Reality Check 1: most of those you apply to never get back to you, they are overwhelmed and can’t cope; some admit that they only look at a small proportion of applications and delete the rest – however good the candidate might be. Applying to most medium to large sized enterprises in public or private sector is on-line. Often the candidate is asked to offer 500 words on ‘this’ and then 500 words on ‘that’. You can’t blame the organisations but the applicants might have to do dozens of these before they get a single bite and be invited to round 3 (of 4, 5 …); more likely they get a bland, ‘you have not made it to round X!’.
You can of course use ‘snail mail’ as well/instead but this is likely, if a response is to be had at all, to elicit a request to ‘go on-line’. So why not go to a recruitment agency which specialises in placing good people in good jobs? Because you will probably be told that they can’t take you on (‘sheer weight of numbers’) unless you have around 12 months experience in relevant activities!
So how to address this? Well Internships of course. So apply on-line in your field and away you go… once you have beaten dozens of other candidates, had two interviews, and cheered when successful in the knowledge that the post is of course unpaid – Reality Check 2. But you’ve got something for the CV. It will usually be for a maximum 3 months (a way to avoid minimum wage and thus skew the unemployment numbers). So you are now working for nothing, and at the same time applying for the next Internship and also looking for your first permanent job. I won’t go into the money – lack of money – or who is funding all this. And forget ‘job seekers allowance’ for the young with a decent education, the well meaning people at the DWP can’t help you (they are not on the same wave length) and payment is dependent on you complying with their processes.
Getting any interview was success, getting invited back for interview 2 was huge, drawing the inevitable conclusion when not hearing was always a massive body blow, time and again.
During these months even the most optimistic young person can be down (as can the parents who try to remain upbeat): the young person starts to think they are not valued, self esteem is hit and they feel that they can’t get underway with their lives.
But of course you can only keep the faith. In our case 12 months and 4 good Internships later a good London recruitment agency took him on and sent his CV speculatively to a few organisations. Bingo, he got called for an interview although the company did not have a vacancy. But it took a further 10 weeks of interviews before he was made, and accepted, a very good offer – ‘will they?’ ‘won’t they?’ was the talk of almost every day, up and down, at home.
After almost 300 written applications and 25 interviews, he is up and running. I can sleep at night now, it doesn’t govern every day’s conversation; no more frustration and exasperation at the way we are treating our young people; in fact blissful relief.
Pass the champagne!
Coach, Mentor and Supervisor of Coaches
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